Instead, take a page from the American Heart Association and make your point using a story. We just stumbled upon this video and, well, let’s just say it feels familiar to yours truly (a mother of three boys).
Children running around the house? Check. A thousand things to do? Check. Reviewing a proposal for a new client while dodging bouncy balls? I could write a book on that skill.
And let’s not forget, “Could you make it ten minutes instead of two? The house is a mess.” Check.
Yikes – that person having a heart attack could be me.
Or it could be your wife.
This clip is sticky (we’ll teach you more on that here) because it’s unexpected, as well as humorous, emotional and story-based. And this video has already saved at least one person’s life.
How do you make statistics sticky? Begin by connecting the dots.
2: Think through a day in the life of your audience. Bring their experience to bear through your statistic. Use a human scale, such as hours spent with their children. What does their day-to-day routine look like? Picture them waking up in the morning. What are their fears, their dreams and their inspirations?
3: Tell me a story about it. Get the audience to say, “Oh, that’s me.” In the video, the answer was obvious: Moms have a million things going on. We worry about our kids instead of ourselves. And no matter how much control we have, shocking things can still happen to us. Play up that angle, and voila!
Do you need a movie star like Elizabeth Banks in order to deliver a sticky message? No – these ideas are all around us. You just have to make the connection between your narrative and your audience.
What other serious subjects have you seen delivered as funny narratives? Share them with us in the comments, below!
It’s something we all strive to do – make better choices.
So much of the work we do at Decker focuses on helping others make better choices. We help people be more influential when they communicate their ideas. And an important part of being more influential comes from understanding how decisions are made.
Many of us – myself included – have relied on the tried and true model of “The Pro/Con List” when making a big decision. The roots of this method can be traced all the way back to Benjamin Franklin. The Heath brothers challenge the idea that the best decision comes from this process of weighing the pros and the cons.
Instead, they present an alternative, more omniscient process for making decisions. Their process helps us overcome our own narrow frame, emotions and self-serving objectives. It also helps us prepare to live with these decisions by examining the best and worst case scenarios.
Their new book Decisive outlines this decision-making process in a straight-forward, four-step process using the acronym WRAP:
Widen your options
Reality-test your assumptions
Attain distance before deciding
Prepare to be wrong
Look out, list-makers, this process is a game changer.
We all make important decisions. Hiring, purchasing, partnering, firing, even jury duty – all of these choices stand to improve using this new, yet simple, framework.
The WRAP process removes our blinders and our biases.
Decisive (released this week) is poised to become the next business bestseller – and it’s no wonder why.
Like many parents across the country, Jason had struggled to explain the price of college to his daughter. Seventeen-year-old Rachel had fallen in love with a school whose tuition is upwards of $60,000 a year.
For a while Jason tried to communicate by multiplying that number. “You’re going to graduate with a quarter-million dollars in debt,” he would say. But that strategy never worked.
Then Jason changed his approach. “Remember how hard you had to work to save the $4,000 for your car last year?” Jason asked his daughter. “Going to that school would be like buying another car every single month.”
With that, his message officially stuck.
The technique Jason used is one familiar to those who have taken our Decker Made to Stick Messaging workshops. It’s called the human scale principle. The idea is to contextualize statistics into terms that are more every day. When he talked about an abstract $60,000 a year, it never registered with his daughter. Then he switched to human-scale language, and it clicked.
As well as Jason used the human-scale principle to communicate the cost of college to his daughter, Wikipedia did him one better. Here’s the text:
Dear Wikipedia readers: We are the small non-profit that runs the #5 website in the world. We have only 150 staff but serve 450 million users, and have costs like any other top site: servers, power, rent, programs, staff and legal help. Wikipedia is something special. It is like a library or a public park. It is like a temple for the mind, a place we can all go to think and learn. To keep it that way, we’ll never run ads. We receive no government funds. We run on donations averaging about $30. If everyone reading this gave the price of a cup of coffee, our fundraiser would be done within an hour. If Wikipedia is useful to you, take one minute to keep it online another year. Please help us forget fundraising and get back to Wikipedia. Thank you.
