Esoteric Change Management: Marketing to change employees

Just as a new house owner likes to change the paint colour, new businesses practice change management. The literature shows that most change management processes do not achieve the objectives they seek and a whole library of books has been written about the best ways to create and sustain change.

Managing change is more often than not about changing the behaviour of people. Management speak uses words such as alignment, creating buy-in and other bendable learnings. However, as soon as the word ‘change’ is mentioned in a workplace, people will raise their defensive shutters and try hard to keep doing what they have always been doing.

One aspect of management where attempts to change behaviour is very successful is marketing. Good companies can manipulate the attitudes and behaviour of consumers so that they buy their product. Why does it work in marketing but not so much in management?

Change management strategy is more often than not exoteric. This means that all details of the approach are revealed to the subjects of the change. Change managers, and more often than not consultants, openly explain how they will change behaviour.

Marketing managers are a bit more devious about their motives and use esoteric techniques to change the behaviour of consumers. Some advertisements openly admit to the methods they use to change the behaviour of consumers – best example is a Molson beer ad from some years ago:

Esoteric change management: Advertising to change employeesMaybe change managers should take a leaf from the book of marketing and use the sophisticated sociological and psychological techniques employed to convince people to change their buying behaviour.

This might raise the question whether it is ethical to change people’s behaviour esoterically. But all I have to say to that is that we change our behaviour based on our interaction with other people all the time. The anti-marketing crowd often underestimate the intelligence of consumers, which they portray as will-less victims. Creating change, whether in marketing or management is about creating an environment in which people feel comfortable to change, can identify with the proposed changes and believe that the change will provide them with benefits.

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