Book Report | Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation by Sally Hogshead

Sally Hogshead's book, Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation, offered conversational, easy-to-read marketing-related anecdotes, but lacked true depth of thought and would have been better packaged as a magazine article, blog post, or TED Talk.  The book outlined seven "triggers" that capture attention and serve as shortcuts to persuasion.  Each trigger chapter was formatted the same way: introduction of the trigger, description of how it can be used persuasively, then example after example of how various campaigns purportedly used the trigger successfully.  Below is a brief summary of the seven triggers.

LUST makes people crave your message or product, and seduces with the anticipation of pleasure. 

MYSTIQUE intrigues people with unanswered questions, leading them to want to learn more about your product.

ALARM compels people to take action in order to avoid negative consequences.

PRESTIGE inspires envy through symbols of rank and respect.

POWER controls people because they defer to you and your message.

VICE tempts people with a forbidden fruit, getting them to deviate from their usual habits.

TRUST gains loyalty by comforting and relaxing people through familiar messaging.

Overall, I think the information was interesting, but should not be weighed too heavily in strategic campaign development, as Hogshead's evidence was often tangential, and empirical at best.  There was little concrete information about practical execution of the triggers, and the book seemed like an overly-ambitious marketing tool for Hogshead's brand consulting business, rather than an earnest attempt to empower readers with proven, replicable marketing techniques.  At the end of the day, Hogshead is a marketer, and is, in my opinion, more comfortable using "smoke and mirrors" than is ethical or sustainable.  


Memo: Facebook Announces Forward-Thinking Approaches to Messenger, Videos, and Internet Access

Facebook Updates Messenger, Allowing Users to Create and Share Content with Third Party Tools

At Facebook’s annual developer conference, F8, this week, they announced a software development kit which allows developers to create messenger companion apps.  

Users can create content like animated GIFs, or add special effects to a video, or discover new content, and then share it with friends through Messenger.   Each piece of content includes a link to the app it was made with, and recipients can download or open that app, and reply with a piece of content.

By creating more vivid ways to share, Messenger could differentiate itself from competing messaging apps, and position itself as the long-term messaging leader, by focusing heavily on content.



Facebook Takes First Step Towards Virtual Reality with Spherical Videos

During his F8 keynote speech on Wednesday, Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook is testing “spherical videos”, a new kind of 360 degree online video that lets you virtually move through recreations of real places, by tilting your smartphone, similarly to how you can move through imagines places using Oculus.

Facebook describes the spherical videos, which will soon be supported in newsfeed, as a first step toward even more immersive videos, that we’ll eventually view through virtual reality headsets like Oculus Rift.

Virtual Reality is definitely gaining popularity, however Facebook will need to figure out how to make VR interactive, because when you strap on a VR headset, you’re getting more disconnected from the world.



Facebook Announces Aquila Drone, Will Beam Down Internet Access With Lasers

On the second day of F8, Facebook announced plans for a drone they will use to beam the internet down to billions of people using lasers.  The drone has a wingspan comparable to a Boeing 767 yet uses lightweight materials so weighs less than a car.  It has to be light because it will stay in the air for three months at a time using solar power.  Facebook says it’ll begin test flights this summer, with a broader rollout over the next several years.  As the world progresses to become more connected, Facebook is in a good position to lead the way in providing internet to a large number of currently underserved areas, giving them significant advantages moving forward. 


Brand Personality and Purchase Decisions for Everyday Products

Take a moment and think about the last time you bought paper towels.  How long did you stand in the supermarket aisle, surveying various options and weighing the pros and cons of each one?  If you’re like most people, you probably didn’t spend much time thinking about it, and made your purchase decision based on thought shortcuts, or heuristics, which are often used for low-involvement decisions, such as which type of paper towels to buy.

A 2009 study on Purchase-Decision Involvement (PDI) demonstrated that many everyday purchase decisions are low-involvement, affective (feelings-driven) versus cognitive (thought-driven) and based on attributes of the brand versus attributes of the product itself. 

