The Chrome Scrotum

It's not just a motorcycle...

Right after we got married, my husband Dan and I flew out to Oregon with two touring bikes, eight panniers, and as much lightweight camping gear as we could pack in them.  After landing in Portland, we pedaled over the Cascades, dipped our back tires into the Pacific and turned around and headed across America.

You don’t survive 4,000 miles of saddle sores and extreme weather with someone without developing a few inside jokes.  One we got a lot of mileage out of (sorry, can’t resist the pun) was the “third testicle.”

You see, one of the great things about bicycle touring is the silence.  It’s just you and the wind, and the little crunch of gravel under your tires.  You can hear the cows mooing, and the birds singing…

Until some great big hairy guy on a Harley comes roaring out of nowhere, shattering one’s peaceful reverie into a bazillion ear-splitting exhaust-laden slivers.

It’s not like you can’t buy a motorcycle that’s quiet.  It’s like these guys have to prove their manhood with their machines.

Same thing with pickup trucks…

And snowmobiles and 4 wheelers and jet skis…

The Third Testicle

So we jokingly started to refer to anything with souped-up horsepower as a “third testicle.”  Got low testosterone?  Just rev your engine.  Who needs Viagra?

That was almost 17 years ago.  The joke has gradually faded from our repertoire.  But just this morning I saw something which brought it sharply back to mind.  In fact, I almost snorted my beverage up my nose when I saw it.

There , dangling under and a little behind the towing ball on the pickup truck in front of me, was – unmistakably – a scrotum.  Made of chrome.  Swaying realistically side to side with the movement of the vehicle.

It’s that Sex Appeal thing

The guy who bought that pickup truck may have needed a work truck – but just as likely he could have gotten away with a high-milage sedan, saving money on gas as well as the original purchase.   He bought the vehicle that made him feel powerful. He may be just a lackey at work (or even unemployed), his wife might not look up from the TV when he comes in the door, but by golly getting behind the wheel of that truck transforms him into an alpha male.

The quest for power is a natural survival instinct in all animals, including humans.  And it’s tied to biological reality.  In general, the fitter, more powerful you are the easier time you’ll have attracting a mate and passing your genes on to the next generation.

The challenge we face in attempting to replace fossil fuel isn’t just one of replacing infrastructure.  It goes much deeper than that, into the primitive recesses of our brains and egos.   Fossil fuel represents power.  Plain and simple.  There’s something about it that gives us that alpha rush.  (Even I have to admit that as pleased as I am to get 50 mpg driving our diesel Jetta, I also seriously enjoy the car’s powerful, responsive engine that eats up hills and allows me to pass at will, which of course proves my dominance on the road.)  (Sorry, can’t help it.  It’s that primitive brain of mine. )

It has nothing to do with logic.

Logic: Necessary but not Sufficient

Of course, people need logical reasons to buy.   But if we want to convince people to give up their muscle cars, chemical cleaners, and other unsustainable products in favor of our greener, more responsible products, we have to dig deep and figure out what it is they really want, on a primal, animal level  – and then present our offerings in such a way that they light up those hot buttons in people’s heads.

A product like the Tesla Roadster Sport makes the process easy.  With its sleek lines and slam-you-back –in-your-seat acceleration of 0 to 60 in 3.7 seconds, it’s just plain sexy.  Only a real Neanderthal would miss the noise and exhaust.

But any product worth bringing to market is bound to resonate with someone’s “hot button.”  (It doesn’t have to be sex, although that’s a powerful one.  It could be security, comfort, pleasure, greed…any of a number of motivations linked to our primal emotions.)

The challenge is twofold: to identify the primal urges that drive our prospects, and to present our products in such a way as to strike that hot button in their soul.

I’ll discuss ways to do the latter in future posts.  In the meantime, though, I have an assignment for you.  Be on the lookout for “chrome scrotums”- telltale clues people unwittingly reveal about their deepest , darkest desires.  Post ’em below when you discover them!

