Culture Codes

December 1st, 2010 by Rich Christiansen

What is the deal with Black Friday anyways?    What causes any sane individual to look forward to getting up at 3am and stand in the freezing cold to save $15 on a flat screen TV? 

Being an official representative of the NON shoppers in the USA, I have asked myself these questions every Thanksgiving day for the past 45 years.   Well this year I figured out the answers to these questions and yes,  I share my findings with you at the end of this post.

I just completed the book Culture Codes by Clotaire Rapaille.  This was a book given to me as a gift from Michael Fishman who I blogged on several weeks ago. Tell Them What They Don’t Know and Can’t Tell You

Clotaire is on retainer with 50 of the Inc 100 companies in the USA.  His primary focus is through a discovery process that reveals the triggers or “on code” word phrases that are consistent culturally with consumers buying behaviors.

What Mr. Rapaille proposes is that early in our youth, typically before the age of eight years old, we emotionally imprint a strong cultural reaction to certain key events.   These events are triggered by the right side of our brains; the creative, free form, emotional side of our brains.  As we become adults we use logic and the left side of our brain to justify and put frosting on the decisions we make.   However  The book “The Culture Code” goes through a series of examples and coding process that shows that most human behavior is  driven by these strong emotional reactions from or cultures which we then back and justify with logic.

I was captivated as I read Clotaire’s theories on the USA being an adolescent culture and our behavior in all ways typifies this.  Although I believed it, I was surprised to see someone so boldly write about “reptilian brains” and how we have to market to this while appeasing the logical man.  

One of the key things that Rapaille does is run a control group through a 3 hour exercise that basically breaks them down to the point he discovers what the true underlying drivers are in certain behaviors.  Based on the behavior he is exploring, he then punctuates the culture with a specific code.    With out ruining the book for you, as a primer,  let me give you a few of the “Culture Codes” for several of our behaviors in the USA.

The code for Beauty is  -  Mans Salvation

The code for Fat is  -  Checking Out

The code for Shopping is -  Reconnecting With Life

If you are attempting to market or promote a product or service,  this book is a MUST read.  It is similar to the marketing message of Roy H Williams – the Wizard of Ads.  Which by the way, The Wizard Academy is another must attend training for serious marketers. 

OK, I promised it and now I will deliver.  Why is there such a strong polarized reaction between Black Friday Shoppers and those that think these individuals have lost their marbles?

I have answered this already in the post.

It is the positive or negative cultural imprinting that occurred when we were young.  In other words, did we feel satisfied and have a special bonding moment with one of our parents while shopping for the best deal?  Was this an event the family looked forward to and made a big  deal about when we were young?  If not, most likely you did not form the culture code to Black Friday shopping.   In summary all of those Black Friday shoppers are “Reconnecting With Life” after eating too much turkey as much as they are saving $15 and standing in line in the freezing cold.

So where does this lead us in our businesses?   Simple:

1.     Figure out what is driving the emotional reaction (culture code)

2.     Sell to this emotional point

3.     Provide logic supporting points to appease the adult brain

If you uderstand this principle, you will sell the stockings off your product or service!

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