I went on a girls’ weekend and shared a breakthrough on romantic fantasies that John and I had a few years ago in our marriage. We paid dearly for this insight, but you, dear friends get it for free! (Spoiler alert: This is totally G-rated for all audiences! Sorry to disappoint some of you!) And for you marketers and entrepreneurs, keep reading because you’ll see how this can be a huge insight for your business too.
One thing I realized…romantic fantasies are our way of looking for a happy ending, maybe one we’ve been looking for for years. (Cue fellow Texan Pat Green’s “Wave on Wave” for a great song about our search for happy endings.) And those romantic fantasies drive our actions and decision-making and even purchases in ways we don’t even realize. Here’s how John and I stumbled upon it:
We had two small kids. I worked all week from home and traveled some. On weekends, we had grocery shopping, cooking, soccer, kids’ parties, church, etc. John would often want me to help him in the yard. I resented it. My plate was full with my own chores. I might complain or offer up the kids as mini-substitutes. If that didn’t work, I’d go out there in my Type A+ mood. Let me get this over with as quickly and efficiently as possible. John would get hurt and angry. It bothered him enough that he brought it up in a couple’s therapy session one day.
Our therapist Trish started digging through the crust of the situation. John’s parents had found peace and harmony working in the garden that they couldn’t find in some other areas of their relationship. That helped explain why it meant a lot to John that I spend time in the yard with him – and why he’d be so upset if I didn’t. It took a bit to get my head around it. “What? Pulling weeds is a romantic fantasy?”
Once I realized that I’m satisfying a deep emotional need for him, it totally transformed gardening from a dreaded chore. And what’s ironic is that sometimes I don’t even have to mulch or plant anything. I can bring two cups of tea for us and sit out there and chat while he weeds. He just wants us to be together in the garden! In hindsight, it seemed so obvious. One of my friends asked if we couldn’t have figured that out on our own. And I laughed and said, “Evidently not!”
Let me give you two more examples. I would get really hurt that John wouldn’t go shopping with me for Christmas presents for the kids. I wanted to do that as a team. He considered shopping, especially if it involved wandering a store, as a total waste of time. (Do I hear an “Amen” from any guys out there?) “We can just divide and conquer,” he’d say. To him that meant him picking up a gift by himself for the kids or ordering online and letting me know after the fact. And it really bothered me. I’d get hurt and angry. He applied the same efficiency to gift buying that I applied to gardening.
Then, we realized that Christmas shopping was one of my romantic fantasies. My dad is generous, but it’s a total surprise to him what we get on Christmas morning. Mom does all the shopping and wrapping. Once John realized this was my romantic fantasy, he took me for a Saturday at a Christmas festival. And it started to snow just like a Hallmark movie! We wandered around the stalls, had a nice lunch, ran into friends and bought one gift – a tie for our dog, Willie to wear on Christmas Eve (because every dog needs a tie for special occasions). I was happy! Later, John said, “Do you want me to go with you to buy the kids’ gifts too?” I said, “No.” I was satisfied.
Romantic fantasies are our way of looking for a happy ending…
One more example of a romantic fantasy – this one was a friend of John’s. He called one day frantic with water spewing from a busted pipe in his house. John dropped everything and drove over to help him fix it. The friend treated us to lunch the next week as a thank you. Before we could even order, he said he wanted to tell us something. He said that growing up his father never showed him how to fix anything. He felt like he had missed out on an important skill and on a bonding opportunity with his often-distant dad. He said to John, “I want you to know that you helping me filled a paternal longing I had always had. And you just weren’t about fixing my leak but teaching me the skills, so I could do it myself next time. That’s a gift you gave me, but also one I can now share with my children as I teach them.” I thought I was going to cry!
So, in our relationships, sometimes if we dig just a little, we uncover some deeper “why’s”. For instance, I could’ve slowed down and said, “John, you seem really insistent I help you in the garden. Help me understand why that is so important to you.” Or he could’ve said, “Let’s talk about why me going Christmas shopping means so much to you.” Now, we can more easily spots those early signs. Back then, we couldn’t.
Also, sometimes what we do for others -- even something as insignificant as sharing a cup of tea or helping repair a pipe -- can be transformative to them. It’s their happy ending! The power of small kindnesses can be exponential.
Okay, I promised you a marketing angle -- and it’s a big one. First, let me give you an amazing stat – $1 trillion is being left on the table by U.S. companies who fail to communicate with their customers in relevant ways. Your customers, your clients have deep romantic fantasies about the way their lives should be and the type of people they want to be. Just like we did as a couple, dig a little below the surface with your customers, and you’ll find out:
1. What those fantasies are
2. Why they have them
3. And how you could help meet them.
For instance, people want to know what lifestyle guru Rachel Hollis carries in her gym bag – and will happily buy those products. Why? Because their romantic fantasy is to be fit like her. I watch Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten and buy her cookbooks because my romantic fantasy is to create an inviting home filled with good food, laughter and friends just like hers. Our friend buys a new toolbox because his dream is to do simple repair projects with his kids. Vacationers book a Hawaiian getaway because they want to leave their worries behind for an idyllic Eden. Adults go to Disney World to recapture childhood joy. Some people buy sports cars because they imagine themselves a little more daring and dangerous like “Fast and Furious.”
Romantic fantasies are powerful. People are looking for happy endings. If you’re an entrepreneur or marketer, help your clients and customers find them. Just tread carefully. Know that you are not just dealing with customers’ needs, but with their hearts.
Enjoy the Journey
Let us know in the comments:
1. What happy ending are you looking for?
2. After reading this, what happy endings could you create for someone else?
3. How can you use the insight of romantic fantasies to better serve clients or customers?