Sunday, April 04, 2010

Made to Stick: Let's get Emotional

Here are a couple of anti-smoking ads for you to watch, and then I'll describe what Made to Stick has to say about the role of emotion in delivering an effective message.



Compared to this:



These two ads started airing at almost the same time in the US. When teenagers were asked if they remembered any anti-smoking ads, 22 percent thought of the first 'Truth' campaign, while only 3 percent thought of the second 'Think' campaign.

Why is this important? Why is it important that more people remember the highly emotive ad that creates feeling of rebellion, resentment and belonging to a peer group than the lighter, gentler 'Think' ads?

Made to Stick suggests a couple of reasons emotion is important:

1) Feeling an emotion means you care. When people care, they're more likely to remember and they're more likely to act on what you're saying

2) The more we reason and think, the more our ability to feel is inhibited. Analysis prevents compassion. Made to Stick cites several examples of ads in the 'World Vision helping children in developing countries' genre. That feeds back into Point (1) - basically, the less you think, the more you act.




How do you make people care?

The simplest way is to find something your audience already cares about and tap into that.

The weirdest way is to appeal to self-interest - ask your audience to imagine how this will benefit or affect them. That's weird, because Made to Stick presents evidence showing that people often act less on self-interest, and more on 'group-interest'. That is, we don't imagine "What's in it for me?", but "What's in it for my group?". Or (even weirder) we ask, "What would someone like me do if they were given this information?"

I find it weirdly compelling that there are these two types of decision-making:

1) Weigh up the benefits and possible consequences, and then choose the best one for me

2) Make a decision based on my identity, after answering questions like: Who am I? What kind of situation is this? What do people like me do in this kind of situation?

... So you can tap into something people already care about, or appeal to group-interest or self-interest. Another way is to create empathy for specific individuals.

If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.
-- Mother Teresa

A couple of miscellaneous points: The Benefit of the Benefit; A Creepy Ad

A 'benefit' is something reasonable that people can easily imagine themselves enjoying. But a deeper question to ask is "What is the benefit of the benefit?" That question is illustrated vividly in this clip from the end of Season 1 Mad Men:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2bLNkCqpuY


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This doesn't really fit in the 'Emotion' section but it's an important point: Spell your message out. It may feel obvious but remember that your audience is dealing with lots of distractions - not only are they probably being bombarded by ads, other things to look at on the internet, demands from other people and work, and their own relentless thoughts ... but your audience also doesn't really have time to figure out what you're saying.

Make it easy for them. Spell your message out.


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Heh. I also really like this anti-smoking ad:




Creepy.

2 comments:

Karen said...

That is indeed a creepy ad!

I'm also kind of disturbed by this... "The more we reason and think, the more our ability to feel is inhibited. Analysis prevents compassion. Made to Stick cites several examples of ads in the 'World Vision helping children in developing countries' genre. That feeds back into Point (1) - basically, the less you think, the more you act."

I agree that people are more likely to act "in the heat of the moment" when they are feeling a strong emotion... I also agree that ad-makers (and bloggers) can tap into that. However, I suspect that those actions, by their very nature, will tend to be knee-jerk reflexive responses... I'm less convinced (I guess I'd need to see evidence) that that kind of emotive "marketing" of your message is going to lead to any kind of sustained behavioural change... to use your smoking example... the creepy "Truth" ads might cause someone to chuck their ciggies away at the time, but it isn't necessarily going to give them the tools to get through the withdrawal...

Also, I think that your modern audience has been "being bombarded by ads" and movies and TV shows and books etc that set out to elicit an emotional response... I know that I'm often (usually?) aware that I'm being manipulated in that way... and it tends to annoy me... unless it is done well, or so badly it makes me laugh... or aligns pretty closely with what I already believe... i guess this ties into your point about finding something your audience already cares about...

Woffling... stop now... But you've def given me something to think about ;-)

Steve Hickey said...

I agree - I find the role of emotion in making people act has disturbing implications. While I was reading Made to Stick and The Elements of Persuasion talk about this stuff, I was constantly reminded of political and Nazi propaganda.

Both these books emphasise that in order to make your audience act, you need them to care. But 'caring' (by itself) isn't sufficient to create the sustained action you're talking about.

Hopefully the next post on 'story' will show how they think a change in behaviour can be sustained - via creating a story that shows you how it's done, a story you can emulate.

(Which, now I think about it, ties into self-development ideas about how to make a goal seem achievable ... you break it into chunks so that it seems realistic and possible. I guess a story can make changing your behaviour seem possible.)