I added a new book to my Persuasion Reading List. The book is Impossible to Ignore: Creating Memorable Content to Influence Decisions
This is a must-read for anyone interested in influencing an audience. The book explains the science behind making things memorable and shows you how to do it. And memory is the foundation of influence.
Full disclosure, the author is a friend of mine, and a business colleague. I have hired Dr. Simon twice to consult on my projects. She crafted the slides I use for public presentations as well as a Slideshare presentation about my book.
How good is she? Well, in the old days people would come up to me after I gave a speech and compliment me for being entertaining. These days the first question is usually “Who made your slides and how can I hire that person?”
Seriously. That happens nearly every time. And I disappoint people by saying they probably can’t afford her. But most people can afford a book, so this should help.
If you want to see some presentations that use Dr. Simon’s methods, check out these two.
Presentation 1 (About memory)
Presentation 2 (About my book)
And if you want to see how Dr. Carmen evaluated Trump versus Clinton in terms of memorable campaign content, read the analysis below that I asked her to put together. She’s not taking sides, just pointing out technique.
In Dr. Simon’s words…
What does science tell us about the current political messages?
In the book Impossible to Ignore, I advocate that memory is at the root of all decision-making. So if we want to influence people’s choices, we must influence what they remember. How does this play in the current political elections? We can answer this question by understanding how memory works and what candidates are doing to stay on people’s minds long enough to impact their final choice.
1. We remember what we understand
Check out the Hillary’s and Trump’s official web sites. Looking at a screen shot “above the fold,” which message are viewers more likely to remember in a few days from now? Example A or Example B? The former is confusing, indistinct, scattered – literally and metaphorically, therefore forgettable. The latter is crisp, clear, easy to understand… in short, memorable.
2. We remember not only what is repeated, but what is repeatable.
It is intuitive to believe that repetition leads to memory. And we tend to repeat what is repeatable. But what makes a message easily repeatable? Science demonstrates that one of the criteria for a repeatable message is portability.
Take famous movie lines, such as “Say hello to my little friend” (Scarface), “You talking to me?” (Taxi Driver), “I’ll have what she’s having” (When Harry Met Sally) – these phrases contain simple words that can be used in many contexts, beyond their original habitat.
Analyzing Trump’s and Hillary’s message – it is easy to repeat “Make America Great Again” – simple syntax and we can replace the word “America” with something else and use it in different contexts, from trivial to serious (Make pancakes great again or Make democracy great again). For Hillary…we don’t know what her message is and what we should repeat. Ironically, her home page repeats Trump’s name…
3. Nostalgia is memorable
Nostalgia is an emotion that helps to abstract and extract meaning. It is especially effective with cynical audiences because it levels the knowledge in the room. And when everyone feels like an equal, people are more likely to trust each other, and more likely to allow themselves to be swayed in a certain direction by others.
The formal definition of nostalgia is a “bittersweet longing for home.” During this emotional state, we yearn for an idealized or sanitized version of the past. In reminiscing about the “good, old days,” we ignore many negative traces.
Nostalgia works best when we are torn between the past and the future…whenever there is some anxiety between two worlds, one that used to be and one that is emerging without much direction.
“Make America Great Again” works because it romances the past and many people tend to look back to the past for emotional security. What’s less threatening and comforting will feel good.
By contrast…to what mental spot is Hillary sending people with her messaging?
Since there is no crisp slogan, it is hard to anchor the brain to a secure spot, from which it can make decisions.
— end —
You just learned something. Read the book for more. Follow on Twitter here: @areyoumemorable