Episode #122: Dream Big, the Marketing Potential of Dream Transference

Grad Conn

April 28, 202113 min read

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We all have dreams. Things we want to do, goals we want to accomplish, places we want to visit. Often, we realize that these dreams may never come to fruition (let’s face it, I’m probably not going to help colonize Mars, or race in the French Grand Prix). But as marketers, we need to recognize and appreciate these dreams, and make sure our customers see the potential in our products, and in themselves.

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Thank you, Jimmy. Okay, it is the CXM experience. And as always, I’m your host, Grad Conn, CXO, Chief Experience Officer at Sprinklr.

And today we’re going to talk about one of my favorite topics, which I’ve never really talked about before. And so, we’re just going to spit ball this a little bit today and probably come back to it, but it’s something called object-based dream transference. It’s a super important concept in Marketing, but one that’s not well understood and not very frequently discussed, because I think sometimes people feel a little uncomfortable about it. But we’re going to tackle it head on, because here at the CXM Experience, we’re all about tackling things head on. That’ll be our new selling line. Oh dear, too much Coca Cola today.

Let me describe the situation to you. And I’ll tell you why I wanted to do this show today, because I was driving back from PT on I-95 the other day and this smoking hot Mustang went roaring by me at, I don’t know how many 1000s of miles an hour – it’s kind of the interesting thing about Florida highways, which I’ll describe in a second. This car was beautiful. It wasn’t the latest version, but it was maybe the last version. So reasonably recent, orange, beautiful spoiler, great big black stripe across the top, big fat wheels, big fat rims, blacked out windows, the hood is all elevated, because they had a kind of intercooler inside there, big pipes for the exhaust and the big throaty sound from this car. It was low so It had some kind of change to the suspension, and it was just wicked. I don’t know what to say, and I’ve always really liked Mustangs so you don’t have to go too far down the road for me to like your Mustang. But this was an exceptional example. Exceptional enough that it’d be like, “Boy, I wish that person would sell that car to me”. It was really something else.

And I was thinking what’s so interesting about cars, and cars are just a super fascinating category, is that there are so many different versions. Pretty much everyone is driving a different car. Occasionally I’ll run across someone who’s also driving “my car”, but it’s not quite my car, it’s always a little bit different from my car. And it’s very rare that you see your exact car in a row. But in fact, the services that cars provide are pretty utilitarian. It’s to get from point A to point B. And some people, my brother is a good example of this, my brother is like, “Hey, I’m buying the car for basic transportation, Point A to Point B” and he buys very nice cars to do that. He doesn’t get himself super fussed about the vehicles he’s buying because he’s a Point A to Point B kind of person. Very respectable. Nothing wrong with that. Other people who are also getting from point A to point B are doing it in a souped up 750 horsepower, orange Mustang with blacked out windows and wicked rims. And they’re still getting from point A to point B in probably about the same amount of time that my brother is doing it in his minivan.

And it just got me to thinking about what’s happening here. I’m someone who really likes cars a lot. And when I’m looking at a car like that, I think, “Boy, think about how much fun it would be to drive that on a track or to race that car. How fast can that car go? It looks like something that would fit comfortably on a NASCAR track”. And it’s this whole concept of object-based dream transference, which is, you may have this dream that you’ve always wanted to be something, I always wanted to be, say, a racecar driver. You’re not going to be a racecar driver, because you didn’t go through the process of learning how to drive a car very quickly. And it’s too dangerous and your reflexes aren’t fast enough and you’re too old and all those kinds of things. But you can get in a Mustang that looks a certain way or many other cars. And for just a second you can feel like this object is actually able to transfer you to that dream, and you’re able to feel that dream and almost touch it for a second.

I think it’s an extraordinarily powerful concept in marketing that is underused. It’s underused because I believe that marketers almost feel like it’s overselling. Or that it’s getting people to do something that they can’t do. There’s a very significant focus on outcomes and benefits that are here and now. And we don’t sell to dreams nearly as much as we could. I will talk about I-95 traffic for just a second just because it’s kind of funny, but I want you to just hold that in your mind for a second.

So, I-95 traffic. Here in South Florida, there is this highway called I-95. My younger daughter went to school at University of Miami in Coral Gables, not very far from where I am right now. And she would constantly tell me about how insane the traffic is here. And I completely believed her. But I was also thinking she was a relatively new driver, and she hadn’t had a lot of experience in different cities. And so, I, to a certain extent, maybe discounted it slightly thinking, “I’m sure it’s not that bad”. Now, I completely understand what she was talking about. Because there is this very interesting, toxic combination of people who are driving on the road who should not be driving anymore, because they’re far too old. You know, their heads don’t even appear above the windshield. They’re like these slow-moving random vehicles that just create ongoing roadblocks.

And there’s a second group of people who are basically trying to break the sound barrier, going fast enough that their wheels come off. I’ve never seen so many super-fast drivers weaving in and out of traffic. So, you mix these slow-moving random cars, with these incredibly fast vehicles, zoop, zoop, zoop in and out, back and forth. And then there’s this third fascinating one, which are primarily SUVs of people who are on their phones, very distracted, not paying attention to the road at all, weaving in and out of the lanes, but still going at a pretty fast clip. So, you have super slow cars with people that are not really in driving condition anymore, super-fast cars of people who are taking their lives in their own hands, and many others, I guess, and then the sort of medium speed vehicles, still going above the speed limit of course, with disinterested and not particularly attentive drivers behind the wheel. You put all that on the road together at once and it’s a party. So, Trinity, if I ever didn’t fully, completely grok what you were talking about when you were talking about I-95, I apologize, because you were right. It is bananas here.

