Spanning the globe for insights into human behavior and persuasion.



Darkness Hates Light

New York Times columnist Tom Friedman says part of the War on Terror should be exposing the anti-western propaganda:
We need to shine a spotlight on hate speech wherever it appears. The State Department produces an annual human rights report. Henceforth, it should also produce a quarterly War of Ideas Report, which would focus on those religious leaders and writers who are inciting violence against others. ...

Sunlight is more important than you think. Those who spread hate do not like to be exposed, noted Yigal Carmon, the founder of Memri, which monitors the Arab-Muslim media. The hate spreaders assume that they are talking only to their own, in their own language, and can get away with murder. When their words are spotlighted, they often feel pressure to retract, defend or explain them. ...

"Whenever they are exposed, they react the next day," Mr. Carmon said. "No one wants to be exposed in the West as a preacher of hate." ...

Every quarter, the State Department should identify the Top 10 hatemongers, excuse makers and truth tellers in the world. It wouldn't be a cure-all. But it would be a message to the extremists: you are free to say what you want, but we are free to listen, to let the whole world know what you are saying and to protect every free society from hate spreaders like you. Words matter.
Jarvis agrees, but says bloggers can shine a brighter spotlight than the State Dept can:
The point is not to stop the speech. The point is to expose the speakers. And why rely on a government body, especially the U.S. State Department, to do this. Rely instead on the civilized citizens of the world.



Backing Out

A few months ago, I wrote that I wanted to use this blog to document a case study in persuasion. That was when the Utah Legislature's Privately Owned Health Care Organization Task Force was beginning, and I thought it would be interesting to analyze the type of persuasive tactics that were used in testimony before the legislators.

Honestly, the testimony hasn't been too interesting, but there have been a few instances where I thought it would warrant a post. At those times, though, something's made me hesitate, and then abandon the idea.

I'm glad I did.

This morning's Salt Lake Tribune contains a story where one of IHC's competitors is leveling accusations related to Task Force testimony. I'm not going to go into the details, but I will say the story doesn't tell the half of it. If this is the kind of distortionist tactics IHC's competitors are going to use against the company, then I don't want to give them any fodder.

So I'm taking a page out of the book of Jarvis: I'm not going to blog about IHC or anything related to the work I'm doing for them. Oh, and any opinions in this post, real or inferred, are mine and not my employer's nor any of its officers.



The New (Old) Killer Marketing App

Something older than language is becoming the newest killer marketing app: the story.

Since I've been in this business (full disclosure... a little less than a decade), I've heard my managers and compatriots say, "We've got to tell our story." We weren't referring to gathering our customers around the proverbial fireside and regaling them with a tale of intrigue or humor. Telling our story meant buying advertising, developing messaging, focusing on reach and frequency, assuring that everyone possible knew that Company A stood for Message X.

That all still applies. But the talk in marketing circles today is more about weaving a compelling tale than about the media buy.

Cluetrain predicted this would happen when they saw the Internet turning us back to the oldest marketing model, where villagers would go to markets not only to buy things but to share stories. Seth Godin's All Marketers Are Liars, FWIH, isn't about encouraging us to lie, but about encouraging us to weave the most compelling story.

And now this from the blogosphere:

Narrative imagining story is the fundamental instrument of thought. Rational capacities depend on it. It is our chief means of looking into the future, of predicting, of planning, and of explaining. Most of our experience, our knowledge and our thinking is organized as stories.
That was cognitive scientist Mark Turner, by way of David Wolfe's Ageless Marketing. And this from Evelyn Rodriguez:
Call me crazy, but after being blown away by searing fresh writing from amateurs and professionals alike last week at a writer's conference, I'm left to wonder why we settle for just-the-facts-mam bland journalistic writing. Why can't narrative story-telling be used to illustrate and embed the statistics and five W's and have us feel the impact of the dissected facts?



