We learned at a very early age that much of our behavior can be attributed to natural survival instincts. Long before we had civilization, nearly all decisions were based on a risk vs. reward mentality. Every decision our hunter-gatherer ancestors made was viewed through the lens of “Am I going to die if I do (or don’t do) this?”

Our ancestors hunted in packs because they knew happy face ballthat those who went rogue and got separated from the pack were far more likely to die. Thus, humans are — by nature — social animals. I don’t mean that we long to hobnob with the elite, or to party a lot, or even that we’re naturally drawn to social media … though all of that may be true. The point is that we are less likely to die in a civilized society than if we were to live in the midst of anarchy.

But there is a problem. You see, according to the second law of thermodynamics things naturally tend toward disorder. (I know, right?) This is particularly distressing to someone who has obsessive compulsive tendencies … like say … yours truly.

If you tear open a bag of M&Ms (I prefer plain over peanut) and dump them on a table, there is no reason that they shouldn’t all end up sorted by color in neat little piles. It should be possible, but the second law of thermodynamics assures us that it ain’t never gonna happen my friend.

At this point we have two choices: We can either get over our obsessive-compulsive problem (As if!) and just go with the randomness, or do like I do and take the time and energy to sort those candy-coated discs before snarfing them down to assure that we eat one of each color in order.*

I can already hear you anarchists rolling your eyes out loud. However, let me assure you that even though our society tends toward chaos, I am not the sole voice of order. Over the years we’ve taken the time and energy to sort ourselves out and create rules. It turns out that we are less likely to die if we live in a civilized society. (Go figure!) And a civilized society means that each person takes a role that plays to their strength: doctor, lawyer, yoga instructor, etc. And just like we make rules for our M&Ms (red ones go in this pile, blue ones in that pile, always eat the brown ones last, etc.) we make rules for our society.

The problem is that all of these rules can be very constricting and they stand between us and our ability to just simply snarf the M&Ms. Snarfing is certainly a more natural way to go.

So what does all this have to do with marketing? Let me explain.

In marketing we make the decision to snarf or not to snarf all of the time. If we employ logos, a logical appeal, we will play by the rules and tell our customers why sticking with the pack will keep them from dying. If on the other hand we employ pathos, an emotional appeal, we tempt our customers to throw caution to the wind and start snarfing.

While neither approach is better than the other, they are decidedly different. There is great risk in telling our customer to snarf. It can lead to the quick sale, but our customer becomes our prey and not our hunting partner. We may entice them with all of our best high-pressure but-wait-there’s-more-I’ll-throw-in-a-set-of-Ginsu-knives-for-free tactics. On the other hand, it takes a lot more energy (and capital) to partner with our customers, to hunt together, and to build a society together. BUT, if works out, we will have built a lasting relationship.

To snarf or not to snarf is a decision that will have to be made on an individual case basis, but it’s important to understand the risks and rewards and to choose wisely. Unlike our ancestors, we won’t die if we make the wrong decision, but we could lose our jobs and not be able to buy M&Ms anymore.

So I’d take the whole thing very, very seriously.

*If you wind up with an odd number of a particular color, you can just bite the last one in half and then eat each half separately. Simple!