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This was the first draft of a guest blog post I did for Dashboard, which can be found here. Edited for content, but not sentiment.

In university, I knew this girl named Ruth. She was beautiful, all legs and silky long brown hair, and all the boys were gaga for her. She had that kind of breezy free spirit that bordered on crazy — but in a cute way. So when someone came up with the idea to climb the lit-up neon cross at the top of Mount Royal in Montreal, of course, she was up for the challenge.

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Making the decision to climb the cross only took Ruth a second, but what happened next would change her life forever. It was winter, the steel surface was icy, and just as she got to the top, Ruth slipped and dropped 30 metres to the frozen ground below, breaking her back. Although the doctors thought she would never walk again, today she does with a cane and a heavy limp.

I work in marketing. Part of my job is to study consumer behaviour and figure out how to work with it or change it in our favour, i.e. convince the consumer to go with us. And here’s where the Moment of Truth — or Moment of Ruth — comes in. Everyone has that split second in their brain when the switch flips over to yes. Yes, I will get a large drink for just a quarter more. Yes, I will buy that pair of shoes that I don’t need. Yes, I will upgrade my cable package from 20 channels to 200.

Yes, I will climb the cross.

It is these switches that we marketers try to tap into. Or, to be more succinct, the gears that work the switches. What is it, specifically, that will make a consumer flip over to you? The thing is, there isn’t one universal thing, I don’t think. In the end, could it really come down toMaslow’s Hierarchy of Basic Human Needs?

I’ll give you another, perhaps lighter example: at the price of my own dignity, I’ve shared this story with many at my workplace when talking about just what we need to do to get through to our prospects. It happened about 5 years ago, as I had just started working at my current place. I was walking to my desk one day, when I felt something on the back of my pants. As I reached behind to brush whatever it was off, to my horror, I realized that there wasn’t actually something there. What I had been feeling was the sensation of my billowing flesh rubbing bulbously on the fabric of my clothing. Essentially, my butt was jiggling so much that it was causing a ripple effect in my pants. I had started the wave in my trousers.

And that was my Moment of Ruth for deciding to get fit. I joined the gym, hired a personal trainer, and today, I’m probably in the best shape I’ve ever been and feel great for it.

The point of all this is that every consumer has infinitely unique and personal reasons for making their buying decisions. As marketers, we work hard everyday to try and figure out how to tap into those moments and flip those switches over to yes. The task can sometimes be arduous and seemingly solutionless, but it sure is fun to think about sometimes.

Originally posted April 28, 2012

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