Kathy's Passionate Readers

Kathy Sierra's weblog--Creating Passionate Users--is one of my favorites. I'm not alone among marketers. I've seen links to "CPU" on many a marketing blogroll. But Kathy's main audience isn't marketers, it's software trainers and designers. The fact that so many of my mktg compatriots follow Kathy's blog backs up, I believe, my statement that "the problem [with marketing] is relevance, and marketers know it. That's why we listen when someone like Seth Godin coaches us on how to develop relationships with our audience." That's also why we listen when Kathy coaches us on creating passion among our "users," which I translate to "customers." Passionate customers are not only returning customers, they are also evangelists who can do a much more convincing job "spreading the word" about your product or service.

A few recent gems from Kathy: You're emotional. Deal with it:
People don't choose rationally to listen to your message and then have a feeling about it. They choose to listen to your message because they have a feeling about it.

If you're basing your communications solely on logical, rational, reasoned facts... the brain is not your friend. Emotions are the gatekeeper... if you want in, you gotta talk to the amygdala.
Ten Tips for New Teachers/Trainers:
Emotions provide the metadata for a memory. They're the tags that determine how important this memory is, whether it's worth saving, and the bit depth (metaphorically) of the memory. People remember what they feel far more than what they hear or see that's emotionally empty...
Humans spent thousands upon thousands of years developing/evolving the ability to learn through stories. Our brains are tuned for it. Our brains are not tuned for sitting in a classroom [or anywhere else, for that matter] listening passively to a lecture of facts, or reading pages of text facts. Somehow we manage to learn in spite of the poor learning delivery most of us get in traditional schools and training programs (and books)...
People often learn more from seeing the wrong thing than they do from seeing the right thing. Know why the brain spends far less time processing things that meet expectations, than it does on things that don't...
It's not about what YOU do... it's about how your learners [for marketers, read: customers] feel about what THEY can do as a result of the... experience you created and helped to deliver.



Advocating for the Customer

Started a book--If Disney Ran Your Hospital, by Fred Lee. I'm not a hospital administrater, but as a communicator for a health care organization, I'm hoping to gain some insight into customer-directed marketing. I've only perused the first 15 pages, but I've already found something worth writing down. It's a quote from Terrance Rynn, a health care marketing consultant:
There is a profound difference between selling and marketing. Selling is trying to get people to want what you have. Marketing is trying to have what people want. When you have what people want, it makes selling unnecessary.
Yeah, it sounds like the type of quote that could get us marketers drunk on our own self-importance. But it's also a reminder that we aren't doing our jobs unless we're customer advocates.



Memo to the Terrorists

An excerpt of British Prime Minister Tony Blair's reaction to this morning's terrorist attacks
(by way of Jeff Jarvis):
It is through terrorism that the people that have committed this terrible act express their values, and it is right at this moment that we demonstrate ours. I think we all know what they are trying to do - they are trying to use the slaughter of innocent people to cower us, to frighten us out of doing the things that we want to do, of trying to stop us going about our business as normal, as we are entitled to do, and they should not, and they must not, succeed.

When they try to intimidate us, we will not be intimidated. When they seek to change our country or our way of life by these methods, we will not be changed. When they try to divide our people or weaken our resolve, we will not be divided and our resolve will hold firm. We will show, by our spirit and dignity, and by our quiet but true strength that there is in the British people, that our values will long outlast theirs. The purpose of terrorism is just that, it is to terrorise people, and we will not be terrorised.
Memo to the terrorists: You will never prevail. You sow seeds of fear and threaten weeds of destruction, but the ground upon which you are sowing is as barren to your seeds as the Iraqi desert. The free world loves life and liberty, and we will never accept anything less.


Live 8 Worked

Live 8 was a success. That's my perspective anyway. I admit I didn't watch, but 2 billion people did. True, it had its share of critics--some saying that no one pays attention to celebrity anymore, others questioning Bob Geldof's (the event's organizer) motives. Many from the continent of Africa (like this one) said Live 8 would do more harm than good. (Nelson Mandela wasn't one of them.)

But 2 billion people tuned in.

That's almost a third of the world's population.

