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23 Jan 2012

Change Technique: Personification

In a previous post, I discussed the rebirth of Freud and the idea that most (if not all) of our decisions are driven unconsciously. Personification is a way we can influence others’ decision-making on this level.

Revisiting The Economist article “Retail Therapy” in its December 17, 2011 edition, it says about Ernest Dichter, who revolutionized marketing in the 1960’s:

Dichter understood that every product has an image, even a “soul”, and is bought not merely for the purpose it serves but for the values it seems to embody . . . Dichter’s message to advertisers was: figure out the personality of a product, and you will understand how to market it.

Personification is giving something a personality. For instance, my wife has a name for her car. People do the same with boats. Advertising often links products to celebrities; they become the “face of the product”, and thus its personality.

Translating to business, we encourage change if we can give change a personality. Sometimes it’s as simple as putting the face of the Owner, President or CEO on the change by saying, “It’s George’s initiative.” We can do this formally or informally; we can do this with projects, ideas and plans: “This is Mary’s project, Matt’s idea, Kathy’s plan.”

We can also reference other types of people to the change such as “The Herculean Effort,” “The Superman Plan,” and “The Rocky Project.” Any person will help as long as the connection to the person is a positive one. For example, if people don’t like Mary, her name will likely hurt the change.

When it comes to change management, we often neglect to tap into the techniques that work in advertising, merchandising and marketing. Personification is just one of those techniques.


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