I have just finished reading Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation, by Sally Hogshead. Sally is an award-winning advertising executive turned brand innovation consultant. In this book, she covers a wide swath of disciplines to weave a story-driven narrative that draws on her original research, a Kelton Study conducted specifically for the book, to look deeply into what captures our attention, and how we can create fascination in our lives and livelihoods.
Her goal in conducting a study of 1,059 Americans over the age of 18 was to define the role of fascination in our lives, and measure it in tangible terms. “Without fascination,” Sally says, “we can't sell products, persuade shareholders to invest, teach students to read, or convince our own kids to stay off drugs.”
Some of the more interesting results are these:
When asked how far they would go for a fascinating life, 60% of people said they’d be willing to bend their morals, standards, or loyalties.
Only 9% of employees say their bosses are “extremely fascinating,” but 96% of parents say they’re fascinated by their own children.
A fascinating brand can charge up to four times as much as an un-fascinating one.
On average people will pay $288 per month to be the most fascinating person in the room. Five percent will pay more than $1000 per month. (Women will spend more to be fascinating than they spend on food. In fact, women will spend more to be fascinating than they spend on food and clothes combined.)
These results raise the obvious question: what does it take to be fascinating? The answer, according to Sally, is that it takes some blend of the seven triggers, which are defined as deeply rooted primal means of arousing intense interest:
Lust: the anticipation of pleasure, which we crave.
Mystique: unanswered questions, which intrigues us and makes us want to solve the puzzle.
Alarm: the threat of negative consequences, which demands immediate response.
Prestige: symbols of rank and respect, which earn us status and admiration.
Power: command over people and things, which draws our focus.
Vice: rebellion against rules, which tempts us toward “forbidden fruit.”
Trust: certainty and reliability, to which we give our loyalty.
The business implications of being able to employ these triggers can be significant. According to the research, a fascinating brand can charge more than an un-fascinating one, up to four times as much. People also will pay a premium for brands that activate desired triggers. In the presence of a fascinating product, 80% of people report a strong emotional or physical response.
Take the example of Jagermeister. “It’s hard to find anyone that actually enjoys bittersweetly harsh taste of Jagermeister liquer,” says Sally. “But yet, sales have increased 40% per year since 1985. Why? The mystique and vice triggers. Jagermeister has brilliantly fostered myths that it contains all sorts of secret and forbidden ingredients: elk’s blood, opiates, Valium, and other unmentionables. Whatever floats those green-tinted bottles, one thing’s for sure: After a few shots, your memory of the evening’s events could also be an unsolved mystery!”
The bottom line is that people will not only pay a lot of money if you can help them become fascinating, but also if you can help them feel fascinated.
I found Fascinate to be a great read, engaging the reader right from the opening story of Giles Corey’s 1692 execution in Salem for his crimes of witchcraft (fascinate comes from the Latin fascinare, “to bewitch”): casting a spell over the townspeople, enchanting them, mesmerizing them, and leaving them powerless and immobilized with captivation.
This same fixation, Sally explains, spawned the popular television series Sex and the City. And did you know that Amazon.com uses the same tactics to lure book buyers that animals in the Amazonian jungle use to lure their prey? Or, that the billion-dollar “Just Say No” program actually increases drug use among teens, by activating the same “forbidden fruit” syndrome as a Victoria’s Secret catalogue?
If you want to know why you’re captivated by some people (but not others), why you recall some brands but forget the rest, and why certain people can get you to change your behavior, Fascinate will fascinate you.
And it won’t cost you $288.
Matthew E. May is an innovation consultant and the author of In Pursuit of Elegance: Why the Best Ideas Have Something Missing. He blogs here. You can follow him on Twitter here.