So I saw the controversial psychologist and speaker Jordan Peterson last night, right here in the damp, dark but still beautiful Helsinki, Finland. 😉
He may be controversial, but he still filled an ice hockey arena seemingly effortlessly. Audience mostly 20-35 year old males, but there were the odd slightly older gentlemen (ahem) and their women in attendance as well.
His presence is, if you’ve followed him at all, let’s say – entirely singular. There’s nobody like him, and his opinions seem opposed to a lot of the current mainstream thinking.
So I was intrigued to see how he performs live, and I wasn’t disappointed (though I’m sure some were, based on the grumblings I heard on the way out, expecting even more controversial statements).
He started off by riffing off Biblical references for some 30 minutes which was a little surprising but I got the hang of it, things like:
“Are you hiding behind the bushes like Adam? – then unfortunately you won’t do well in life…”
“People build these modern Towers of Babel (such as the European Union) that reach up so high that in the end the original purpose is lost and nobody agrees anymore…”
“Bring your best to the table at all times – God/conscience is the principle that brings you to account in a way you cannot overlook…”
Maybe a little, but it’s vintage Peterson right there when you look at it with fresh eyes.
Anyway, to get to the point of today’s rant…
So… what’s the point for a marketing oriented person of any persuasion?
As I mentioned, he’s entirely singular I suspect these are major reasons why he’s been propelled to the public eye so forcefully.
AND been attempted to be discredited, defamed, and sure – cancelled. So far, it didn’t take. Go figure.
Anyway, seeing this fiercely intellectual guy live gave rise to some ripe comparisons to the profession and general outlook of copywriters.
I’ve been one for most of my adult life so what am I going to do, hold it back? Ok here goes!
- He has his research down pat, to say the least! As we know, if you attempt to write copy or anything intended to have an instant effect and persuasive power, you cannot just wing it. You HAVE TO have some meat on the bone a.k.a. the actual strong facts and selling points beyond the flowery window dressing.
For Peterson, this means he’s ingested decades worth of clinical literature on psychology, sociology and whatever else => this gives him incredible confidence riff off based on that bedrock of knowledge, much like a copywriter deeply ‘inside’ an industry like finance, health or relationships. Everything starts with real research, doesn’t matter if you’re a speaker or a copywriter.
- He never comes out with “broken windows” – To borrow a very appropriate term used by fellow copywriter Chris Orzechowski, you must project an image of success on top of competence if you want to be taken seriously. In the case of Peterson, the fine tailored suits and 500 dollar shoes go a long way to establish a flawless presence and brand. This doesn’t eliminate criticism but it sure dampens it, and no doubt gives him confidence while constantly in the spotlight.
- He does NOT shy away from polarizing his audience. Sure doesn’t. Lol. No siree Bob! And that’s why many consider him a hero of sorts; who could say those things and hold their own under a barrage of often nasty counterarguments and ad hominem attacks. And yet, that’s what a skilled speaker does. Exactly the same as what a skilled copywriter does when writing a piece intended to rip the audience in half, with the other half holding a credit card with unmistakeable ‘buyer’s lust’ in their eyes.
- He actually knows his audience intimately – chooses questions worthy of answering. He actually polls his audiences as they walk in to know what they’re really interested in – then moulds his message to answer those exact concerns (he used sli.do if you’re interested). The result is not unlike that of a copywriter addressing the exact concerns of their target audience, skillfully polled to divulge what their needs and concerns really were. Also, there’s skill in choosing what topics to avoid – in the case of Peterson, he stayed away from any male/female dichotomies that have landed him in hot water before. Why go there when you have more to say that actually helps the audience, right?
- He makes an effort to come down to audience’s level. For copywriters, this is CRUCIAL if we want to ever connect with the audience at a distance, it’s a critical piece of the persuasion puzzle. Now, Peterson is anything but the everyman 🙂 ; highly intelligent, academic credential coming out his um ears, three piece suits and expensive haircuts, conservative views… So how on EARTH does he appeal to young men especially? Partly because he’s able to curate their problems in a way that he’s able to connect and then uplift the topic to his level, making people feel like he’s taking them up a notch. And perhaps he does? I’ll leave that up to you.
Jordan Peterson is a very intriguing, and indeed extremely singular example of someone thrust into the global spotlight for his strong views and ability to verbalize them in quite persuasive ways.
Whatever you think of his views personally, as copywriters and marketers inhabiting and working within this strange psychological corridor of connecting with people, finding common ground that resonates both ways, and selling them on ideas they didn’t know existed before…
…well, I definitely think Jordan Peterson is a worthwhile case study to sink your teeth into, and see what makes up the psychology of getting that kind of traction.
And yes, the business behind it as well which is less talked about but somewhat unconventional and perhaps worth modeling.
I’ll see you on or around a stage somewhere soon!
(Thank goodness it’s happening again, right?!)