Ivan Pavlov understood the power of creating associative memories.

In his classical conditioning experiment, he linked something his “audience” (e.g. the dog)  wanted — food — with an external stimulus — the bell.

Most marketers go straight to the bell — how can I ring it better, louder and more often?  But the important part of Pavlov’s story for marketers and fundraisers is this:  If the dog didn’t love meat to begin with, he wouldn’t give a damn about the bell no matter how many times Pavlov rang it.

Pavlov started with the dogs need. Then, through repetition he associated that need with an irrelevant external cue, the bell.

In their classic ad campaign, De Beers sold diamonds not by touting cut, color, clarity and carat weight, but by making an associative memory between  diamonds and the love and commitment a man has for his wife. Love is the need. Diamonds are the bell.

The more you speak to your audiences felt need, the more relevant your cause will be.