Vote for Pedro! A Lesson in Logic.

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I have vivid memories of high school elections.  They were, for the most part, popularity contests with no connection to reality or fairness.  But surprisingly, 20+ years later, I’ve come to realize some important business lessons hidden among the poster boards and campaign speeches.

Consider the following clip from the high school movie, Napoleon Dynamite. Napoleon’s friend, Pedro, is running for class president, and faces an uphill battle.  Let’s just say you wouldn’t peg him as a lock for winning the “popular” vote!

Interestingly enough, these two teenagers grapple with the same dilemma you and I face in the marketplace each and every day – “how do we get people’s attention?”. In this instance, Pedro asks, “Do you think people will vote for me?”.  The answers are comical, and unexpected.

Fortunately for Pedro, his competition is equally clueless.

Too often, people take Summer’s approach when attempting to present a persuasive argument.  They rely on what lies at the surface, or what they believe to be important.  Napoleon and Pedro fair no better.  They, like Summer, are trapped in their own world, clouded by what they view as rational and logical.

Logic & Mental Health

Now let’s shift our focus to behavioral health care, more specifically, alcohol and substance abuse treatment.  The logic behind it is impressive, and the benefits of treatment are plentiful.  But like the disease of addiction itself, logic rarely has a place.

Substance Abuse Treatment remains a tough sell unless you’re soaking in it.  People just aren’t moved by pure reason.  They connect with messages and experiences they can feel and relate to right at the moment the message is delivered.

This isn’t right or wrong, good or bad.  It simply is.

So while you may have overwhelming evidence in support of your services, your argument might fall on deaf ears, not because it isn’t important, but because it misses that human connection.

This is why so many Employee Assistance Programs struggle.  They talk about improved workplace productivity, more efficient programs, and an increase in revenue.  Yet, company leaders still view them as a commodity.  They rarely see the value that so logically exists.

This is also why college campuses struggle to spread their message of responsible drinking to students. They offer important outcomes and cautionary tales, but have no real connection with their audience.  They police rather than connect.

There are, of course, examples where logic wins out.  Stores like Sam’s Club and Wal-Mart win because they’re cheaper than anyone else.  The local dermatologist wins because she’s the only game in town.  The logic behind these business models is overwhelming and persuasive.

But these instances are rare.  And chances are – You won’t win with logic!

So while the popular girl in school delivers a predictable campaign speech, Pedro and Napoleon win out when they find a different way to connect.  In this instance, Napoleon saves the day performing a completely outlandish dance following Pedro’s speech.  I know…it sounds absurd, but it’s the essence of the act that has value.  Spontaneity and innovation often tip the scales in your favor.  Why?  Because people are curious when a new door opens.  They’re intrigued when a barrier is removed, and when their defenses are down.

How will you choose to connect?  It’s not an easy question, but more and more I’m learning that logic is not necessarily the answer.




  1. Katherine Gordy Levine  October 12, 2010

    So true, David. I think part of the emotional hook remains who we identify with and in the movie, most of us identified a bit more with “the Losers” than Miss Priss. That is why knowing your audience is so important. Men are much less likely to buy into Emotional Fitness Training–but respond a bit better to the idea of Staying Strong. Fortunately women are responsive to both ideas. Nice post. Thank you.

  2. Lois  October 12, 2010

    I think it’s true. All of us respond on an emotional level, whether we admit it or not. But as Katherine points out, the emotion or the way it is evoked is different for different groups or types of people. Our marketing, our business concepts, and our clinical skills need to address these needs of our clients, or we will lose out.

    By the way, I voted for Pedro.

  3. David Diana  October 12, 2010

    Really interesting comments Katherine and Lois. I had not thought about some of the gender differences, nor did I expand upon the idea of how emotion is different for different groups. I appreciate the input! And I voted for Pedro as well!

  4. Jeffrey Nigro  October 15, 2010

    Hmmm….comments got me to thinking about the basics of engagement with new patients, essentially one of the first things I was taught and one that, if kept in mind, helps me avoid “clinical missteps” throughout a treatment episode: meet the client where they are.

    Now, with patients (at least most of the time), listening with my gut usually works, within the context of my clinical tools & training. My current challenge is that I have difficulty finding my “gut” with the marketing, business-end of private practice, despite spending the majority of my life in the business world and the last 10 in this field. Had not looked at it this way before so thank you for your comments….differential use of self rears its little puzzling self again?

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