Selling the Dream
By Michael Drew - Dec 01 , 2010
I used to have the easiest job in the world – I sold dreams for a living. Best seller dreams, to be exact. I would get aspiring authors to envision their name on best seller lists and they would give me thousands of dollars to make it happen. And I did. 67 different times. I’m proud of that. But I’m not so proud of all the delusions of fame and fortune I let them fantasize about. I knew best seller status rarely equated to a life of V.I.P. treatment. But hey, I was selling the dream. Marketing with a push that would cause any old-school advertiser to snicker with approval.
My success as a dream pusher had way more to do with the Idealistic era we were living in than it did my selling skills. People were willing to believe the fairy tale. All their lives they had been told that they could teach the world to sing in perfect harmony; that a little ‘transactional analysis’ would make everybody OK!; that a washed up bum like Rocky Balboa could actually become Heavyweight Champion of the World.
In about 2004, people started pushing back. It became increasingly harder to get the authors I was meeting with to buy into the dream. The harder I pushed, the more they pushed back. My assurances were met with skepticism. It seemed their fantasies had been doused by reality.
Looking back on it now, it is easy to see what happened. Marketers spent the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s lifting our spirits and feeding on our imaginations with big promises and images of happy days. By the time the millennium rolled around, we were flat out tired of it. We knew those promises were empty. And it didn’t take a very long look at the world to realize these days were not all happy and free.
Futurist and author Faith Popcorn sensed what was happening as early as 1991. A couple of excerpts from The Popcorn Report, published that year:
“It seemed to me, in the sixties, advertising was the most creative business around. The consumer world was new, wide open; ads were all creativity, no research. I loved the business when I started in it…
…In the nineties, consumers don’t believe the promises anymore. If the ad says, “ninety-out-of-a-hundred people prefer fill-in-the-blank,” we cynically assume that those 90 are the advertiser’s 90 best friends and relatives. We know that numbers can be interpreted to mean almost anything. So, the situation now is that numbers have lost their credibility, and yet creativity isn’t strong enough to stand on its own.”
As a result, I stopped pushing dreams several years ago. Promote A Book’s ‘best seller’ business model has been replaced by one that helps authors use their books to further their platforms and businesses. Instead of getting authors onto best seller lists and then wishing them luck, I show them how to use their books to “join the conversation” and connect with their audiences. More pull, less push. It seems more real, more authentic this way. And I seem to enjoy it more.
What about you? Did you ever “buy the dream” they were selling? Leave a few words and tell us about it.