Game of Cults: Mastering the Emotional Core of Successful Marketing

Welcome to Season Two: Game of Cults

I’m going to take a few articles to outline the premise for this season. We will explore some complex ideas about how human emotion and behavior intertwine with the publishing market. Then, we will consider how to use this knowledge to build a sustainable publishing business.

One of the biggest criticisms of Advantage and the ideas I discuss in these articles goes like this…

“I understand the concept, but can you just show me how to do it?”

I’ve heard this more than once, and I’ve felt it myself. Authors struggling with advertising often ask the same question. They seek a formula to apply rather than taking the time to understand how advertising should be used within a marketing strategy.

This goes back to the idea of season one and building a system that creates fans and funds rather than just trying to sell books.

How does the component of advertising improve the system writ large?

In a similar vein, how do we go about retaining and indoctrinating the right fan?

Already, formulas will hold us back, because first we must define what makes a good fan… and that’s subjective.

We will dig deeper into this later in the season, and I don’t want to go off track with the big ideas.

Just keep in mind that YOUR formula will be a mix and match of pieces in order to create the system that’s right for you.

Now to those big ideas…

There are four of them.

1. What’s emotion got to do with it?

The first big idea is that the answer to combating machine learning, logic, reason, and analytics is by being irrational and emotional.

We look to sell your story to a human being. Rather than presenting a logical appeal, we will build an emotional, intimate one-to-one relationship. The result of an emotional purchase can be a customer for life.

As a content creator, you participate in a publishing market that is a winner-takes-all marketplace, meaning only a few get the spoils.

The market is growing in both supply and demand. While there are more losers, there are also more winners, but how do you become a winner?

The first hurdle is visibility. With 3,000 books a day being published, it’s hard to be seen. Then, with a modicum of visibility, how do you get someone to sell themselves on your product?

With all the new technologies and advancements, the apparent choice appears to be to double down on logic. Get a machine that can process faster, sort through data quicker, and apply an algorithm faster to do that work for us.

There’s a flaw in this logic.

The Human Factor.

We’re not logical, reasonable, or emotionless. Spock was such an interesting character because he’s so foreign to how we are designed.

Many of our emotions are social instincts. Envy, pride, guilt, and empathy are all feelings that help us navigate our interactions with others in a community. Using emotion to control behavior reflexively is the objective.

Therefore, we’ll explore humanity at its best and worst, as individuals and in groups, to see what patterns we can identify and use to get readers to connect with your brand and create community.

If you read Season One: Wynn-ing Ways, you will know that we explored the idea of building a publishing business designed to collect funds and fans.

This season, we will explore a process-driven system for finding and assimilating fans. To that end, we will explore concepts around gamification and alternative reality games.

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Are these tools suitable for your brand and a way to get people to identify with your brand and join your community?

Too often, we look for a rational cause instead of an emotional motivation for what happens in the marketplace.

“If I just could get more visibility, I could sell more books.”

There is some truth to this. Visibility is a crucial component. However, in a world where attention is short and abused, I contend you need to use alternative methods to accumulate your advantage.

When given that moment of attention, we need to trigger an emotional response and then build on that emotion.

This leads to our second big idea…

2. Memory and the unconscious

As an author and content creator, you have the capacity to brainwash your readers.

I touched on this in Advantage, but we will explore this further and formulate how to take advantage of the access you have to your reader’s unconscious.

This is deeper than anything other marketing can achieve. It’s because your characters and story manifest in the same areas as memory. Therefore, it ties in with how our memory works and its connection to language.

Consider what comes to mind when you read the word:


Is it about authority?

Does it have a religious connotation for you?

Now that you’re thinking more about it, observe how language and thought are interlinked and abstract.

You know the meaning of the word, but it’s likely you can’t recollect when you first learned its meaning, nor are you able to recite the dictionary definition. It’s a feeling, an instinct.

One of my hypotheses is that you can trigger readers unconsciously and instinctually to identify with your story brand. Through the use of words, the creation of meaning, and the formation of parasocial relationships, you will build your brand cult.

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The third big idea…

3. Quality not quantity

Bigger isn’t better. Better is better.

The natural inclination is to look for scale. While sales can scale round after round, the foundation is a community of strong links, not a big community.

Certainly, the bigger a community, the more influence it can have. However, research shows a community that is too big crosses a threshold where it is inefficient at propagating information cascades. We seek to build a strong tie community that grows round after round.

4. Abandon selling

The last idea is to abandon selling.

We will turn your brand and community into an object of desire.

A want.

A sanctuary.

If you can align your brand as satisfaction to an unmet public desire, those with the desire will covet what you have to offer.

For many, this will be the hardest part.

The idea is that the key to reliable sales isn’t constant communication but creating a desirable experience that others will pay for.

Speaking for myself, when I want something, no one needs to sell me. I’m my own best salesperson and purchase rationalizer.

These are the four big ideas behind Game of Cults. This can be distilled down to using emotions and beliefs to create and control a group to do your bidding.

This is what we set out to do together over the subsequent forty-four articles.

⚠️ Warning: As you read, look to see how I’m applying these ideas. We’re learning by doing, and as I reveal these techniques, you should see how some of them have been used to influence your behavior.

In the following article, we will discuss how markets work. You may come away with some stock market tips, but you’ll certainly get a solid foundation on where we can start applying leverage in fast-paced digital markets like the Amazon bookstore.

Just one more thing…

At the end of each article, I’ll add one more thing. This is to address the criticism that these articles lack actionable items.

I understand this criticism. I think it comes from© the difference between cooks and chefs.

A cook follows a recipe. Many people can be good cooks, but cooks lack originality because they need to follow a recipe.

A chef understands how to use ingredients to create a flavor profile and mouth experience. Chefs create recipes, and cooks follow them.

Some are natural chefs. Others must work as cooks to understand the workings of the kitchen.

Read: Discover How Market Behavior Can Help You Gain Loyal Readers


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