I've thought a bit about last week's question: why do events like this make a lasting impression? I think Live 8 worked because of two factors: attention and truth. Celebrity got our attention; the music kept our attention. And Brad Pitt and Claudia Schiffer and Bono and Paul McCartney and others spoke the truth--that the place of our birth should not be allowed to determine the course of our lives, that everyone has within them a seed of potential, which given the right environment, can blossom and grow and become beautiful, that we can help Africa nurture its people.

The G8 leaders probably won't make sweeping changes in their policies toward Africa. Most of the 2 billion viewers won't change their everyday lives because of what they saw. Change of mind and heart rarely happens overnight. But seeds of change have been sown. Collective awareness has been raised. People are thinking about Africa. They're questioning their assumptions. That's where change begins.

UPDATE: Looks like Live 8 was more successful than I thought it would be. After G8 leaders doubled African aid to $50 billion and agreed in principle to forgive the debt of 18 of the world's poorest countries, Bono declared victory:
Irish rock star Bono, who helped organize last weekend's global Live 8 concerts to pressure G-8 leaders to spend more money on Africa, said "a mountain has been climbed."

"We've pulled this off," he said. "The world spoke and the politicians listened."
And from Tony Blair:
"All of this does not change the world tomorrow. It is a beginning, not an end."



Persuade the World

Unless you've put your brain on a mass-media free diet for the past month, you know that Live 8 is tomorrow. The worldwide concert is using the power of music and celebrity to raise awareness of and change minds about poverty in Africa and the debt burdens of its nations.

(I won't be watching. My son is getting baptized tomorrow, and we'll be having lots of people over.)

My memories of the original Live Aid are still vivid. I rememer that The Hooters (who can forget a name like that) broke in to the music scene at Live Aid; so did Tracey Chapman. Mick Jagger and David Bowie debuted their made-for-Top-40 single: a remake of "Dancing in the Streets." George Michael, whom I idolized at the time (I almost hate to admit it), sang a rendition of Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing." Unfortunately I was too into the pop scene to appreciate the truly great performances: U2's set at Live Aid legendary, but I didn't see it.

Tomorrow's event has a slightly different purpose than the original's, which was to raise money for hunger in Africa. There will be more venues besides the original Philadelphia and London stages. And there will be more media. Live 8 will be broadcast on multiple channels and blog tracker Technorati is pushing for big blog coverage--50 bloggers won the privilege of live blogging the event backstage. But the purpose and the outcome will likely be the same: people will start to care about suffering in Africa.

My question is, why will we care more tomorrow than we do today? Is it that we crave to connect celebrity, and this event is a ready-made connection? Is it that when we finally start paying attention to something outside our own spheres of concern that we finally start seeing the truth about the world around us? Is it something else entirely?


Jarvis' Very Public Hell

Kryptonite locks are the poster child for being oblivious to or ignoring what your customers are saying about you online. Could Dell be next?

Ueber-blogger Jeff Jarvis bought a lemon of a laptop from Dell--almost everything in the computer's guts failed. And although he bought their most expensive, in-home warranty package, he found himself on the phone for hours with "customer service"--Jarvis referred to it as Dell Hell. After much back and forth, which he chronicled on his blog (it has a readership of more than 100,000), he finally decided to convert to an Apple Powerbook.

Here's the amazing thing: while Jarvis has been railing against Dell to thousands of readers for the past week, Dell as a company appeared to be oblivious to all this until Jarvis sent an email to some Dell executives. C'mon, Dell, it's the new millenium. People are having very public conversations about you online. That means they want to be heard. That means you should listen. And it's not that hard. Set up an RSS aggregator, create and subscribe to a PubSub query and you're good to go. This whole thing would be comical if I didn't find it so depressing.

UPDATE: Jarvis' blog is powerful, and he knows it. He continues today:
: You know what: If Dell were really smart, they'd hire me (yes, me) to come to them and teach them about blogs, about how their customers now have a voice; about how their customers are a community -- a community often in revolt; about how they could find out what their customers really think; about how they could fix their customers' problems before they become revolts; about how they could become a better company with the help of their customers.


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