There is a lot to love here. It’s in plain language. It touches us on an emotional level (Wikipedia is “a temple for the mind”) and a logical one (“we have only 150 staff but serve 450 million users”).
Yet what we love is their use of the human scale principle: If everyone reading this gave the price of a cup of coffee, our fundraiser would be done within an hour.
Even better is their choice of human scale phrases. Consider how much more effective it is to ask the audience to give up the price of a cup of coffee compared to giving up, say, a tank of gas. To most people a cup of coffee is a minor sacrifice. A tank of gas feels like you’re giving up something significant. It also conjures up conflicting emotions – “I can’t believe gas is $3.50 a gallon now” and that sort of thing.
Here’s the truly amazing part: Wikipedia never actually tells us how much money they need to raise, nor how close they are to hitting that mark. They don’t tell us how long they’ll be fundraising for, either. They simply disregard the giant, intimidating numbers and speak to us in human terms.
This is a savvy, savvy pitch.
I challenge you to use the human scale principle in your communication today – in a fundraising pitch, sales pitch, meeting with a direct report or even as small talk around the water cooler. Tell us what you used in the comments.
You’ve heard us say it before, and we’ll say it again: People buy on emotion and justify with fact.
There’s no better place to watch emotions unfold than on the Super Bowl, and it’s no surprise to us that the commercials that stood out were the ones that got us with emotion.
Oftentimes, when we think about adding emotion, we immediately think we need to add something weepy. A sad statistic. Something gripping. But as we saw with this year’s Super Bowl commercials, emotion doesn’t have to be sad to be effective.
There are all kinds of emotions – like competition, as we saw with the Oreo “Whisper Fight” ad. Almost all of us have had a conversation about how to eat an Oreo, or which part of it is the best. This ad (which later became an ad campaign via Twitter during the game) pulled in all of our competitive emotions, as well as a little bit of fear, uncertainty and doubt.
Emotion. Story. And Connection.
To truly win on emotion, there must be some tie between the emotion and the story and the product.
Two Super Bowl ads stood out in our minds:
1. Dodge Ram – So God Made A Farmer - This ad tipped its hat to a slice of Americana, and it targeted the people who drive Dodge Ram trucks. Not posh hipsters, not city slickers, but people of the earth: Farmers. Even the ad, itself, was kind of quiet and a little long-winded, tapping into an identity and attaching the product with the customers, much like the Don’t Mess with Texas campaign as described in Made to Stick. Emotion. Story. And Connection. (What’s more, as reported by The Wall Street Journal, the brand saw a 55% increase in search activity after the game.)
2. Budweiser – Brotherhood. This year, we watched the heartwarming story of the man raising a Budweiser Clydesdale (birthing, bottle-feeding, sleeping in the stall) to become a part of the Budweiser team. Paired brilliantly with Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide,” connected us with the lasting love of parents, children, siblings and pets everywhere. Budweiser has developed the Clydesdales as brand icons since 1933, making the indelible connection between their emotional story and their brand.
We also saw ads that were highly emotional, but had no connection to the product. Jeep’s “Whole Again” commercial, featuring America’s troops and a voice over by Oprah, was high on the heart-string-o-meter, but it ranked low on connection between why we were feeling emotional (love and sacrifice of our Troops) and what we were supposed to be buying (a Jeep). The same was true with the GoDaddy ads (#TheKiss didn’t make us think about a new web domain for Decker – it made us want to barf and shield our kids’ eyes).
Chances are your next big presentation won’t cost you $126,000 per second like this year’s Super Bowl spots. And you probably won’t have an entire agency to help chisel the details. But you can utilize emotion, story and connection to improve your next presentation, meeting or call.
Here’s our DIY guide:
Start by stirring something inside of your listeners. Whether you take 30 seconds (like Oreo) or a full 2 minutes (like Dodge Ram), urge your audience to feel something.
Then, find a link that connects that emotion back to your message. It’s not enough to start with an emotional story and launch into something that’s unrelated. What emotions convey your news? Your perspective? Don’t just open Pandora’s box of emotions, stay relevant and stay on point. For a great example, check out Frank Warren.
