Contrarians need to stick together … or … well … stick up for each other.
My newest contrarian hero is a guy named Jonah Berger … for several reasons.
First. Because not only has he mastered the statement of the obvious:
“We miss out on the value of the message itself as a vehicle for driving virality.”
… secondly, he also supports it with research <albeit some of us have been stating it, or something similar to it, for years> … and third, and most importantly, he is using all those trite ‘here is the secret to success’ business books as his foil.
Jonah has a new business book called “Contagious” which I will admit I will never buy but I will also admit probably does as nice a job of outlining some basics of effective communication.
<Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger. At 32, the assistant professor of marketing at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business is carving out a corner of academia for himself in the study of social epidemics, or how products, ideas, and behaviors become popular>
He even has a nifty sound bite compilation of sound bites to create a sound bite philosophy:
Here are his STEPPS for making anything go viral:
– Social Currency: We share things that make us look good (even if that means pictures of our cat).
– Triggers: Easily memorable information means it’s top of mind and tip of the tongue.
– Emotion: When we care, we share.
– Public: Built to show, built to grow.
– Practical Value: News people can use.
– Stories: People are inherent storytellers, and all great brands also learn to tell stories. Information travels under the guise of idle chatter.
Catchy isn’t it?
Basically he has used aspects from what every one of the top advertising agencies currently teach, utilize and suggest on their own websites <albeit they do it in mini sound bites> and compiled them into a list.
Here is the real genius.
This is nothing new.
Story, Emotion, and Practical Value have been the mainstay of the communications business for years … nope … decades. Let’s even say for a century.
It was the cornerstone of everything I was taught in the advertising business beginning in the 1980’s.
Don’t believe that?
You can visit the advertising archives at Duke University and find this same information in archival information from the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s <in some nifty in house advertising>.
All that said … what makes him a bigger genius? <the part that makes him my newest hero>.
He is deflating all the tripe ‘The Tipping Point’ and ‘Made to Stick’ and all those other bestselling business books have been peddling to us and the stuff I know I have been kicked out of boardrooms for suggesting is sound bite tripe.
His book actually seems to also in a contrarian way attack what businesses have been battling for several years now … how to handle what Napoleon first suggested …
“un croquis vaut mieux qu’un long discours.”
<a sketch is better than a long discourse>
Sketch <or brevity>. The business world has gone wacko over this thought … going to absurd lengths to create the ultimate soundbite under the belief “a person will only remember one thing” or “all people have the attention span of a gnat so tell them what you need to tell them in 3 seconds or less.”
Unfortunately, and truthfully, some things are just too complex to communicate in a sound bite or in 3 seconds or less. Effective communication <or ‘contagious communication’> would be one of those topics.
No matter how brief and simple you want to make it … well … it is neither brief nor simple. It is complex and sometimes the opposite of brief.
It isn’t just about telling a story.
Nor is it just about finding influencers to broker the story.
Nor is it just about practical value.
Nor is it just about emotion.
Unfortunately it is a combination of those things.
I have been tempted to write several business books … one even on simplicity and effective communications. And I just saw some of the high falutin’ folk with high falutin’ titles at SiegalGale <one of the top branding companies in the universe … yes … almost solar system-esque in their expertise> are publishing something about Simplicity … Simple: Conquering the Crisis of Complexity <I am hoping they cite me from one of my simplicity posts … but not holding my breath>.
They could have used something from any of these …
By the way … it is probably a ‘simple truth’ with regard to simplicity but the main issue is not trying to find the simple within a crisis of complexity but rather not making something that is extremely simply into something complicated <or complex>.
Let me explain the trouble I ran into writing my business book on ‘effective simplicity.’
It was a short book.
Two pages <on index cards in fact>.
say something meaningful.
say that something in an interesting way.
And then because about the only additional advice I give someone is to be ruthless editors with regard to communication and words <sketch instead of discourse Napoleon thing> … well … I simplified it into one index card:
“Say something meaningful in an interesting way.” – Me <author of “the shortest business book ever written”>
There is my book.
Save yourself a boatload of money on all those business books.
There it is.
Do that and you have as much of a chance of creating something contagious <or drive ‘message virality’ to use a Jonah term>, or made to stick or tipping cows or points or people or whatever.
There are no formulas nor are there any checklists.
It isn’t really about telling a story <although you can if it is interesting> and it really isn’t about simplified in a short sweet concise way <although you can if a long type driven story isn’t meaningful or compelling>. It is just about doing what is right at that time in that place.
You can use lots of words or few words.
You can use white space or little space.
You can use a great compelling visual or no visual at all.
You cannot use words or pictures or stories that say something meaningless.
You cannot be uninteresting.
Oh. If only it were all this simple.