A Grown Up Lesson from the Gingerbread Man


As I pulled out the Christmas decorations from storage last night, preparing to send a few ornaments to my newlywed daughter for her first Christmas without me, I waxed nostalgic about the fun holiday times when my children were younger.  One of my favorite memories was making cookies with my daughter.  Well, actually it was more about eating the cookies than making them.  I especially loved eating the gingerbread man cookies, probably not so much for their taste as for the recollection of the children’s story, The Gingerbread Man.

Remember the story?  An old woman is baking the Gingerbread Man when he hops out of the oven, saying “Run, run as fast as you can.  You can’t catch me, I’m the Gingerbread Man!”  The old woman, her husband and a multitude of other creatures chase after the Gingerbread man until a sly fox finally tricks him and gobbles him up.

As a child, the lessons I learned were 1. Don’t brag because it eventually will result in your demise and, 2. Someone who offers to help you might be a liar and actually want to hurt you instead.

But, looking at the tale with fresh adult eyes, and seeking  positive lessons, I see  a couple that stand out:

1. The Bandwagon Effect (or social proof):  If other people want something, it must be good.

2. The Chase Effect: Creating fear of loss through forward momentum produces a desire to posses.

At first only one person wanted to eat the Gingerbread man; no one else knew he existed, so they had no desire to eat him.  It was only when he started running away, with someone chasing him, that others noticed him, and noticed that he must be desirable because others wanted him.

The lessons of the Bandwagon Effect and the Chase Effect have applications both in personal life (dating, for example) and in business.

In business, testimonials, ratings and reviews are a few ways to create your own Bandwagon Effect.  If you are approaching a client, consider providing testimonials from other, similar clients.  Of course, you have to get those testimonials first!  The best time to get a testimonial is when you have delivered a product or service with excellence.  If you are a  solopreneur or employee, ask for a LinkedIn recommendation–that way you have it on your LinkedIn profile and you can use it elsewhere (website, marketing materials, etc.).

You can also create a Chase Effect.  People naturally want what they can’t have, especially if they feel they deserve it or already have a sense of ownership.  Now this does not mean making it difficult for people to buy from you, but it does mean creating a sense of impending loss if they don’t take action quickly.   So, you have limited time or quantity offers.  If you are an employee, your skills and time are the limited resources that you offer.

But the Chase Effect isn’t just about fear of loss, it is also about time moving on, about needing to take action now.  Think about how you feel when you see something advertised with “only 95 left.”  Isn’t there a part of you that feels a sense of urgency to act before you lose out?  Or, if you have ever sat through a time-share presentation, you know the feeling of being shown how wonderful your vacations could be, the vacations you deserve, and at a great discount, “today only.”

Take the grown up lessons of the Bandwagon Effect and the Chase Effect and be your own Gingerbread Man–just don’t brag too much and watch out for those foxes!  Run, run as fast as you can . . . to the bank!



About Diane Windingland
I speak for organizations that want their people to have better, more profitable conversations.

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