Close and cinch the emotional connection. People will remember your story, but your goal is for them to remember your message. Infuse emotion, all the way into your close. Google’s Chief Executive Larry Page did this extremely well on his most recent earnings call, by urging people to focus on “things that matter in life…living, learning and loving.”
But what if everyone in the room is operating under the same Curse of Knowledge? They cancel each other out, right? If everyone understands the curse, can I keep using it?
Anytime we’re presenting – whether at a meeting, conference, kick-off or coffee shop – we want to be on the same page as our audience. We need to be sure we are inclusive, which can mean speaking to the lowest-common denominator. This is true even in a room where everyone understands cloud computing (or righty/lefty splits in baseball, or whatever the cursed subject matter may be).
This is generally the part of the blog post where people assume we’re going to suggest dumbing down the message. In truth it is never about dumbing down the message.
Wait, really? Why not? Well for starters, “dumb it down” sounds like you’re explaining something in the same slow, pause-heavy pace you would use to explain to your four-year-old niece why her goldfish died. It’s usually best to assume intelligence on the part of your audience.
But more importantly, dumbing down your message doesn’t make it stick. As such, the better recommendation is to speak in concrete terms rather than abstract ones.
If your message doesn’t stick, it won’t survive beyond our initial audience. When you speak in concrete details everyone in your audience benefits, regardless of their degree of cursed-ness.
Say you’re speaking to a room full of tech savvy folks. You could say “our network is secure.” Everyone in the audience – regardless of how cursed by tech they are – would have some understanding of what you mean. However, saying that also leaves up to the audience to interpret exactly what “secure” means. Let’s try something more concrete instead: “We dared the three biggest hackers in the Bay Area to break in to our network. None of them could.”
Boom. Everyone in the audience – from the most cursed person to the least – can pass along that concrete message.
Or imagine you’re in a meeting discussing internal candidates for a project manager job. All of you are “cursed” with the knowledge of what it takes to succeed, so it’s tempting to just say “she’s organized,” and leave it at that. Instead, think through the daily email load for a project manager and how important organization is. Then try saying something like, “I have never seen more than three items in her inbox.”
If you feel the curse at your job, where can you add concreteness? When has concreteness made a difference in your life? Tell us in the comments!
Before coming up for air from the new Steve Jobs biography, I stumbled across a great example of how to motivate people by using graspable numbers. We call this a SHARP (Stories, Humor, Analogies, References and Quotes, Pictures and Visuals) using human scale statistics, which we’ve covered before but will again because it’s so valuable.
Take a look and see how you can incorporate this idea in to your next opportunity.
There is serious Giants fever in San Francisco. The sidewalks are streaming with fans clad in orange and black. Co-workers are screaming game updates over cubes (actually as I sit on BART, some guy just yelled, “the Giants are up!” (Game 3 vs. the Phillies began at 1:05pm today). There’s even a sign posted in the high rise window across from our office, “Go Giants!”.
In the spirit of the playoffs, communicators everywhere can take a tip from professional athletes. You gotta work on your game to get to the bigs. And keep working on it to clinch the pennant.
It’s about continuous improvement. There’s really only one group of professionals who are always in school, constantly acquiring and responding to feedback…
Athletes. They break down video, refine techniques, and in doing so they’re conscious of every position, stance and swing. And you should be too.
But, in our daily jobs, we blissfully go along communicating unconsciously. Maybe you stare at the Blackberry with someone standing right in front of you asking your opinion. Or talk in a monotone voice on a conference call at 4pm, while trying to rally the troops around meeting that project deadline. Or you talk in such complicated jargon that no one leaves the meeting with the same message. The problem is we don’t even know it – we are simply unconscious about our communications.
Get yourself recorded. Ok, I get it – it might be tough to rig a video camera in the middle of your next meeting, but everyone has access to an audio recorder. You don’t even need to buyanaudiorecorder anymore. Get an app on your phone and record your next conference call – andthen listen to it. Would you want to listen to you?
Get feedback. The only way to figure out what you’re doing is for someone to tell you. After yournext meeting, ask a colleague for feedback: 3 Keepers and 3 Improvements.The feedback must be balanced and specific so that you can do something with it.
