This piece is me wholesale pilfering and twisting the controversial words of Jordan Peterson’s book, ‘12 Rules For Life’ – where he talks us through his psychological insights into human behaviour and routes to success – in this case winning the mental battle before the battle.
All I’ve done is steal, mutate, and subvert the thinking of the clinical psychologist The Times describes, ‘most influential public intellectual in the western World right now’ – to help businesses too. Note: Not everyone likes his politics or methods, but for the purposes of this – I’m wilfully ignoring his more extreme ideas.
The rules of winning – according to lobsters.
Rule 1 is ‘Stand up straight with your shoulders back’.
My take for brands is that marketing is a battle ground, and often, like many battles it’s a mental one. You are your own worst enemy – often the only enemy. If you don’t behave like your best self, walk the talk, be proud of how amazing you actually are; you’re not giving anyone else the chance to love you. If you’re not your first fan, you’ll not get many others.
It always amazes me how hard it is for businesses to see how unique they are. Within a few hours of meeting a Board, a decent marketer can see the possibility and the excitement within them that needs to be shared – but is usually buried in beige. Beige doesn’t add value. (We run free workshops to uncover your truths btw – just ask)
Peterson describes how lobsters that ‘believe in themselves’ win without even competing (It’s down to Serotonin basically, but I’ll go into it later.) He uses lobsters because they’ve been evolving and developing for around 350 million years, have simple brains that scientists can map them easily, and are territorial. Businesses – are you still reading? You are territorial too. Or you should be.
We talk a lot about territory in strategic marketing because, just like with lobsters, a good territory helps businesses secure the best shelter, protection, advantages, hunting grounds, food, mates and tourists. They help you stand out and make your life easier and less stressful – so that if real stresses are applied to the market, while others collapse under the pressure, the most rested survive and sweep up. Remember, “When the aristocracy catches a cold, the working class die of pneumonia”.
So how do you acquire and keep the best territory without risking your health in constant battles?
When lobsters meet they go into level 1: Showing off. They dance about and wave their claws in the air, mirroring their opponents, comparing each other. They also, spray jets of chemicals – not to attack the other – but to share information about their size, sex, health and mood. Do this. Dance, share, show off, win.
Level 2: A little shove. If level one isn’t enough, they give each other a good push around to see who’s feeling toughest. Then, if neither retreats; things step up. But still neither engaging to the point of injury.
Level 3: WWF Wrestling. Here, they try to flip each other, but there are rules in play here that stop needless damage to both.
Level 4: Lobster Warfare. If neither has submitted after being flipped; or if it’s equal on both sides, it’s warfare. And the party that’s had the easiest ride, showing off the most, is more likely to win as they’ll be freshest.
This is where it gets interesting: At this point the losing party – though they may be strong, refuses to fight anyone else for a period – even people it has beaten before: it has lost confidence. It’s changed – temporarily. But if the defeat is really bad – the lobster completely rewires and becomes much more subservient through a change in the balance of chemicals – Serotonin and Octapamine. For the winner a trophy full of Serotonin which makes you feel and look like a winner. In Lobsters it actually affects posture. And that’s important – because that’s part of showing off.
Start your own positive chain reaction.
If we’re confident, we look like a winner – so we win more by default – so feel like a winner – so look even more confident. But you can fake this, and the effects can be the same – the chemicals and the wins will flow in.
Losing lobsters go on to lose more than their fair share – because of how they feel not their capabilities.
With a hierarchy settled it only takes a shake of antenna to send others scuttling away and the top lobsters have the best territory, shelter, opportunities to rest-up, de-stress and get stronger – and the females go to him as they use the dominance system to judge genes.
The funny bit, Peterson says, is that your brain watches how you are treated by other people – and from that places you in the dominance table and restricts your serotonin. For businesses, customers and staff watch how the brand talks, looks, and behaves. They watch how other staff and customers behave. They watch how people talk about them. And it shapes the company and its future. Present yourself as defeated, and people, including your own, will assume you are. Straighten up, grab a territory, walk and talk about how amazing you are, and people will treat you differently.
I’m paraphrasing Peterson’s conclusion here, but… don’t brace nervously for catastrophe. Stand straight ready, see the positives, embrace the opportunity and be ready to respond to challenges. Ditch the hunch, quit the droop, speak your mind, put your desire forward; gaze ahead. Dare to be dangerous. Encourage the serotonin. People, including yourself, will conclude that you are competent, and the feedback will embolden you.
I’m sure you can derive what this means for marketing, branding and getting your company where it wants to go. It means, find your truth, follow it, be bold, fill your chest with pride in what you do. Each company and culture and mix of people is something special, and (when pointed in the right direction with the right strategy) serves a real and important place in others’ lives.
Working in a marketing agency we’re incredibly fortunate to be allowed a look inside the minds, cultures and beings of different companies. And even if they don’t always know where to start, what we always, always see is something worth shouting about. Sometimes it needs repointing, buffing up, and some self-love – because often the reasons people got into the business are long forgotten and hidden under the spreadsheets and invoices.
So, forget apologetic marketing that simply reflects what you see around you. This is your sure fire way to be a bit player. Look above the parapet of what everyone else is doing. Wave your giant claws around, stand on your own 6 legs and make others cower away from you. You’ll win without even fighting.
To give you a start, we run free workshops to help you start understanding your truth. Prawn cocktail crisps are served.
Get in touch to book yours.