Finding Inspiration

Today I don’t feel like talking about marketing. Or customers. Or community. No pithy statements or meaningful insights to offer.

Motivation is a funny thing. Some people can will it to happen. Some people will spend their whole lives waiting for it to strike. Some people find it in a $ figure. Some people are driven by a smile.

When I was in grad school studying the brain, the Director of the center shared an observation with me that made a lasting impression. Parkinsons disease is a breakdown of the voluntary motor system. The result of the degeneration of a teeny tiny group of cells that produce our brain’s entire, precious supply of dopamine. By the time you see symptoms it’s too late to do stop the degeneration. Ask a Parkinsons patient to walk across the room and you’ll see evidence of their impaired ability to will the body to move.

I knew that part. But what I didn’t know that my advisor shared with me that day was that he’d seen movies of Parkinsons patients getting up and dancing smoothly with their wives, as if nothing was wrong. An old piece of beloved music from their youth is played, and the man stands up, takes his wife by the hand and glides her around the room.

In one situation the motivation is voluntary, and must be consciously willed. In the other it’s emotionally triggered, inspired by music and a memory. I will be the first to admit that I’m no expert on Parkinsons – and I do not know the research first hand. But I do believe that motivation comes from different places. And that being emotionally inspired is one of the most powerful motivators you can find. It’s what turns a campaign into a movement. A slogan into a battle cry. It’s what makes an online community bigger than the social media that connects them.

There are many places to find emotional inspiration. But nothing does it for me like stories. Stories of people who are driven by a passion and, who through that passion, overcome the impossible. Rise above their circumstances. Think Dick Hoyt. Susan Boyle. You can let the cynic in you pick them all apart, or you can just enjoy getting swept up in watching a comeback 37-year old Lance Armstrong attack on the steepest part of the climb and leave world-class, much younger riders behind as he bridges the gap to the lead. (as I write this I am eagerly awaiting the Time Trial today!)

For all those brands out there still stuck in marketing funnel think… trying to reach all those non-users, make them aware of you and drive them through the funnel…stop. What’s your story? What do you have to communicate that’s inspiring? Who is at the other end of your funnel, that can tell your story for you? With more passion and fire than could ever come out of your agency or corp comm department?

I said I wasn’t going to talk about Marketing, but in the end I did. Because – and this is the reason why a neuroscientist feels pretty at home in marketing despite never having taken a single business class – marketing is way more than a communications strategy. It’s a motivational strategy. And the most powerful motivators – the ones that will turn your customers into fans – aren’t coupons. Or the ability to be your friend in Facebook (goodness).

So ask yourself where you find inspiration? What makes your day more than a job. And whether ANY of that is visible to your customers.

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