The Secret of Discovering Surprisingly Lovable Solutions
The Secret of Discovering Surprisingly Lovable Solutions
and where is the connection between marketing and love?
Sharing my thoughts on the topic “BREAKING SURFACES” on HHL’s TEDx event in Leipzig, June 9th, 2023. Here’s an extended version of my talk.
Hey, how are you doing?
This is a popular conversation starter, usually meant as a polite question to start small talk. It’s lovely and lighthearted in casual conversations. But imagine everyone you ask, “How are you doing?” would honestly tell you everything about his current situation. Usually, you are expecting nothing more than a smile or a “fine” as an answer.
However, having a sincere interest in how others are doing is essential if you want to build successful relationships. And relationships, on the other hand, are necessary for success.
Why am I telling you this? Because I want to distract you from the fact that I want to write about something boring: Problems. Or, as a marketing copywriter like me would call it:
The secret of uncovering surprisingly LOVABLE solutions.
In everyday life and society, we face uncountable problems that require solutions.
Starting with small questions, such as deciding whether to cross the street when the traffic light is about to turn red, choosing between still or sparkling water, deciding whether to hire a robot or a new human employee, determining whether to end a relationship or rather install a heat pump, and figuring out if it is the best way to fight a war by delivering tanks to crisis areas. Additionally, we must consider how we want to coexist as a society in the future.
But unfortunately, we have that one fundamental problem:
We are not good at solving problems.
We talk a lot about these challenges, but I often feel too little progress in these discussions. Don’t get me wrong. Talking is wonderful! It is because of the way how we communicate.
I see much complaining, outrage, frustration, and unpolite negativity. But this doesn’t help. It doesn’t create constructive solutions. Look at the comments below some social media posts and think of talk show discussions on TV. These are often good examples, or should I call them bad examples of poor conversation?
Because it is not productive to talk ABOUT each other instead of WITH each other.
No constructive dialogue, no constructive solution.
Solving problems requires people’s engagement. Without their understanding and input, it’s unlikely that any solution will be effective in the long run. Communication and collaboration are crucial to finding solutions that work for everyone.
It’s all about the people.
It doesn’t matter which topic or branch; at the end of the day, it’s all about the people. Projects win or fail because of the people involved. How people feel and how they behave because of their feelings.
That’s why understanding of feelings is the key.
If you offer something – whether it’s a product, service, or solution – it must genuinely meet the needs of the people it’s intended for. Otherwise, you are running in the wrong direction and solving not existing problems. After all, people will be using it, and their satisfaction matters most. In Marketing, it’s called Target group. This doesn’t sound nice. More like you want to shoot at somebody, But the aim is not to cause any pain but to find the pain points.
Therefore, you must not only find out what people want, which is difficult enough.
It doesn’t even help to ask them what they want because they won’t be able to tell you immediately.
No, it would be best if you found out how they feel and how they WANT to feel.
When society addresses a problem that requires the cooperation of everyone, let’s say such a tiny global challenge like the fight against climate change, it is even more difficult.
Humans don’t like changes at all. Our brains are wired to prefer familiarity and routine. But when we anticipate that change will result in personal setbacks, uncertainty, or both, we usually react with resistance, which can quickly turn into fear, and anger. It’s understandable to feel this way – we all want to feel safe and secure. But sometimes, there is no other way than to embrace the change. And maybe it can lead to positive outcomes we never would have imagined.
There are chances of changes. Let’s communicate this in a positive, inspiring way. As human beings, we tend to be more effective when fighting for a cause rather than against it.
But how can you understand humans at all?
Effective creation and problem-solving require asking the right questions and truly comprehending the problem. This fundamental understanding is the key to unlocking innovative solutions and achieving success.
Although this sounds like a no-brainer, in my experience, I often see people finding beautiful solutions to the wrong problems, or at least they are failing to address the actual issue.
If you have ever participated in a Design Thinking workshop or a similar event focused on innovation, you will likely know that the first step is to understand the question and target group deeply. This step is called Emphasize. To achieve this, a common technique is called „Persona“. That means you try to imagine and describe a person representing your target group as precisely as possible. You invent a name, the colour of the eyes, the favourite food, the size and the weight, the name of the cat, the name of the neighbour, and the size and weight of the neighbour’s cat.
This allows you to put yourself in their shoes (or the ones of the neighbour’s cat, I don’t know) and better understand their perspective.
This technique can be beneficial, but you must distance yourself from your perspective. That requires some superpower. It’s called EMPATHY.
Men invented Design Thinking. That’s why it is very driven by rationality. Because men believe they are acting rationally. It is an excellent rational, and effective process to find reasonable, practical solutions which are not working perfectly if people are involved. Which, unfortunately, they are almost every time.
