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Guess what: people aren’t sheep.

Wow. Crazy, right?

I had a question on the #AskGaryVee Show a while back that really got me going on this exact point. Someone asked me, “What makes customers act the way they do?”.

My answer was probably a bit surprising. Watch it above, and read my thoughts on it below:

As marketers we are told that we need to understand entire groups of people, and we need to attempt to predict behavior. But the most untrue statement of all still seems to be circulating (as much as I try to kill it). And that statement is that people are sheep and will buy based on whatever you say. As if one ad can completely change how someone feels about an entire issue or product.

It’s not that easy. If it was, marketers wouldn’t have a job, would they?

If there ever was such an era of humanity, and I don’t think there was, it’s over. So over. So much of the decision whether or not to buy a product lies in the hand of the consumer. And that may seem like an obvious statement. But I say it because while everyone says they know this is true, no one is acting like they know it’s true. Why? Because banner ads are still a thing. Because nobody is trying to meet the consumer where they actually are. When that TV ad comes on, the consumer tunes out. They pick up their phone and they’re tweeting, texting and updating their status. Why aren’t you on Facebook with them? Why aren’t you tweeting with them?

People are not sheep.

Now, marketing can clearly influence. Of course it can. With that influence, we build up our credibility, the reasons you should buy us over someone else, and that is how we make a sale. But the customer’s own preconceived notions, their DNA, their upbringing, are factors as well. And those are some powerful factors. The customer gets to choose.

At the end of the day, we aren’t hypnotizing people. We can’t. Give the customer (and give yourself) a bit more credit than that. You really think people have that little self will? Please.

The statement “people are sheep” is an all-in, narrow-focused way of looking at the world. It doesn’t leave room for anything else. The reality is not that black and white. Marketing is all about nuances anyway; this is just another part of that.