I was living in London when I became addicted to the two most alluring and irresistible vices in British life: Coronation Street and Derren Brown. The former is the world’s longest-running soap opera which has captivated millions of Britons and become an integral part of their daily lives since 1960, and the latter is a Croydon mentalist who through the application of “magic, suggestion, psychology, misdirection and showmanship” is able to achieve mind-boggling results that leave you, in the British vernacular, totally gobsmacked. Therefore when Derren Brown speaks I sit up and listen, and his recent post on Shortlist entitled Derren Brown’s Guide To Overcoming Awkward Situations
caught my full attention as all of his other utterings, especially for its relevance to marketing in the social media ecosystem.
Brown knocked out a passerby answering a public phone
When I first tuned in to Brown’s mid-2000s British series Trick Of The Mind I literally could not believe what I was witnessing. The mentalist demonstrated literal impossibilities which were verified to have been done without rehearsed shills:
- Collected a winning bet on a losing ticket at the dog track
- Made a London cabbie forget where the London Eye was
- Remotely stopped a passerby in the middle of a pedestrian crossing
- Completed major purchases in Manhattan stores paying with blank paper
- …and dozens more fully astounding “tricks”
However, the one that absolutely stupefied me was the one where Brown called a public phone and waited for a passerby to pick it up. He then proceeded to put the man dead asleep within a couple of seconds and left him slumped on the ground next to the phone stand. His claim that he used neuro-linguistic programming skills to achieve this feat is clearly a prototypical Derren Brown misdirection. The truth is obviously that he is a Satanic Warlock and to save our collective souls he must be burned in the cleansing flames of the public stake.
A guide to facing belligerent customers on social media
Until his peremptory expiration by faggot & fire, Brown’s advice on handling agonistic circumstances can serve as a guide to online marketers facing belligerent customers in the Wild Wild West of the World Wide Web. In the post, Brown recalls the time he was accosted by a drunk looking for a fight. He replied to the bellicose rantings by continued matter-of-fact statements of the heights of the wall fences around his house. This was Brown’s application of the martial arts technique where in order to obtain maximum impact you get your opponent to relax before you roundhouse them. The adrenaline-powered pugnacious drunk soon wandered away in tears and Brown kept his goateed physiognomy from being beaten into hamburger.
Bus privacy counter-actions also work on the social media express
Brown goes on to explain the related principle on keeping the seat on the bus next to you free so you can spread out and be comfortable. As the next passenger is eyeing that spot, catch their gaze with a big smile and pat the seat, which will make them happy to stand for the rest of the trip rather than sit next to a lunatic. These actions are all designed to redirect the aggressor’s attention and cause a “pattern break” which is the key to gaining the upper hand in disputatious social media exchanges. When your company is confronted with bilious charges of chaining Third World children in your sweatshops until they are burned out at the age of 8 at which time you proceed to eat them in a fricassee a la Jonathan Swift’s Modest Proposal, your most effective reaction has to be to deflect the issue and deflate the choleric customer.
Whether Brown is a thaumaturge shugenja plying his demonic arts to commit our souls to eternal damnation or is a brilliant showman and master of psychology is up to the individual to decide. What can’t be disputed is that Derren Brown has a perception and understanding of the most fundamental of human natures which can be amply leveraged by online marketers finding themselves in face-offs with querulous, antagonistic, and truculent social media customers.