Get involved. Subscribe to this blog (and others like it) and have posts delivered to your Inbox.That little reminder in your email about communications just once per week is enough to keep you thinking. Other options:
Mostly because you probably don’t even know you’re cursed. Psychologists and behavioral economists who study this phenomenon find the more of an expert you become in your field, the more likely you are to be cursed by your own knowledge. That is, you don’t know what it’s like NOT to know what you know. This has HUGE implications in our communications. We end up communicating to clients, internal team members, and even our kids in a language they can’t comprehend and then wonder why our product doesn’t sell, that project doesn’t move forward and why our kids just won’t patiently wait when we ask them to. According to Chip and Dan Heath, The Curse of Knowledge is the villain to all things sticky – including your messages.
Tamer Osman, CEO of RGlobe was a participant in our August Decker Made to Stick Messaging program. He noted that throughout his career it has been challenging to create messages that resonate and have a lasting impression on customers. “I’ve struggled with pinpointing the best approach to delivering complex messages to any type of audience in the most simple, yet effective way.”
Here’s an executive who has spent his career managing account and strategic relationships with Cisco Systems, Sun Microsystems, Oracle, CA, Microsoft and many other leading high tech companies. Experienced, smart, entrepreneurial and, like many technology execs (and likely the other 5.9B people in the world), Tamer had the classic case of the Curse of Knowledge. Just how cursed was he? As part of the program, each participant gets to test this out first hand by giving their pitch to a group of other professionals right out of the gates. Here’s Tamer with his “Take One” message, pitching RGlobe:
Was the pitch a SUCCESs?
Using Chip and Dan Heath’s SUCCESs framework from Made to Stick, Tamer received peer feedback about the stickiness of his message. Did it have the elements of being Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, Story?
Tamer’s “Take One”
The biggest element missing here is that of concreteness. He talks about the process for leveraging a partner, streamlined platforms, and private collaborative networks. Those terms are common knowledge to Tamer – certainly, there’s a tune playing in his head that makes perfect sense to him. But to us, the listeners, it sounds like abstraction after abstraction and our minds start to blur. We have no concrete image of what the service offers.
You might be thinking, “He’s talking to techies. It’s concrete to them.” And yet, we too often make the wrong assumptions about what our listeners do or do not know (remember, we’re cursed!). In fact, one Oracle engineer in the program said, “I’m really technical but even I don’t understand what your company does.”
This is not to say that you can’t have technical terms and information. We’re not encouraging you to dumb it down. Instead, for any abstraction, think of a concrete example to support it. Even better, lead with the concrete example, and THEN reference the abstract term. The bonus is when you do this, you’re helping your technical audience spread the message further. And that could mean closing the deal if they take your oh-so-sticky message and sell it internally to senior management.
Here’s where it gets really good…check out Tamer’s “Take Two” pitch, delivered in the afternoon after applying the Decker Made to Stick principles throughout the day.
The Secret to SUCCESs
What SUCCESs factors stood out?
Concrete: Check! Tamer uses a fantastic set up that is targeted to a specific listener group. He’s provided a concrete image of the difficulty, and potential, of working effectively with partners. You can “see” it.
Simple: He’s added an analogy to help you instantly get the concept. “It’s as simple to use as Facebook, but it’s private and secure.”
Emotional: He’s getting to the pain points of the listener. Dealing with partners is complex and time-consuming. Houston, we have a problem.
After completing the program, Tamer said “I now have a new prospective on how to reach my audience by crafting the right message through their eyes and the confidence to know the difference between the right way and the wrong way.”
What now? How do you spot the Curse?
The first step: Sit back and think about your listeners (or readers). Now REALLY think about them and ask some questions: what’s important to them? Why would they be resistant? What do they know about you/your service?” Then and only then can you start crafting your message.
Next, have someone outside your immediate team, organization, or even industry to review your message – they’ll be able to spot the curse before you do.
Better yet, sign up for an upcoming Decker Made to Stick Messaging program: November 17th in NYC, or December 10th in SF. Hope to see you there!
It’s quite a rarity to get out for a date night or, in our case a date day. We went to see Inception on Sunday afternoon, the new thriller with Leonardo DiCaprio by writer/director Christopher Nolan whose work includes Memento (amazing!), Dark Knight, and many others.
