Many years ago, when I undertook to explore what works and does not work in advertising, a kindly mentor explained to me the theory of the "Four S's." This theory holds that people are motivated by an advertisement only if it is grounded in one or more of the following "S" appeals: status, security, savings and sex. My mentor was of the opinion that no one ever did anything for any reason other than one or more of these appeals. In his somewhat jaded outlook, he held that even altruistic acts at least partially reflected our inner concern for status. Doing good makes us feel good about ourselves. It uplifts our view of ourselves as persons of worth.
But what uplifts us most is the affirmation of our worth by others. Which brings me to some notes about a couple of mills.
The builders of the first mill got orders from the CEO of the mill's parent company to make this mill an exception to what he considered the usual ugliness of most mills. No one had ever given such an instruction to the engineers, but they fell to with a will. The result was an attractive office building that fronted the mill rather than being buried within it. And in front of the office building was a pond with ducks and benches sitting around it. The engineers also worked out economical and attractive ways to mask the usual jumble of high-capacity plumbing and piping that marked most mills.
On the property was a house that had once been a fine structure but in recent times was reduced to serving as a hay barn. The mill managers had the house refurbished to a high degree of architectural attractiveness. They left it unfurnished and made it available for civic and social activities--even weddings--to any nonprofit groups that could furnish their own chairs.
There's more: the mill dedicated one piece of acreage for the cultivation of crops. The yield of corn and other vegetables was free to employees, who took the produce home while wearing broad smiles.
The combination of mill attractiveness, the house available for use by social agencies, the rows of tall corn, all meant that the mill and its environs were often pictured in the local newspaper and talked about in the local population. But most important was the feeling among employees that they mattered, that they worked for a first-rate company. In this whole package, they felt affirmation of their worth.
Our need for affirmation of our status is like thirst. It does not take a lot to satisfy it, but the affirmation must be constantly available in sufficient quantity.
Another greenfield mill chose a stunningly simple method of according status to its employees. The mill was built with only one door, other than emergency exits. Every person at the mill, whether a manager or a janitor, came to work through the front door. Every person who came to work was greeted inside that front door by a receptionist or a polite and smiling security person, depending on the hour. It wasn't long before greeters and many of the mill workers were on a first-name basis. How could you not feel that you were valued when you came to work through the same door as the boss?
The next time we get together, we can talk about another of the Four S's.
Chuck Swann is the editor of Paperitalo Publications. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.