Because of consumers’ low involvement in decision-making for everyday products, marketers of household brands can take advantage of one well-known heuristic tactic, the association principle.  Per Cialdini’s description of the association principle, consumers will respond to a product itself in the same way they respond to things they like in an advertisement.  Essentially, they associate the positive thoughts they have towards, say, an advertisement’s attractive model or heartwarming message, with the product itself. 

It should be noted that in this digital age, the term “advertisement” can be extended to a variety of corporate messaging, including advertising, social media presence, blog posts, press releases, marketing collateral, website content, public appearances of brand representatives, and press coverage, which is all available, and widely discussed, online.  These elements combine to form an overall brand personality.

To maximize the influence of the association principle, brand communications professionals must develop specific brand personalities that allow consumers to align themselves with the values of the organization.  In his book, Engage! The Complete Guide for Brands and Businesses to Build, Cultivate, and Measure Success in the New Web, Brian Solis, a digital analyst, sociologist, and futurist tells us that brand personality is formed by the “shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterize an organization.”  These personality attributes “help define, strengthen, and protect the brand… culture is at the epicenter of affinity.  There must be a cultural fit between you and your customers.”

This brings us to an important point: the focus on the association principle and heuristic purchase decision-making cannot be discussed without addressing the particular importance of a consumer’s perceived similarity with, and therefore liking of, a brand. 

Interpersonal similarity is widely considered an element of liking, which increases influence.  Cialdini cites a perfect example: “One researcher who examined the sales records of insurance companies found that customers were more likely to buy insurance when a salesperson was like them in age, religion, politics, and cigarette-smoking habits (Evans, 1963.)”  Of course, a brand cannot have the same attributes as a person, but can personify specific values, which a customer will also identify with as similar. 

Sally Hogshead, a world-renowned brand consultant and speaker, mirrors this belief in her Book, Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation, saying “people bond more quickly with others who have similar values and traits to their own,” and offers a specific way for brands to help customers recognize a cultural fit: “to accelerate trust, a message can tap into values that extend over time.” 

A perfect example: P&G’s “Thank you Mom” campaign, which aligned its messaging to the longstanding value of parental love, through a series of advertisements, and supporting social media content, that showed moms using P&G products to support their Olympics-bound kids throughout childhood.  The corporation positioned itself as a partner for moms: "Behind all of our brands is a company called P&G," said Marc Pritchard, P&G's global marketing and brand building officer, "and behind every Olympic athlete is a mom, and moms of athletes are there every step of the way, and P&G is in the business of helping moms every day." 

According to Reuters, the first  “Thank You Mom” campaign, which was centered around the London Olympics, translated to a $500,000,000 sales boost for everyday products, including Bounty paper towels.  In developing its “Thank You Mom” campaign, P&G successfully activated the association principle (Moms are helpful, therefore P&G products are helpful”), and increased consumers’ perceived similarity with the corporation’s brands (“I am a helpful mom, P&G products are helpful like me.”


Kim, Jooyoung, and Yongjun Sung. "Dimensions of Purchase-decision Involvement: Affective and Cognitive Involvement in Product and Brand." Journal of Brand Management (2009): 514-16. Web.

Cialdini, Robert B. Influence: Science and Practice. Vol. 5. N.p.: Pearson Education, 2009. Print.

Hogshead, Sally. "Trust: Why We're Loyal to Reliable Options." Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation. New York: HarperCollins, 2010. 167-85. Print.

Solis, Brian. "Brand Personality, Discovery, and Promise." Engage! The Complete Guide for Brands and Businesses to Build, Cultivate, and Measure Success in the New Web. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 2011. 97-106. Print.

Kieffer, Brittaney. "P&G Stays Fresh." P&G Stays Fresh. Haymarket Business Publications Ltd., 1 Sept. 2012. Web. 02 Mar. 2015.

Weir, Keith. "Olympics-Sponsor P&G Sets More Modest Target for Winter Games." Reuters. Thomson Reuters, 06 Jan. 2014. Web. 3 Mar. 2015.

Industry Trend: Tech for Kids

YouTube Launches Kid-Friendly App, Follows in Footsteps of Vine and Snapchat

This week YouTube launched a mobile app made just for kids.  The app filters content and search phrases to ensure appropriateness for young audiences, and offers parental control features, such as the ability to set time limits for app usage. 