Anne Michelsen is a freelance writer specializing in helping Green and renewable energy companies enjoy increased attention and greater sales through dynamic sales copy and insightful content.

Subscribe to Anne’s bi-weekly tips and insights into marketing, sales writing and sustainability, and get a complimentary copy of her Green marketing report, Making Sense of the Green Sector: What Every Marketer Should Know About Selling Sustainable Products and Services.

16 thoughts on “The Chrome Scrotum”

  1. Glad to be of assistance on such a truly important issue! 🙂

  2. Nicely done Anne. Perhaps a Chia Pet “swinging scrotum” would work for green guys feeling compelled to make a statement!

  3. Wow,
    oversimplification at best, attack on the petroleum culture at worst. First, living in Texas, working for the largest tech firm in the world, participated in the emergence of the PC industry from its’ inception, so have an acute sensitivity to the energy impact of big ‘ol Texas trucks and the energy waste of the IT industry.

    I own a truck bigger than I normally need to go back and forth to work, but also own a Mini Cooper to do just that. It is what I call application specific vehicle useage. My big truck(w/o chrome scrotums!) pulls my boat nicely, something my Mini could never do.
    That ability to pull my boat to the lake opens my kids up to all sorts of outdoor activities that keep them healthy and strong. There is indeed a carbon price for that, just like there is a carbon price for literally everything we do.

    Fossil fuels do not represent individual power; corporate perhaps, and in a business and political way, but not individually. However, the USE of fossil fuels to demsonstrate or exhibit a character aspect(or flaw, as the case may be), does exist. Remember, the tires, every plastic part, and literally every component of your camping gear used on your trip was carbon-based.

    We can become more conservative over time with our carbon consumption, but we cannot avoid it in this world anymore. To associate the use of carbon-based fuels with some sort of irresponsibility in general is a flawed logic, as you correctly point out in part of your blog. This is because you cannot be assigned the responsibility of drawing the line anymore that I can.

    What I see when I see a younger person flaunting an oversized vehicle that is simply owned to project a sense of machismo, is a market opportunity.

    Want to get people to significantly change their use of carbon-based product derivatives? Give them a better energy source that crosses across fuel, materials, health care, and food products. Currently does not exist.
    My perspective is not that we as a population eliminate fossil-fuels use, but focus on how to use it in a way that is more responsible, while allowing for knuckleheads that constitute a market opportunity should I ever wish to GTM with a pink female equivalent ladies body part I can hang on their Honda Accords…

    BTW, how much carbon goes into that commute beverage you consume daily? I’m just sayin’…

  4. Actually, Ken, I wasn’t necessarily intending an unconditional attack on fossil fuel users (although I couldn’t resist a little teasing and you must admit it was enough to prompt you to leave a comment on my blog – thank you!)

    As you so correctly point out, it’s pretty darn impossible to avoid in this day and age. And I’m quite familiar with the concept of the work truck. We also own a Ford 250 diesel that we use to haul our solar installation equipment (as well as for the occasional family camping expedition.) Will we be trading up to a better mileage vehicle when the opportunity arises? You bet – but I doubt it’ll be anything but a fossil-fuel vehicle given current technology and prices.

    I love your statement: “What I see when I see a younger person flaunting an oversized vehicle that is simply owned to project a sense of machismo, is a market opportunity.” How true – and that’s much closer to the point of this post. You can choose to sell the guy truck nuts or any of a number of other interesting products designed implicitly to take advantage of the guy’s mindset. But what if we’re already selling a product that might be useful to the guy, which isn’t currently on his radar screen? How convenient that he’s broadcasting one of his deepest motivations for all to see! Now we can work on presenting the product to him through the lens of his deepest desires.

