While I can comfortably say that I find value in all the books we review here at The Goose, not all of them are what you might call “entertaining reads”. For the last few weeks then, I have been fortunate. From the Heath brothers’Switch to Robin Sharma’s latest, The Leader Who Had No Title the books we’ve been discussing lately have not only provided poignant insights and actionable skills, but they’ve been fun to boot. Maybe it’s the beginning of the summer blockbuster series, who knows. All that can be said for sure is that the streak of insightful-yet-entertaining-books is alive and well, as I polished off Fascinate by Sally Hogshead this past week, which may be one of the most entertaining yet.
In her groundbreaking book, Sally Hogshead systematically breaks down and teaches the subtle nuances of “fascination” and the resulting people, companies and products to which we are irrationally attracted. As she explains in her introduction, there are seven “Fascination Triggers” that companies and people can draw upon to become more fascinating to the outside world. Those triggers are,
“LUST creates craving for sensory pleasure
MYSTIQUE lures with unanswered questions.
ALARM threatens with negative consequences.
PRESTIGE earns respect through symbols of achievement.
POWER commands and controls.
VICE tempts with “forbidden fruit,” causing us to rebel against norms
TRUST comforts us with certainty and reliability.”
And the effect of these triggers? Fascinating people and companies are discussed, and provoke emotional reactions. They attract loyal advocates. They can force competitors to realign and can even spark social revolutions.
Interestingly enough, according to Hogshead, all of us already use these triggers, whether we’re consciously aware of them or not. It’s when we decide to get deliberate about the fascination triggers we use that things get interesting.
The Fascination Cocktail
"Rather than focusing solely on vice, use it as one ingredient in an overall strategy."
Take a look at the list of the seven triggers above, and think about yourself (as a person) or your company. Which triggers do you think you’re using more dominantly than others? What companies or people do you know who are heavily using one or more of the other triggers? We might call these our “dominant triggers”. Hogshead teaches us that most brands, especially established ones, use a careful blending of the seven triggers to create a feeling or vibe unique in the market place. Think of it as a “fascination cocktail”, where the ratios of certain elixirs make for an entirely new concoction. While Whole Foods and Sobeys may sell 90% of the same merchandise, the triggers they use in their branding make them distinctly unique from each other. For Whole Foods think 3 parts Prestige, 2 parts Lust and 1 part Alarm, while Sobeys might be 4 parts Trust, 1 part Lust, and 1 part Alarm. (If you’re confused on the Alarm part, skip forward to insight #1.)
As you can imagine the variations of “quantity” of each of the seven triggers makes for a virtually endless supply of unique fascinations.
The Right Alarm
"Along the way, we'll also want to focus - not on the risks most likely, but the ones most feared."
Hogshead uses a great example in Fascinate to illustrate an interesting (and powerful) point. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and other anti-drunk driving organizations have, for years, been offering grisly images of death and dismemberment in an attempt to dissuade teens from driving drunk. Here’s the problem – teens see themselves as invincible and immortal. The imagery may be “gross” at best (or “cool” at worst), but has minimal impact on the drinking decisions of teens. As Luke Sullivan (ad writer extraordinaire) discovered, the thought of losing their driver’s license was far more impactful in stopping teens from drunk driving than was the threat of death. Irrational? Maybe. Then again, welcome to the world of fascination.
The point is to know your audience, and to know what their triggers might be. Think about the grocery store example we used above: For Whole Foods, Alarm might be used by focusing on the health risks of eating non-organic products. For Sobeys, it might be the thought of paying more for the same product elsewhere. Same trigger, different application, different audience responds.
The Long Term Fascination
"You can dabble in prestige, or experiment with power, but you can't dip in and out of trust. It must be established consistently."
The mother of all triggers – Trust. We listen to those we trust. We believe those we trust. And, in this information saturated world of ours, if you’re not trusted by the person(s) you’re trying to fascinate, there may not be enough attention to go around. So how do we build trust? Repetition. Consistent repetition. Doing and saying the same things over and over, over and over, until people come to understand and believe what we stand for. Interestingly, the trigger of “Trust” doesn’t come from moral flawlessness. We “trust” Darth Vader precisely because we can count on him to make the same decisions each time. Vader is dependably bad, just like Indiana Jones is dependably reckless and James Bond is dependably cool under pressure. Trust is more about established patterns than it is about perfection. And I think that’s an important point. You can still build trust by trying your best, and making amends when you fail.
As mentioned, Fascinate was (to be cliche) a fascinating read. From witchcraft to Gucci, tulips to McDonalds, Hogshead takes us on a wild ride, dissecting one of the most mysterious aspects of our human existence – why we are drawn to certain people and companies, and how can we cultivate more of it in our lives. Fascinate is a great read – enjoyable and poignant, and sure to be referenced for years to come.