Taking a deep breath, I walked into the reptile store.
It was a place devoted entirely to living, breathing reptiles and other crawly things.
You could buy them as pets. Or simply browse.
The placed smelled like a swamp, appropriately so.
The aisles were cluttered with tanks filled with various plants. Some were filled to the brim with water, while others were merely muggy from warm air depending on which critter was housed inside and what its environmental needs were.
In between some of the tanks were webs.
I did a slow lap around the store, looking at the “easy” stuff first — frogs, lizards, fish, snakes — none of which particularly bothered me.
I was gearing up mentally to prepare myself for the “hard” stuff…
I saw a lizard that looked like a dinosaur. Tiny frogs whose skin bore bright fluorescent colors. Fish with strange, Buddha-like looks in their eyes. A clan of cockroaches commiserating together.
All the while, I pondered my original intention for coming here…
To face a lifelong debilitating fear: spiders.
Stacked on a high shelf near the cash register were numerous plastic bins.
Inside each one was a spider.
Like a recurring nightmare that threatened to unleash itself in waking reality, the presence of those spiders kept drawing my eyes back to that corner of the store.
I was keenly aware of that section as I made my way through the aisles.
For most of my life, I’d felt tormented by the FORM of spiders. No matter if they were alive or dead, big or small, furry or otherwise…that weird, bizarre shape — the eight legs, the creepy structure — brought me to terror. Turned me into a helpless little girl. Made me despise life itself.
The feeling was always instantaneous, unthinking. Instinctual.
But today, I was going see if I could touch one.
The guy behind the desk was a tall dude, probably 6’4”, with long blond hair, glasses, a friendly smile, a booming voice. His body was covered with tattoos. He accommodated my fear.
He took each plastic bin down from the shelf, opened it, and gave a colorful speech about the unique spider inside.
With my arms shielding my body — as if protecting myself from being stabbed or something — I craned my neck, barely able to muster a glance at each eight-legged creature.
There was the big black tarantula that clung to the top of its plastic container, hanging upside down. “She’s worth $500.”
Next, a small two-year-old spider the size of a quarter, mostly gray in color. It almost looked cute in comparison to the previous gigantic one. I learned that she would grow to the size of one’s hand by the time she reached five years old. Worth $250 because she was so “rare.”
One by one, the guy showed me each of the spiders.
“Most of the people who buy our spiders are women,” he said.
He shared a story about an old lady who had thousands of spiders in her house. She loved them. Collected them. Nurtured and cared for them. What a thought.
One person’s terror is another person’s love.
Finally he took down a container with a scorpion inside. It could apparently kill you with one bite. “If you get stung by this guy, forget calling an ambulance. Call the morgue.”
Interestingly, I was not the least bit intimidated by the scorpion.
“People come in here all the time asking, ‘What’s the most dangerous thing you’ve got in here?’ I won’t sell them shit,” he said. “You get a sense of who should be owning these things, and who shouldn’t.”
The one thing that freaked me out the most was an inanimate skin leftover from a tarantula molting.
The moment I saw it, it was game over.
Like a souvenir sitting casually on display for anyone to buy, this inanimate “molting” instantly brought me to panic mode. I couldn’t bring myself to look at it, let alone touch it.
Apparently spiders shed their skin the way a snake does, leaving behind a replica of its former self. You’d think a dead spider — or dead spider parts — would somehow be more comforting than a live spider.
In terror, mixed with nervous laughter, I backed away saying “Fuck this, I’m out.” Lost all my courage in an instant.
I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t touch a spider…dead or alive.
The deadly scorpion didn’t phase me in the slightest. Yet the non-living exoskeleton of a spider inspired instant fear.
Oh well. At least I got out of my comfort zone.
What a rush of adrenaline, intentionally putting yourself close to that which scares you. The act of visiting the store was desensitizing, in a good way.
I can’t say I’m completely free of my fear of spiders…but I’m now a few steps closer to not being so bothered by them.
Now I know this is supposed to be a blog about anti-marketing…but imagine for a second you sold a product that could remove someone’s debilitating fear.
Or lift years of brain fog…or abolish decades of health symptoms…or cause a person to lose 100 pounds of unwanted fat. (Or whatever the benefit of your product is.)
Imagine a person (like me) decides they’re ready to free themselves, ready to release the shackles…but they don’t know quite how to do it yet. Or they haven’t yet fully grasped the possibility of actually doing so.
Marketing is about awakening that possibility of freedom…so that people can turn it from fantasy to actuality.
It’s a gradual process over time. But it can also happen quickly, as with a well-written sales page that shoots straight to the heart of whoever’s reading it.
A sales page should awaken, empower, and free someone. A blog post should be the most inspiring thing a person reads today. An ad should jolt the reader alive, and for a few seconds, they can see themselves in a different (better) future.
Or else what’s the f&%@ing point?
If your marketing isn’t doing all of the above, it’s seriously lacking.
All marketing is simply an opportunity to inspire people to get over whatever is holding them back in life — once and for all. All you need to do is find those powerful words and phrases that tie YOUR PRODUCT directly to the FREEDOM people are craving.