blog home Online Brand Development Marketing Lessons from Book Club: The Hitchhiker’s Guide

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and How NOT to Market

The book club at SLS Consulting brings together diverse tastes that have one thing in common – a love for the written word. Given the range of interests and preferences, it comes as no surprise that the reading selections show incredible variety and include a wide range of subjects, genres, and styles.

Having read The Basketball Diaries by Jim Carroll the month before, picking up The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams right after was the kind of shift in tone that might give a reader whiplash! Where The Basketball Diaries was a dark and self-reflective memoir, firmly based in a brutal reality, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was a chaotic and humorous space adventure whose author seemed to be on a mission to subvert every expectation and literary convention – reality was not a factor in this story.

What kind of marketing lessons could possibly be gleaned from such an absurd book?

We’re so glad you asked…

We found this book could just as accurately be called The Marketer’s Guide to How Not to Market. Potential clients tend to expect a certain kind of narrative. Stories have a pattern, a recognizable structure, and the familiarity of those conventions is a comfort to the reader. Arthur, the main character in The Hitchhiker’s Guide, is a man who has just been through quite an ordeal – your entire planet being destroyed, leaving you as the sole surviving member of your species would qualify as traumatic, we think. His initial reaction is bewilderment as he seeks some kind of comfort or explanation for his entire way of life being destroyed. This being a humorous book, the author describes the various ridiculous ways that the alien life our hero encounters utterly fail him in this regard.

In marketing, you need to do the opposite. Certainly, the aliens’ assertion that the planet is gone and that there’s nothing that can be done about it is correct – but it isn’t what someone experiencing that kind of loss needs to hear. Providing comfort while offering options and solutions is a far better way to go if you want to develop a relationship with a potential client.

“Arthur’s mind was beginning to reassemble itself from the shell-shocked fragments the previous day had left him with.”

Most clients seeking legal advice are not dissimilar from Arthur. They’ve experienced something traumatic and need someone to guide them through what comes next. Providing answers to the questions they are undoubtedly going to ask sets both the client and the attorney on a path of collaboration, working toward a common goal. People who need answers, who need help, will seek out those who can offer both. If your messaging is encouraging and clear, and if you provide useful and relevant resources, you become the knight in shining armor they need, and they’ll be that much more likely to trust you with the rest of their troubles.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was a fun ride, and much-needed comedic release after the previous month’s dark read. But, it’s definitely not the kind of thing that a person in need of advice or help would benefit from reading. That being said, the cover of the eponymous Hitchhiker’s Guide does offer simple and useful words of advice that you might share with your clients:

“Don’t Panic!”

…After all, they have you on their side.

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