Who is George Silverman?
Best known for the idea: “The Easiest-to-Decide-on Product Wins”
President of Market Navigation, Inc. I often refer to myself as a “reformed and recovering” psychologist. I became a psychologist because ever since I was a kid in my father’s drug store, I was fascinated about why and how customers make the decisions they make. But I left the formal practice of psychology to learn about decision-making, persuasion, and WOM, not in the academic world, but in 35 years of in-the-trenches real-world marketing consulting. I’m the inventor of the telephone focus group and co-inventor of the peer word-of-mouth group (widely acknowledged to be the most powerful marketing method ever developed in the pharmaceutical industry).
How Are You Different and Why Should I Care?
My marketing breakthroughs come from the realization that most marketers are mistakenly focused on product and brand choice. “Buy my product, it’s better because…” My passion for finding out why people buy so many products that are NOT better, why so many mediocre products are on top, why so many great products fail, has led me away from the Siren Song of the usual marketing solutions that say, “Me Better.” I’ve talked with tens of thousands of people who are in the process of making all kinds of decisions, in fact, tens of thousands of physicians alone, much less dozens of different kinds of people. My conclusion: Stop chasing people and pounding them. Instead, get out in front of them and make it easier; remove the blocks, and they will buy, use and rave.
Where did you get these insights?
I’ve run literally thousands of focus groups in which I’ve focused on the steps that people take in making decisions, mostly by having users try to convince non-users, a research design that I invented. Fundamentally, beneath the chaotic smokescreens, role-playing and particular details of different kinds of products and people, I’ve observed powerful patterns that almost everyone goes through in making decisions about adopting products, services, enterprises and ideas. Patterns that are not in the decision-making literature. Everyone uses the same steps in making decisions: Farmers and physicians, educated people and illiterate migrant workers, children and adults, liberals, conservatives and free-enterprisers, businesspeople, academics, entrepreneurs, bureaucratic pencil-pushers, EVERYONE goes through the same decision stages and steps, in vastly different ways, styles and specifics, but the same steps. I find this endlessly fascinating.
What’s your biggest breakthrough?
My biggest marketing breakthrough is the realization that people usually follow the decision path of least resistance.
Yes, marketing is that simple.
Imagine that you’re following behind a guide in the Amazon Jungle — and make no mistake about it, it’s a jungle out there — who is hacking away with a machete to clear a path. Aren’t you going to follow in his footsteps most of the time, instead of hacking away with your own machete in a different direction? Too much work. Too many hazards. You don’t know the territory. Better to follow the beaten path, most of the time. There are exceptions, like all major principles of human nature, but it’s still a powerful principle: The Easy Principle: The company that makes the entire decision process easiest for the customer wins. You need to be that guide in the jungle, making it effortless for the customer to follow the path to your product.
Does it work? Who have you worked for?
It works. I’ve successfully used Decision simplification, “easification” and word of mouth techniques to accelerate purchase decisions for some of the most successful products — and even whole product categories — ever introduced, including the VCR, the automatic teller machine, the Trac II razor, the NordicTrack and many of the most successful pharmaceutical launches in history, such as Laradopa, Septra, Prilosec, and many, many others that I’m not allowed to mention. I’ve worked with Merck, Pfizer, Roche (and most other major pharmaceutical firms), as well as Procter & Gamble, Motorola, major computer and software companies, and small start-ups, one-person operations and professional practices. They’ve all had one thing in common: a new idea that is held back by decision barriers.
What are some of your core values?
I’m passionate about marketing, helping great products win and helping the “good guys,” and gals, win. I love the new technologies and am quick to embrace them. I see new products, particularly clever new products, gadgets, services and ideas, as literally statues to human ingenuity. I have a stronger emotional reaction to a clever, breakthrough “gadget” than I have to a great painting or statue. I buy them, collect them, and get obsessed over how to market them and overcome the natural resistances to change that almost all customers have.
Ideologically, I’m most in agreement with Ayn Rand’s philosophy, Objectivism, and knew her personally.
So, I hope I’m making YOUR decisions about me easier by telling you where I’m coming from, in a different way than most people list their “bios” or “vitae.” My attempt is to help you “get” who I really am, my core values, where I’ve come from, and what is my orientation and competence.
What about your degrees and certifications?
What is conspicuously missing that needs commenting on because you may be looking for it, is that I have listed none of my schools, degrees, or marketing awards, affiliations and memberships here because I’ve learned in the proverbial “School of Hard Knocks,” and the formal stuff is irrelevant to whether we’ll work together. Results, ethically arrived at, are all that count.
But I will share with you some other personal stuff that shapes me, so that it doesn’t shock you when you hear about it.
I’m a professional-level magician. But not the glitzy, wise-ass kind that most of us have come to abhor. My magic mentor was Tony Slydini, one of the greatest magicians who over lived. I run workshops for amateur and professional magicians through the Society of American Magicians Parent Assembly in New York and I’m a member of the Academy of Magical Arts (The Magic Castle) in L.A. I’m supposedly one of the leading close-up magicians. As such, I meet with other leading magicians who meet yearly from around the world to share what we’ve invented at the exclusive, invitation-only FFFF convention. In my speeches, seminars and workshops, I perform a different kind of magic than you’ve probably ever seen. The goal is to expand people’s sense of possibility, open-minded wonder, to illustrate illusions of marketing, and to instill a willingness to consider breakthrough possibilities.
I’m working on a show — tentatively called The Decision Show that illustrates the decision-making process through magical, scientific, and other experiments, demonstrations and performances. You’ll be hearing more about it soon.
Through magic, I like to remind people that things are not always as they seem, there’s more than meets the eye, that conventional wisdom can be illusion and — most of all — to remind people that almost nothing is impossible.
Update: In response to some excellent advice below, I’m working on links to more examples, pictures, and some videos of me doing marketing-relevant magic.
Here’s the story of how I got interested in marketing.