The idea of Design Feeling is more attractive. It focuses primarily on empathy and emotions, which are more likely to fit human needs.
Can we understand feelings, or do we have to feel them?
Humans are not as perfect and not acting as rationally as we always thought; they behave irrationally; women and even men do. But at least we act “predictably irrationally”, as Dan Ariely, a Behavioral Psychologist, calls it. To predict these predictable human behaviours, you need this empathy superpower, one of the essential future skills. Empathy is more than understanding. It is lovingly understanding by heart and intuition. Or, as Antoine de Saint Exupery says in a much more poetical way than me:
“But the eyes are blind. One must look with the heart.”
― Antoine de Saint Exupery, The Little Prince.
Look with the heart. That’s why empathy it’s such a difficult superpower thing. You must not only see but also perceive with all your senses, understand, resonate, and finally anticipate.However, most people lack SELF-empathy. Can you always understand your emotions and predict your actions accurately? Yes? I must admit, I can’t do that all the time. But, you’re expected to anticipate the feelings and actions of other people.
Good news: You can learn and train it. Artificial Intelligence, typically not associated with empathy, will soon be able to help us in this area by predicting reactions more accurately than pure HI, human intuition.
Seen and loved
But until AI takes over, thankfully, there are a few fundamental things that everyone desires and that you can count on. All family members, friends, customers, employees, and coworkers want to be seen and loved. Companies, products, or brands also want to be seen and loved.
To be seen, you must be VISIBLE. That’s what you look like. That’s Marketing and Communication.
To be loved, you must be LOVABLE. That’s about who you are, your soul, the soul of your product or the quality of your solution.
My approach is to create and communicate LOVABLE solutions. Here we are, asking that one key question:
What is love, and what can you do to be loved?
Easy. Only one of the biggest questions of the universe. Almost every artist wrote about it.
The Irish Pop Band, “The Corrs” asks the question that way:
“What can I do to make you love me?
What can I do to make you care?
What can I say to make you feel this?
What can I do to get you there?
There’s only so much I can take
And I just gotta let it go
And who knows I might feel better, yeah
If I don’t try and I don’t hope.“
― The Corrs, What Can I Do
But I still haven’t lost hope of finding this answer, although I am not an expert in this LOVE thing.
But Erich Fromm was. He wrote the book, “The Art of Loving”, in 1956, which I highly recommend reading. But no, I must disappoint you. This is not a handbook like the Kamasutra. No pictures at all. It’s written more from a philosophical point of view.
Erich Fromm claims that love is CARE, RESPONSIBILITY and RESPECT based on the foundation of KNOWING for what, at first, you need ATTENTION. Sounds a lot like understanding and empathy to my ears.
ATTENTION is crucial. Not being seen and heard can lead to sadness, frustration, anger, and resistance. When love is CARE, RESPONSIBILITY and RESPECT, it can be incredibly painful if someone doesn’t listen to you, doesn’t seem to understand your problems, or fails to respond to your messages. It could be due to their inability to react or a lack of CARE and RESPECT for your feelings. In the worst-case scenario, it could be both. You don’t feel seen and loved.
But ATTENTION can encourage people to see themselves as a part of a group and a solution.
My favourite quote from the book is:
“Love is a power which produces love.”
― Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving
That means being loved is not a one-way street. The best way to be LOVABLE is by being LOVINGLY. Love to be loved. See to be seen! Understand to be understood. And so on. You got my point.
Knowing this, it should be easy to create LOVABLE solutions and products. We only must be LOVINGLY to the target group. However, is it possible to make everything lovable?
Even a hospital?
To reveal in advance: YES, WE CAN!
Let me demonstrate using a project I was recently involved in. A hospital, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, called “The Miracle of Thuringia”, and ARTE, called “The most innovative hospital in Germany.”
The „Waldkliniken Eisenberg, German Centre for Orthopedics“
Like most people, it’s safe to say that you prefer to avoid three places: the cemetery, the jail, and the hospital.
When you think of your association with a hospital, you might imagine a clean environment with a distinct smell of disinfectant or antiseptic. The walls are white, the furniture is white, and the people are white. You may hear the sound of medical equipment, think of the taste of bland food, and it’s possible that you feel some fear, anxiety, sadness, illness, surgery, pain, and a lack of warmth and welcome.
At least hospital is not the first thing that comes to mind with the word LOVABLE, even if it rimes a bit.
And now imagine something absolutely crazy: a hospital that could be a place where people can get healthier as fast as possible! What a revolutionary thought.
600 years ago, the old revolutionist Paracelsus, you know, the guy with the dose and the poison, said
“The highest degree of medicine is love.”
When did we lose track of this concept?
