Pet Rocks and 'Felt Needs'

When Gary Dahl launched the Pet Rock craze in 1975, I wisely resisted the marketing ploys, even when I saw the cute “Pet Training Manual” that told me I could house train my pet rock and teach it various commands. All good fun, but I figured Dahl didn’t actually need my $3.95. He did just fine without me, earning more than 15 million dollars in only six months!

As a writer, I’ve been thinking a lot about marketing. Most authors today know they need a marketable product and a platform for marketing sales. Marketing isn’t so much about the product itself as what a product can do for a person—the perceived felt need. Sometimes advertisers will create false needs in order to push a product. Dahl tried to convince people that they needed pet rocks as companions, and that having one would bring them great pleasure.

Writers and speakers may want to focus on felt needs—basically the same today as throughout all of history: love, acceptance, a sense of worth, hope, purpose—but we must be careful not to ignore deeper heart concerns. The Bible speaks to real, sometimes desperate heart needs. It deals with sin, the need for forgiveness, our relationship with God, etc.

I think of Jesus with the rich ruler in Luke 18:18-23. He said he wanted to know how to inherit eternal life, and in his superficial understanding, he was willing to offer his good works. His “felt need” was to be Jesus’ disciple. But Jesus went deeper to the wealthy man’s heart—exposing his idolatry and the deeper need to surrender all.

Sometimes an emphasis on “felt needs” can distract us when we need to understand what’s really going on beneath the surface, beyond the superficial. I find this when I speak or write about choices. Some people are intimidated by choices; they just want stories. They want to laugh and cry—and there’s nothing wrong with that, because the path of felt needs can lead us to the discovery of real needs. Somewhere along the line, though, people need to examine their hearts, discover their deeper issues, believe the truth about God’s answers for those concerns, and make choices that change their lives. The wonderful thing is: God often meets our perceived felt needs when we allow Him to deal with root problems.

I want to offer people more than Pet Rocks. I want to lead them to the Rock, Jesus. He is still the way, truth, and life (John 14:6)—the answer to the questions in our hearts.


Holly said...

Hi Dawn - can you email me? Lysa T. is interested in being interviewed for her latest book.


Hello, my name is Ron and I am a
Christian blogger.

I enjoyed looking over your blog.
And you are more than welcome
to visit my mine.
ronj1946 at gmail dot com

If I've posted this to your blog before
please forgive me, sometimes it ain't
so easy being an Old Geezer.

God Bless You

Dawn Wilson said...

Hello Geez ... I read your testimony, and I praise God for His saving grace in your life! Thanks for the visit. Keep on taking care of your wife and others -- a very good choice!