Saturday, July 12, 2008

Rethinking Messages

From Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point:
"The Stickiness Factor says that there are specific ways of making a contagious message memorable; there are relatively simple changes in the presentation and structuring of information that can make a big difference in how much of an impact it makes."

George Mankiw's The Pigou Club Manifesto. The abolishment of minimum wage. Getting rid of apartment price ceilings. Why these obvious solutions aren't in effect are because of two reasons: they sound counter-intuitive and they aren't marketed well.

It's hard to get people to listen to numbers. It's hard to get people to take the time to comprehend even relatively simple concepts. It's hard to make people give a fuck.

In Made to Stick there is a point about trying to get people's attention about unhealthy popcorn. Trying to attract consumer's attention about something as seemingly negligible as popcorn health was difficult to say the least. It's not a pressing subject. They couldn't get people to care about the numbers and facts. So they changed their message. They presented it in a more visual and startling format. They forced their idea through unconventional means.

That's what has to be done with all of these unpopular ideas. They need to be presented in different, more startling ways. They need to convert their facts into a pulling message.

EDIT: [See also this for a list of things that could be marketed differently]

1 comment:

Crappyconomist said...

Absolutely correct. Like me trying to convince people that recycling paper has a negligible or even likely negative effect on overall forestation, convincing people that removing the minimum wage or taxing gas is in total cheaper than leaving it untaxed is almost impossible. It's less about the complicated nature of the topics than the counter-intuitiveness I think. The recycled paper example illustrates this: it's not difficult to understand how the vast majority of paper comes from tree farms and this leads to an increase. It's just counter-intuitive, so people are understandably very skeptical.

If they did the research on any of these issues they'd likely agree, but most people are not going to do so to test what they consider to be an unlikely claim. So if a person (anyone, really) can't be easily induced to research a counter-intuitive thing, the other way to get them to seriously consider it is to give them the perception of the intuitive assumption as being highly contested/challenged/ridiculed/whatever by a great many, or at least the correct few/group. This is where good PR really comes into play.

Once the highly contentious nature of their belief is accepted the alternative is no longer viewed as an unlikely fringe position. We all do the same thing, really, outside of our area of (lesser or greater) expertise. You have to, or you're basic life philosophy would be all over the place, like so many pieces of paper in a windstorm.