A couple weeks ago a came across a blog post by Seth Godin that he called “Truth and Consequences.” His writing is generally focused on marketing, but quite often has a deeper meaning for a wider audience. This post can be summed up by this sentence, “If you are selling tomorrow, be very careful not to pitch people who are only interested in buying things that are about today.”
This got me to thinking about the fraternity/sorority experience, and the dissonance between what potential members are expecting, and what we think we are selling. In some cases, what is being sold through recruitment exactly matches what is expected by the potential members. In those cases, you end up with a lot of trouble (see pretty much every other post to this blog for examples).
To paraphrase a sentence from his post – “It’s virtually impossible to sell [brotherhood, life-long connections, civility, deep personal connections, etc. to someone] who is relentlessly focused on what might be fun right now.”
Colleges are selling tomorrow (higher salaries, better jobs, etc.) through education. In most cases, students entering college understand that they are buying tomorrow (at least the ones who don’t drop classes, and actually strive for graduation). But do they understand that fraternity/sorority is also intended to be about tomorrow.
I am having a hard time thinking of any fraternities/sororities that I have worked with who effectively sold tomorrow. Mostly because they know that their “customers” (potential members) are not looking to a fraternity/sorority for tomorrow, they want today. We have allowed external forces to fully define the fraternity/sorority experience as solely about today. There is nothing wrong with today, but without including all of what is to come tomorrow, I am not sure that the fraternity/sorority experience is all that valuable.
From Seth – “Before a marketer or organization can sell something that works in the future, she must sell the market on the very notion that the future matters.“