Anyway, let’s come back to dream transference. What are other things that people do this with? One category that strikes me as a good one is photography. I was watching a really great episode of DJTV. We have a daily TV show that’s put on by two people inside Sprinklr, Tony and Joe. Tony and Joe started the show at the beginning of the pandemic, they just celebrated their one-year anniversary. They do a video TV show every single day and they interview different Sprinklrites and different people across the company. And often they’ll focus on hobbies and things like that. It’s  one of the things that led to Sprinklr being named one of the best places to work during the pandemic. And we’re proud of the fact that we’ve done a lot of amazing initiatives to keep our employees happy and healthy through the pandemic and doing everything we can to get through this very difficult period of time. And so, Joe and Tony interviewed someone who was a photographer on the side; he was a Sprinklrite during the day and photographer by night. He was talking about the tricks of photography and he made a really interesting comment. He said, ‘It doesn’t really matter what your equipment is. You can take a great photograph with a pinhole camera, or you can take a great photograph with an iPhone. You don’t have to have amazing equipment to take amazing photographs”.

I thought that was a very compelling comment because I do think photography is one of those things that falls into the camp of ‘I always wanted to be a professional photographer’. People think of it as a hobby and they like taking pictures and they go to go buy a camera, and probably anything will do. But what do they do? They  buy the most expensive, most advanced, fanciest camera they can lay their hands on partly because of this object-based dream transference which is, “What if I become an award-winning photographer? What if I become somebody whose pictures are celebrated? What if I become a great artist?” This camera is a way for me to be able to move that dream through. I think that’s a really, really interesting insight. What’s fascinating to me is that often in the stores, the salespeople will sell you down, “You don’t need all those features. You’re just a day-to-day photographer”. And I think it’s fascinating that they do that, I actually think that’s exactly the wrong thing to do. If I were a salesperson in a camera store, I’d be talking about, ”This is how Ansel Adams did it, or all the great journalists are using this camera. Or this is the way you want to make this happen. This is the kind of stuff you can do. You want people to imagine where they could go and how their life could be different.

So, another great category for this. Another thing, which I think is maybe a bit more of a New Yorker perspective, but I’ll go with this for a second. A lot of people in New York get new apartments and they outfit them with big ovens and big kitchens and all sorts of great kitchen appliances and oven features, etc. And yet, they order in every meal, they don’t cook. There’s one friend of ours who doesn’t even have her oven connected, it’s not even plugged in. And she uses it to store shoes, many New Yorkers actually use the ovens more as storage devices than as actual ovens. And so, what’s that? Well, the idea is that maybe one day I’ll learn to cook, maybe one day I could be a Julia Child, maybe one day I’ll have big parties where everyone comes over and I’m pulling amazing dishes out of the oven and we’re all cooking together and having a good time. And while maybe you still have parties, maybe you have people over, the idea that you’re actually cooking that maybe never happens. And I think that’s pretty interesting.

Another category where I think this happens, and this is a little touchy for some people given the last year but I think a great example of object-based dream transference is Peloton, an at-home exercise equipment, which often turns into the most expensive hanger in the room. The Peloton sits there taunting you day after day, that you could be, should be, using it. You bought it because you had a dream about how you wanted to look, how you wanted to feel, what you wanted your fitness level to be. And you still have that dream, you still feel like you can get there and the Peloton is a reminder that you could get there. But for some reason, you don’t get on it, you don’t use it. It’s very similar to gym memberships. The secret of gyms, and it was a great business until a year ago, is that most people who buy a gym membership, don’t use it. And so, they’re able to have a very small facility and service a very large number of people.

I could go on and on. There’s Smart TVs, and there’s computers, there’s all sorts of other categories where we essentially over-buy, versus what we need, because we have a dream that we’ll be a great writer or a dream that we’ll be a great artist, we have a dream that we’ll be something. Basements are full of hobbies that were started, painting easels and weaving looms and knitting walls and all the things that one day, we’ll get a chance to get to, I’ve got a closet full of Lego, I have projects going on, I’m making it but I got a lot more Lego to make than I’m making. And it’s going to take a long time to get there. But I have a bit of an object-based dream transference with my Lego. Because I think one day I’ll have the time to do this, I’ll be able to make these projects and I want to, I want to hold onto the idea that I’ll have that time and I’ll have that time for myself. And so, when I buy the Lego kits, it’s an affirmation that one day I’ll give myself that time. Will I? Maybe. I’m kind of a third down on the roller coaster; peeled off a Ghostbusters car on the weekend. So, you know, I’m at it. But boy, I may not get to all those kits, I may not get to all of them, which I think would be a little sad, but I think at the same time it’s maybe a hopeful thing that I want to make sure I try to get to them.

So, object-based dream transference. Think about it in your own marketing. Think about how that really is the experience people want. When people buy your product, don’t talk them down to just what they need. Talk them up to what they’re dreaming about. Talk them up to the future that they’re buying and this is true in B2B. When people buy a B2B product, don’t just sell them what they need. Sell them the vision, sell them the idea that they can transform their company. They can get promoted; they can move to new levels. They can change the experiences they’re offering their own customers. Think about the dreams. People pay a lot of money to satisfy their dreams. We don’t sell enough to the dream.

We’ll talk about this more but I think this is a good start. And I now have to go on I-95 and go to a PT appointment. Wish me luck, and maybe I’ll see that orange car again. Maybe I’ll buy it today. For the CXM Experience, I’m Grad Conn and I’ll see you, I hope,  … next time.

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