Remembering that LOVE means CARE, RESPONSIBILITY and RESPECT, the idea of creating a LOVABLE hospital doesn’t sound that strange anymore. It only must be LOVINGLY. And HOSPITAL and HOSPITALITY, doesn’t that sound quite similar?
Where to start by creating a LOVINGLY solution?
Of course, as I said, always with the people. By asking the right questions: how can the employees and the customers feel seen and loved? After that, when you know what the people involved want to feel, you can paint the whole picture by formulating a clear Purpose, Vision, Mission, and Values.
How can patients feel seen and loved?
When patients seek medical attention, they desire to be treated well, with CARE, RESPECT and compassion. They want to be seen as people, informed, and involved in the decisions regarding their health, maintaining a sense of control and self-efficacy. Above all, they wish to be assisted respectfully, like a valued guest.
Do they expect to be treated this way in a typical hospital nowadays? No, not really. Sadly enough.
And what about the healthcare workers – nurses, doctors, and service staff? How can they feel seen and loved?
They aim to provide quality medical care with compassion and kindness. They aspire to fulfil their calling, find meaning in their work, witness positive outcomes, and experience a sense of effectiveness, see a result, even if it’s only a smile of a patient. They desire to treat well.
One want’s to be treated well, and the other wants to treat well. What a coincidence. These needs happen to align quite nicely, don’t they?
When customers and employees are happy, it’s the best form of advertising for every company. Therefore, the marketing department should focus on communicating this satisfaction and allowing guests and employees to share their positive experiences. This will help create a positive brand image for the hospital, which everyone will appreciate and love.
It sounds like a true miracle, a win-win-win situation, a fairytale ending – and they lived happily ever after.
But this is the PURPOSE of this small hospital. To be a loving hospital. To treat the patients with hospitality as valued guests.
Guests that feel best treated.
The VISION that came true was to create a hospital that works and looks like a hotel, with a beautiful atmosphere, layout and workflow that empowers staff to provide compassionate care on the highest level of medical expertise – a hospital in a beautiful natural environment, surrounded by a forest, that offers nutritious, regional, healthy food to promote physical and emotional well-being, with a fireplace and the smell of fresh bread in the lobby, and even a sommelier at the restaurant.
The MISSION is always the most challenging part—the way how to make your VISION a reality. As a leader, you must make allies; you must communicate your VISION and convince your employees and other stakeholders to follow your VISION and bring it to life. You must engage, inspire, and fascinate; sometimes, you must challenge people by getting on their nerves. The best way is to develop the VISION with the people involved. So everyone can feel a part of it, seen and loved.
And when the MISSION is the hardest part, staying on track and keeping up with your process and own VALUES like KINDNESS and EMPATHY is even more challenging because it’s a journey that never reaches its destination. Whenever someone praised our innovation, I answered that our train hadn’t arrived yet, but was only one or two stations ahead.
It’s essential to keep communications open and continue asking questions to ensure that everyone involved feels seen and loved, and asked. This will help them to see and love others as well.
The three key takeaways from this example are:
1) If a hospital can be made LOVABLE, it is possible to make almost anything LOVABLE.
2) PURPOSE is always about how we want to feel; the people at the core of these feelings will always be the company’s most significant power. If you don’t treat these people who support your VISION with appreciation and high VALUES towards them, your MISSION will fail in the end.
3) WORDS are powerful. Calling your patients “guests” and your coworkers “favourite colleagues” is a game changer. LOVABLE solutions need LOVINGLY communication to the inside and LOVINGLY marketing to the outside of a group or company. Even, and especially if it’s a hospital.
In the end, I will leave you alone with my bonus conclusion about KINDNESS and EXPECTATIONS:
When something exceeds our expectations, it brings us happiness. There is an egoistic benefit to being nice. You don’t get paid for it directly, but kindness always fires back at you.
As US Gouverneur Bob Kerrey said:
“Unexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly, and most underrated agent of human change. Kindness that catches us by surprise brings out the best in our natures,”
― US Gouverneur Bob Kerrey.
It might be cool to use this surprise effect. But I don’t know what you think about it. As far as I’m concerned, I don’t want to live in a world where kindness is unexpected.
The main problem of humankind is the inability to problem-solving because of a lack of empathy, kindness, love, and empathetic, loving communication.
So, please do me a favour!
Expect and do the unexpected: Break your human surface with kindness.
Create LOVABLE Solutions and be an ambassador and loving leader of the tribe of empathy.
EMPATHY is ATTENTION, and ATTENTION is LOVE.
So next time, instead of asking, “How are you doing?” kindly ask, “How are you feeling?”
And I promise you; the answer will be more than a smile.
Create Great Things!