Selling the Experience
There is a popular advertisement on television that must be working well, as it has been on for some time now. The Volvo ad is striking and memorable. It uses verses from Walt Whitman’s beautiful “Song of the Open Road.” You have what appears a pretty self-actualized man (long hair, shirt un-tucked, free-spirited) who leaves his home to get into a car, while the words of the poem are heard:
“Afoot and light-hearted, I take to the open road;
Healthy, free, the world before me;
The long brown path before me, leading wherever I choose …
The east and the west are mine, the north and the south are mine …
All seems beautiful to me …”
After a while, it struck me that not one single thing was mentioned about the features of the car—nothing! You see, they were wisely selling the experience—the experience of freedom! You buy that car, and you will also be free!
It may be false advertising, but as fundraisers and sellers of dreams, there is much that we can learn from this ad.
When we at Food For The Poor speak to our donors or prospective donors about housing, we are proud to describe the solid cement foundation, the sturdy concrete block walls, the windows that open and shut and the door that locks, and let’s not forget the corrugated metal roofs that protects them from the frequent storms.
But, alas, these are only the features of the home. What is the experience of that home?
- The children no longer have respiratory ailments, because of sleeping on a damp mud floor.
- The family can sleep peacefully, safe from the worry of dangerous reptiles, insects and rodents.
- The fresh air from the cross ventilation of windows and doors improves the health of the entire family and reduces the extreme heat of many of our countries.
- The door that locks protects their few possessions from criminal elements.
- The sturdy home protects them from the often aggressive elements of weather.
- They can enjoy the song of the rain beating on the roof rather than cowering in the only dry corner of their previous shacks.
- Their verandas allow them a small business enterprise where they can buy and then sell to the community.
- The security of their new home allows both parents to go out and seek work.
- Employers are much more likely to give them employment now that they have an address and are anchored to the community by owning real property.
Get the picture?
It is the same with water. To say that digging a well brings clean water to a community is only expressing the feature. The experience:
- Little girls no longer have to walk in the wee hours for long periods of time to fetch water for the family that may well be contaminated.
- The children no longer get diarrhea, and fevers that can be deadly from drinking bad water.
- They no longer take the risk of being molested or raped by evil-doers who take advantage of the situation.
- They no longer get curvatures of their spines by walking for hours with a give-gallon bucket on their heads that weighs 48 lbs.
- They no longer have accidents on steep, slippery paths that sometimes damage them permanently and gravely.
- Because they no longer spend hours per day fetching water, they can now be children again and laugh, giggle and play.
- Now, they can actually go to school and get an education, which is the strongest way to break the cycle of multi-generational poverty.
- Now, they can dream again.
I have just given the examples of housing and water, but if you think about it, the same can be said for whatever you are trying to fund in your nonprofit. People respond more emotionally to the experience than to the features. Don’t forget to give them both—you will get the right brain excited, and you will tickle the left brain too!