Laws of Marketing Power: Play to People’s Fantasies

“There is great power in tapping into the fantasies of the masses.”

–Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power

Fantasies grip us. They transport us from the harsh realities of day-to-day life, and marketers know how products and services with compelling stories can fuel demand. Buyers can imagine and feel the same results. Satisfy people’s need to be transported from the mundane, and you are well on your way to creating brand affinity. Unlocking the imagination and striking deep chords not only captures attention (Law 6), but also creates sympathy—people will want to be associated with the elemental pull of the ideal.

fantasy street winter

In a sense, marketers have the power to create dreams, or at the very least give their audiences something awesome to aspire to. This godlike power to transcend the banal, when exercised properly, fosters loyalty. Suddenly competitors don’t measure up because they can’t create the same feeling people get from your brand.

Harness the positive energy that comes from playing to people’s fantasies (Law 32), and you are motivating buyers to follow through on primal impulses. As illustrated by Simon Sinek’s ‘golden circle’ concept, appealing to the why bypasses the rational part of the brain—going straight to the emotional command center, stirring up action by sheer force of feeling. As Sinek says, Make people believe what you believe, and they will want to buy from you. There may be no better representation of the power of fantasy in marketing than this neurological hypothesis.

Marketing that capitalizes on fantasy fundamentally triggers subconscious links between things (products/services) and the needs they satisfy. These needs are often emotional, and may or may not correspond to reality. Classic illusion #1: Beer commercials. A guy drinks Miller Lite, and suddenly every beautiful woman wants to cavort with him on a beach with a peppy rock soundtrack where nobody has a care in the world. What needs does a beverage brand like this convey are fulfilled? Companionship? Check. Fun? Check. Relaxation and recreation? Check. Attention and affection from supermodels? Check.

Any time marketers can create an illusion of success (however it’s defined), they are playing the classic association game: “Buy this product, and you will be happier/thinner/smarter/faster/healthier/richer, etc.” Play the game right, and you will persuade people to buy even if they don’t know exactly why. Most marketers are probably already aware of this truth, but seeing it laid out in a historical (non-marketing) context by Greene just gives it even more, well, power.


This post is part of a series in which I explore in-depth how some of Robert Greene’s 48 Laws of Power relate to marketing.


Photo courtesy of Greg Westfall via Flickr.

About Fathom Team Member

Leave a Reply