Have you ever heard of or believed a conspiracy, only to look back in hindsight still in confusion. Conspiracies seem to be these ideas that transcend even time itself, no matter how hard we look or how close we think we are to finding the truth, it always seems to be just out of our reach. So, is the truth behind a conspiracy only just out of our reach, or is it that the only truth behind a conspiracy is that this "truth" is unknowable?
In the picture above is the All-Seeing Eye, also known as the Eye of Providence, a mystery dating back to the 17th century. It's a symbol we have all seen and its a symbol that we are all familiar with. But what does it symbolize? What does it really mean? How should we interpret it? Is this a sign of the super secret Illuminati? And where are all of the answers?
What about the moon landing, or 9/11, were they secretly just a big hoax or a government cover-up? How about Chem-trails or Black Helicopters? What about the pope, is he secretly the anti-Christ? Lets make it recent, have you heard about the Trump-Russia Collusion?
To which I wonder, what if we aren't supposed to answer these questions? What if us asking these questions is the answer to someone elses' question?
Now if that's the case then it means that somebody else must have manufactured these questions for us to ask. Have you ever heard of someone manufacturing questions for people to ask them?
Doesn't this sound reminiscent of Marketing?
As good Marketers and Sales-People we understand that people aren't interested in buying something they don't care about. So it's our challenge to get a person to care about something we want to sell them, before we attempt to sell it to them. Sales itself is a 2-step process of creating a problem and then fixing it, while marketing involves creating questions for your target market to which you can offer assistance with.
Unlike sales however, we as marketers are not always required to provide answers. We are however required to direct and shape our target audience. To do that we can use questions, we can ask them ourselves; but even more powerfully, we can prompt our consumers into asking questions that we ourselves have created for them.
Then apply this to the idea of using symbolism and popular conspiracies in our marketing communications. By doing so it opens to us a world filled with consumers who are already filled with questions, who are clamoring over even the most brief mentions of their favorite theories. Using this in our marketing messages wont lead our consumers to making any new ground breaking discoveries of their own, but it will lead them to a discovery that we have intended for them, hopefully our product.
Take for example Katy Perry's growth in success after using heavy symbolism in her personal marketing.
Why and where to use Symbolism and Conspiracy as a marketing tool?
Its not by far the only lever we can pull to add intrigue into our marketing campaign. But is it valuable to you and your product?
Dr. Deborah Osgood from the Business Review, explains that there are 3 major factors that contribute to a person's fascination with conspiracy theories.
Consumers interested in conspiracy may be concerned about personal worth and being important. Typically a person who is interested in conspiracy is also seeking to differentiate themselves from other members of society as they typically view themselves as being in a lower social standing compared to others. Whether they tend to isolate themselves or exaggerate themselves, they want to be 'different'.
Consider using conspiracy and symbolism when offering a product that you would like to associate with rarity, prestige or uniqueness. Consider Brand Personality and Consumer Involvement when making this decision.
Conspiracies fundamentally require a very large degree of emotional investment in someone who believes them. As such, consumers who are typically less intellectually equipped have a greater propensity for conspiratorial beliefs. These consumers are also more likely to be unemployed and unmarried, which also sees a decreasing degree of self-perceived personal value and an increasing need for emotional attachments.
Consider using conspiracy and symbolism when looking to leverage emotive responses from consumers. Consider you consumer's current emotive perception of your brand, and your consumer's motive.
People desire order and understanding, it doesn't have to make sense to everyone else, but it has to make sense to us. This is called perception, and there are different ways that people choose to perceive and understand the world they live in. Conspiracies seek to serve that explicitly.
For example, consumers who would not typically be interested in a Katy Perry song, might be interested because of its heavy symbolism. In this way she was successfully able to overcome perceptual blocking by a demographic not typically found in her target audience. This same demographic is also given a reason to listen, watch and purchase her music and a way to avoid the risk of ridicule and increased social pressure by their peers.
Other successful examples of Conspiratorial Marketing
Katy Perry wasn't the only famous pop-star to use this symbolism in her marketing strategy. In 2013 both Jay-z and Beyonce were found using very similar symbolism on stage.
Conspiracies in Video Games has been a big hook for quite some time. Take for example the very successful Assassin's Creed. You would think that 1 sneak and stab title would be enough for most consumer's fill of sneaky action, since 2007 Ubisoft has successfully created over 20 titles. Consider how this game ties real world conspiracy theories into the world of fantasy.
If going big and using conspiracy as your main gig isn't your thing, consider selling hats and jumpers. In 2018 Youtuber Pewdiepie released a new "Сука, блять!" merchandise line being released in the midst of the popularity of Trump-Russia Collusion conspiracy, it enjoyed success as one of his most successful attempts at merchandising.
Freeman, D., & Bentall, R. (2017). The concomitants of conspiracy concerns. Social Psychiatry And Psychiatric Epidemiology, 52(5), 595-604. doi: 10.1007/s00127-017-1354-4
Osgood, D. (2017). ‘Conspiracy theory’ marketing - New Hampshire Business Review - November 24 2017. Retrieved from http://www.nhbr.com/November-24-2017/Conspiracy-theory-marketing/
Kluger, J. (2017). Why So Many People Believe Conspiracy Theories. Retrieved from http://time.com/4965093/conspiracy-theories-beliefs/