    Depending on our product, we might not be able to do that. Probably trying to sell him a solar neighborhood electric vehicle would be futile and foolish. Better to hang out outside Sierra Club meetings (and check out what’s hanging from their rear view mirrors.) But what if we’re selling a fuel additive that will get him 30% more miles per gallon? ” Drive Harder, Last Longer,” maybe??? 😉

    As to a better energy source, you’re right, it’s pretty hard to beat fossil fuel, which is why humanity is in the pickle it’s in. It’s just not sustainable. Marketing aside, I believe we as a species are going to have to learn to alter our lifestyles significantly, not just find viable substitutes for products that support the lifestyle we’ve become accustomed to over the last few (very few) generations. Maybe not a point of view anyone wants to hear….

    (BTW, just water. Not bottled – in a refillable cup. And yes, even that has a carbon footprint.)

  5. Dear Colleagues

    I see the world in very simple terms … if you measure progress by more and more profit, you will get one outcome … if you measure progress by more and more value adding you will get another outcome.

    At the present time, we only measure things in terms of profit … with almost nothing that is in common usage that is a measure of value.

    Change the way the game is scored, and you change the way the game is played.

    All the best

    Peter Burgess
    Community Analytics (CA)

  6. Great post. One that I can identify with. Not the hang replicas on my privates but the Harley, which I fondly refereed to it as my “Midlife Cycle.”

    However, not a fan of those pick’m up trucks. I’m not sure how much of a testosterone thing they are either? When I look into the back of one, they resemble an aluminum can holding bin. I suppose the owners are waiting find a near by Golden Goat to cash them in and to purchase another twelve pack.

    Great content, great writing and I look forward to reading more of your gifted wit.

  7. Anne — I love my Jetta TDI too…and while the efficiency is a planet-worthy reason to have one, the vrooom vrooom is what made me sign the check. Love your post! (Dan, good to hear about your new book!)

  8. @Ken Baker: I would say that fossil fuels DO represent individual power, but our consumer culture has led us to ignore or discount that power. The equivalent human or animal power in (esp. liquid) fossil fuels is immense; yet we take that power for granted and that is the essence of our problem: an implicit assumption of enormous power at– even now– relatively minor (direct) cost. So much power, in fact, that its profligate waste is a longstanding tradition. “Who cares? There’s lots more where that came from.”

    And now that the dirty secret is widespread– i.e., the sure knowledge of the steep, and typically externalized, costs of fossil fuel use– I’d say there’s actually a quite solid rationale to equate carbon fuel use with irresponsibility. When you know something’s wrong, you are obligated to change it– even if it’s the way things have been done for generations. A parallel could be drawn to the abolition of slavery. Took a little while to catch on (but very quickly in human historical terms!), but the world agreed it had to go.

    Do we– can we– drop fossil use all at once? Hardly likely. But there are many methods within reach of most people to reduce use significantly; most folks don’t because our consumer mindset insists it’s not our responsibility to do so. “Technology will solve the problem,” or ” Government must do something” are our fallback positions. As long as that’s our response, our future is grim indeed.

    That said, I agree it will be an easier “sell” to the masses if we had a substitute clean fuel with similar energy density and availability. The very fact that we do not means that we cannot allow ourselves the luxury of escape from responsibility. Yeah, the situation sucks and it was foisted on us by our forebears, but it falls to us to fix it. Life just ain’t fair, and you do what you gotta do anyway.

    $0.02 from the p’nut gallery.

  9. I’ve seen the scrotum! On a pickup truck – with over-sized tires, loud exhaust, and some serious attitude. I’m embarrased to admit I recently bought a new pickup. I bought it after driving my last one for 16 years. Ultimately I love a truck as I put all kinds of things in the bed from bikes to boulders. My problem was there isn’t a hybrid/high mileage truck – is there? Make me a high mileage pickup and I’d be happy to buy it! Speed never did much for me – but moving some furniture or making a dump run seemed to be my calling. All the pickups grew in size since I bought my last car in 1994. Where’s the Prius Pickup?

  10. Thanks for the great laugh. I have also been seeing more of these decorations and there is just something so very funny about them!
    It is great to see so many like minded people.
    Cheers!

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