“Now that man is going to give his money to a total stranger.”



This title of this post is a line from the movie “House of Games” written by David Mamet.  I maintain that all I’ve ever needed to know about human nature I learned from it, which is kind of odd since it is all about the pyschology of “confidence games.”  Watching the season finale of Mad Men last Sunday I found myself thinking that Don “just pulled a ‘House of Games’” on Peggy (they are two central characters).  It got me recalling a dialogue from “House Of Games” that has always resonated with me… “It’s called a confidence game. Why?  Because you give me your confidence?  No. because I give you mine.”

The theory’s assertion is that if you give someone your trust, make them feel needed and that they are doing something good, they’ll never let you down.  In fact, they’ll do all in their power to realize the shared, desired end. It works on the altruistic intentions of people (and not just a little bit of super-ego – nod, Dr. Freud).  It’s how you get the best work, effort, creativity, and positive feelings from people.  It’s also how you breathe life into initiatives and reinvigorate brands, lives, careers, etc.  It’s unusual for leaders to speak aloud their “need” for other’s help (although it’s often intended or implicit) but nearly any time people do so overtly they get the unwavering loyalty of those to whom they’ve reached out and the endeavor yields the best possible outcome.  It goes just like Maya Angelou says “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel”.   What Peggy and the stranger get from “the deal” is that they get to feel like good people, they have a purpose, and they are doing good things.  I mean,  it’s all about the tippity-top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (see below) where what’s most important to human beings are the feelings of belongingness, esteem and self-actualization.

maslow's needs

Powerful people and organizations have long harnessed the energy of inclusiveness, esteem, partnership, and trust.  Powerful brands realize that reinvention and “evolution” are one part of continued success.  But great brands realize that “standing for something” and how you make participants “feel” often is the best barometer for brand strength and vitality.  See this article from Advertising Age on brands and particularly Nike Human Race (which we helped to create and continue execute):  Brand Experience.

To bring this back round, the stranger in the movie does attempt to give his money away and in Mad Men, Don elegantly gets Peggy to buy into his plan by putting her at the center.  From there, we find Don shedding his artifice, exposing his need, and building a new, super ad agency based the art “of giving trust” and the con moves on – in a positive way, where everybody gets a little out of the deal and feels good for a time.

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Written by Francesca Gangitano
Francesca Gangitano

November 13th, 2009 at 7:37 pm

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