It does seem unfair.
A number of years ago, I heard a speaker start out his talk with two questions, and that was one of them. I don’t recall how he tied it in, but it was his second question that stuck with me.
“Here’s something I don’t understand.
Suppose I’m spending time with a friend and he stops at a Coke machine. He buys himself a Coke and offers to buy me one.
It is OK for me to say yes, but if I don’t want one now, it is not OK for me to ask for the money so I can buy a Coke later when I actually want one.
He’s willing to spend the money on my happiness, but only if it will make me happy right now!
If it won’t make me happy now, it’s not OK that I would want the money so I can have my happiness later.
Why is that?
This has never made sense to me.”
Some years later, I related this story to my good friend Gypsy Rogers, It started in front of a Coke machine. We used to buy each other Cokes all the time. We ended up on a whole huge discussion on the topic.
What we concluded was that buying someone a Coke wasn’t about spending money on their happiness.
It was deeper than that.
Because it’s not about the money, it’s about what money represents.
Yes, money is a medium of exchange but it is more than that. It is the fruits of our labor. It is what we gave our blood, sweat and tears for. It is what we brought back from … The Hunt.
Imagine we are hunter-gatherers. We go out on a Big Hunt and come back with a Big Kill. We would celebrate by inviting our friends to share in the kill.
It’s easy to see how this tradition is carried on today.
Only now, in addition to The Big Kill, we usually have The Big Game on The Big Screen.
More than that, though, every time we offer to spend money on someone else’s happiness, we are still sharing in The Kill on some level.
Surely the hunter gatherer’s friends would not be welcome to haul off with The Beast’s leg to make sandwiches later. That’s not sharing in the kill, that’s just taking it. It’s supposed to be a celebration — a celebration with the tribe.
I don’t think people from other tribes got invited to share in the kill, either. By the same token, I bet you don’t buy Cokes for strangers.
So at the end of the day, our conclusion was that sharing a Coke is really a tribal thing with cultural roots that go back to way before Coca-Cola.
It’s amazing to me how tribal our culture and customs truly are. It is has a huge influence on how we behave. Anything that has a huge influence on human behavior is significant in sales and marketing.
What is the tribal nature of your customer? Are you part of their tribe? Do they see you as part of their tribe? How can you leverage tribal behavior in your business – in how you communicate? This is stuff that’s really worth thinking about.
Gypsy and I didn’t spend a lot of time on that back then. We were too busy celebrating that we’d solved the riddle.
From that point, our conversation got kind of ridiculous, but kind of fun. Cokes became Red Beasts and Mountain Dews became Green Beasts. They cost 50 cents at the machine behind my house, so quarters became spears and it took two spears to slay a Beast. Dimes were darts, and it took more darts than spears. Nickels were rocks. You needed ten rocks to slay a Beast. Dollars (paper money) were nets. With a net, you could catch two Beasts at once!
To this day, “Share in the kill?”, means “Can I buy you a soda?” when Gypsy and I are talking.
And if the answer is no, we don’t ask for the money instead.
That would go against tribal customs.