It’s intriguing, deep, and action packed. And great effects if you’re into that kind of thing. While I was trying to sort out the plot around whose subconscious was whose, I started hearing the SUCCESs framework from Made to Stick. Disclosure: yes, I am in tune to it, but really not that geeky about it. Seriously, Nolan MUST have taken a few notes from the book in his research. If you’ve read the book or attended one of our programs you know that SUCCESs is a checklist for sticky messages which share the principles of Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, and Story.
The premise of Inception is how to extract and plant subconscious thoughts, using dreams as the vehicle. And it turns out that planting an idea is the more difficult of the two. Not unlike what we do everyday: trying to plant ideas like adopting a new technical standard, launching a new initiative or process, convincing the boss why we’re the right person for the job, lobbying for a family vacation in Florida instead of Colorado, and even getting the kids to put things back in their place (by starting with putting their shoes away in the closet instead of leaving them in the middle of the kitchen floor).
So, Leo (aka, master thief Dom Cobb) assembles a crack team including a dream architect, a chemist, and a forger – all of whom can also kick butt in the process. Their task: to plant an idea in the mind of a major energy conglomerate heir – specifically, the idea that he should sell off and disband the business his father built. And they do it using a few of the SUCCESs principles that also map to the Decker Cornerstones:
Simple: The idea must be incredibly simple so that it can grow and thrive on its own. That means boiling your message down to the biggest change in how you want your listener to think/act about your idea – it’s your Point Of View.
Concrete: There must be some specificity and familiarity in the environment to allow the idea to grow. In other words, once you get someone to buy off on your Point of View, you must tell them what to do next. Include a Specific Action Step that is timed, physical and measurable.
Emotion: Use it! This is the get-someone-to-CARE-about-your-idea part. Why would they do this? Give them the benefits (to THEM), and remember that positive emotion trumps negative emotion. The movie really tugs at the heartstrings here – without giving away too much I’ll just say that parents, don’t throw out all the elementary school artwork.
And it all comes together in a terrific 2.5-hour story that keeps your mind whirling. Head to the theater and go brush up on your communications – it’s a pretty good excuse. I’ll leave you with the trailer:
Let me add on to Dan’s 3 tips with a few examples we’ve seen in our programs recently:
1. Be Simple: Force yourself to prioritize. Boil down your message into one (yes, one) phrase that signifies the single biggest change in how you want people to think or act about your idea, topic, initiative, product or service.
A veterinarian from our messaging program was trying to convince pet owners that they’re overusing protein in their pet’s diets. This could easily turn into a PowerPoint nightmare of chart-by-chart comparisons of the recommended dietary allowances for carbs, protein, vitamins, etc. Instead, she focused her message and took a page right out of James Carville’s playbook, and created the Point Of View: “It’s the calories, stupid.” And then she went on, “Protein alone is not the answer. It’s a balanced diet that your pet needs.”
2. Show something: One participant said that rather than decorate his slides with bullet points, and complex diagrams, that they would begin to “Deckerate” them instead. That means simplify – to the point that you might not even need a slide. Remember that slides are supposed to be a support for your presentation, not to be the presentation.
Of course, the best example of showing and not telling is all things Apple. Man, that iPad is beautiful, and yes, I want it. Apple is so good that they even get you to think that you need it.
3. Tease before you tell: Get them interested! In one of our programs last month, an exec from an insurance company announced that he was going to be doing his in-class presentation on work/life balance. Snooze. Like we haven’t heard that one before. But he began this way…first, he grabbed a flip chart and wrote “Key Clients” at the top. Then he asked everyone to write down their top 5 clients. “If those are your very best clients, you take their calls, right? You’ll let them interrupt a meeting, and always think about how you can add value.”Teaser accomplished. He continued, “Now, how many of you listed your spouse or kids on that list? It’s absolutely critical that you think of your own family as key clients.”Whoa. Mom guilt is in full effect. I’m in.
Your turn. Win a seat in our upcoming June 4 Decker Made to Stick Messaging program! Comment below with a good stickiness story and we’ll draw a winner!