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10 Questions with Michael Solomon

Michael “wrote the book” on understanding consumers. Literally. Hundreds of thousands of business students have learned about Marketing from his books including Consumer Behavior: Buying, Having, and Being -- the most widely used book on the subject in the world.

Michael’s mantra: We don’t buy products because of what they do. We buy them because of what they mean. He advises global clients in leading industries and he is a regular Contributor at Forbes.com.

As a Professor of Marketing in the Haub School of Business at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, and an industry consultant, Michael combines cutting-edge academic theory with actionable real-world strategies. He helps managers get inside the heads of their customers so they can anticipate and satisfy their deepest and most pressing needs – today and tomorrow. An executive at Subaru said it best: “The man is a scholar who is current and street-wise.”

Why are you passionate about the topic you speak about?

I'm fascinated by the complex relationships between our self-concepts and the material world around us. As a social scientist, I've spent over 30 years doing research on what I call "the extraordinary world of the ordinary." It's essential for marketers to understand just how profoundly their brands influence our very identities. That's the key to success in almost every category, yet most organizations don't really appreciate what their brands mean to the people who consume them. 

What is the best advice you have ever received as an expert, speaker, or coach, and why?

Your audience doesn't want to hear how wonderful you are. They want to know how you can help them solve a problem. A speaker has to "get over himself" and show people how what s/he knows can bring value to them. 

Who do you admire and why?

My father was and is my role model. He taught me about the joy of learning and the importance of treating others well.

What is one piece of advice you could share with our readers to uplift them in life/career?

If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life.

What is your favorite book and how did it inspire you?

As a college professor I have a lot of favorite books! One that you might not predict is a Sci-Fi novel called Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. This was the first book to lay out a future where our digital lives are intertwined with our physical lives. A lot of my research over the last decade has looked at how we express our identities in virtual environments and this novel helped me to think about that.

What do you do to relax?

Listen to music (especially Deep House) and ride my bike around the city of Philadelphia.

What are some of the challenges you face as a speaker, expert or coach and how do you overcome those?

One challenge is to distill abstract, far-reaching ideas into interesting "chunks" that audience members can grasp and understand how they apply to their situations. My experience as a textbook author has helped me to figure out the best ways to condense a lot of information into relatively few words -- often with the aid of visuals (like advertising examples) that drive home the points for me.

How do you see the world of coaching and speaking evolve over the next 5 years?

The explosion of online learning platforms makes access to information much easier for many, and this paradigm change will transfer to the speaking world as well. I have mixed feelings about that, because even though I use a lot of learning technologies I'm dubious that they can substitute for the visceral experience of a personal encounter. Hopefully we won't throw the baby out with the bathwater and abandon "real world" opportunities for people to exchange ideas.

What technology or product can't you live without?

I rely heavily on LinkedIn to stay in touch with my professional network.

See Michael Solomon's online course:
From Know to Yes - Why People Buy

Connect with Michael:

Our 10 Questions is a written interview with experts, coaches, storytellers and thought leaders sharing their experiences. We invite you to submit your answers here.