The Powerful Motivation of Almost Winning

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While on vacation, I watched two kids play a claw game at the local Walmart. If you’re unfamiliar, claw games are games of chance in which users attempt to pick up prizes with an unstable mechanical claw:

Grabber machines // Jeu des pinces

Watching the kids play and listening to them talk revealed an interesting motivation: almost winning was more compelling than actually winning something.

Think about how this motivation shows up in other games.

  • In Pokemon Go, we expend more Pokeballs trying to catch a difficult creature, but that raises our motivation to catch it.
  • In casino slot machines, getting 2 out of 3 winning bars encourages us to keep putting coins in the machine.
  • How much more compelling is a football play when your favorite team is at 4th and goal versus 4th and 20? How much more closely do you watch?

Almost winning taps into our competitive spirit. It taps into ego and a potent stew of emotions, from hope to anxiety. We feel these emotions even when we’re not directly playing, when we’re watching others play.

Consider how you might use this motivation for your marketing operations. If you manage a team of people, instead of setting either ludicrously unachievable goals or goals with a bar so low that you stumble over it, what if you set marketing goals that were just barely out of reach?

Consider how you might use this motivation for your marketing itself. Suppose you had a sales goal or a fundraising goal, and you invited your community to participate and be a part of it. Could you make your marketing efforts more compelling to watch, like the football game, if you’re almost winning rather than a hopeless cause or an effortless winner?

Almost winning could be a powerful ingredient for you to actually win at marketing.

Photo credit: DocChewbacca

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