A Thermidorian Reaction: What All Marketers Should Strive For

Dave Barton
July 15, 2021

Not gonna lie – because it happened in the South West of England (my adopted home and somewhere bat-shit crazy and banal go hand-in-hand) I thought nothing of it at first. It was simply a lobster perched atop a bag of rapidly melting ice, gazing into post-pincered oblivion. 

Nonetheless, it took pride of place on a table of teacakes and other assorted treats, just outside the hot beverage serving hatch (you couldn’t really call it a cafe...).

It definitely merited close inspection. It was meant to be there. Or at least, the chatty retiree selling teas and coffees with suitably chipper banter meant for it to be there. 

“That your dinner tonight?” I asked, deciding to bite.

“I was given four of these this morning,” he said, launching into his tale. “One I gave to me best mate who I bumped into on the off chance earlier. One for the mother-in-law. And I’m having this one.”

“So why leave it out here?” I gestured to the deceased crustacean, oversugared lattes in hand.

“To make people stop and take a closer look. Draw their attention to everything else on the table.” 

I had to admire his ingenuity. Attraction through association. One of the oldest tricks in the playbook.

“You sir, are a natural marketer!” I said a bit too enthusiastically.

“Don’t know about that!” he replied. “That’ll be £6.50 for the coffees plus teacakes...”.

True story. Every word(ish). And it reminded me that, when it comes to marketing, the hero doesn’t need to be the ‘thing’ you’re selling. Not always. 

Sometimes the eye-catching feature is something marginally related or completely unrelated – a partnership, an endorsement, an offer, or a lobster.

But if that ‘thing’ is curated correctly, everyone else in its vicinity stands to benefit too. Why? Because it gets a reaction. 

In this case, we might call it a ‘Thermidorian Reaction*. And getting a reaction is an important part of instigating engagement.

This is just as true of written content as it is other media. In fact, perhaps it’s even more important – however divorced from the product it may first appear. 

Ok – say you’re selling a cybersecurity product. A watertight, encryption SaaS platform that plugs into any on-premise, hybrid, or cloud server. Instead of going hard on hacker threats in your latest blog; why not begin by discussing cannabis laws? After all, they’re just as complex, hard to fathom, and constantly changing in different jurisdictions. 

But provocation doesn’t have to be trite – it just needs to trigger a sense of the unfamiliar. Showing something in a context you wouldn’t expect it to be in. And given how fiercely fought the battle for attention remains – even in a world of data and insight – we could all use a lobster now and again.

*Actually, that’s already a thing. A French Revolution thing that didn’t work out (according to Wikipedia…). So let’s reclaim it in the name of marketing.

Written by

Dave Barton

Creative copywriter with startup and blockchain savvy. Seduced by novelty. Nourished by variety. Sustained by irony.

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