The release comes less than a month after Vine announced their new app, Vine Kids, which features hand-selected videos, shielding children from potentially inappropriate content.  This summer, Snapchat released Snapkidz, a version of their app which allows kids to take and doodle on photos, but not send or receive snaps.


CogniToys Announces Kickstarter for Toy with Artificial Intelligence  

Last week a Kickstarter was launched to fund a toy dinosaur driven by the machine learning service, IBM Watson.  The toy, which connects to a cloud computing service via WiFi, is said to provide age-appropriate answers to children’s questions,  and even fine-tunes its responses as it learns about its user through repeated interaction.


Kid-Friendly Technologies: Good or Bad for Learning and Exploration?

I have mixed feelings about the future of kid-friendly technologies.  On one hand, if kids are already using smart phones, tablets, and computers, we might as well provide them with content that is engaging, educational, and age-appropriate.  A lot of apps, which already cater to the short attention spans of adults, would likely be fairly easy to adapt for kids (I’m looking at you, Instagram.)

On the other hand, childhood is meant for playing with friends, exploring the outdoors, and learning about the world, and I worry that the magic (and learning) of childhood will be stunted with too much time in front of a screen.  As our world becomes more and more digitally-focused, it will be interesting to see how parents balance the competing demands for children’s attention.    

I Need Some Advice, Please.

One of my professors shared this great blog post: Blogging for the Hell of It, Not Blogging to Stay Relevant.  The writer talks about how he used to love blogging, until he started thinking about the audience he was writing for, and then things got stilted and weird.  (FYI: I might be editorializing.  But that was my takeaway.)  His writing style is super conversational, and it's clear, even now that he's a bit jaded, that he's super comfortable banging out and immediately publishing his (surprisingly coherent) stream-of-consciousness pieces.  As a writing exercise, I'll be trying that technique for this post.      

It used to be super easy for me to type as I thought, and post whatever came to mind, but something changed, and I don't like it. I've been working on this one blog post--on minimalism, ironically--for almost a week now, and still don't think it's good enough to publish.  I think my standard for "good enough" is higher because there's something at stake now.  

I started my first blog to document my study abroad experience, and was just SO comfortable talking as a sassy 21-year-old and sharing my thoughts on, like, grocery stores and escalators.  But now, like five blogs later, I consider myself an "educated adult" with a "perspective" that I should "articulate."  And that's way harder!  But it's probably also worth putting some effort into, since mastering the skill of casual-but-coherent-and-interesting-and-smart blogging could actually be a really good use of my... "potential."

Ok.  In all honesty, I think I'm a really good writer.  (It's weird to say that here, because the proof is in the pudding, and right now the pudding is like, room temp gas station snakpak at best.)  And there's this (unfortunately really cliched) quote that I always think about when I'm convincing myself to keep writing and publishing blog posts: 

All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, and it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you.
— Ira Glass

I guess this is some version of an ignorance-is-bliss situation, where the only reason I know I'm bad is because I have the potential to be actually good.  And apparently the only way to work towards being actually good, is to keep making stuff that you know is bad.  So here's my question: How do you let yourself care enough to keep producing bad content, but not so much that you acknowledge how bad it is, and get discouraged and stop?  This is a serious question and I would love to hear opinions in the comments below-- share your wisdom, friends and strangers!  

For now I'll leave you with a Ben Folds quote that has, predictably, taken on a whole new level of meaning since I first heard it high school (I think I first liked it because of the super-emo use of the word "shit...")      

You get smaller as the world gets big / The more you know you know you don’t know shit
— Ben Folds, Bastard


Campaign Analysis: ALS Ice Bucket Challenge


Alice, a typical American teenager, wakes up one morning, fills a bucket with ice, asks her brother to film her as she dumps the ice on her head, and then uploads the video to Facebook.  Why?  For charity, more or less.

Alice was one of 17,000 participants in the ALS ice bucket challenge, a viral, video-based campaign that raised money for ALS research during the summer of 2014.  Participants filmed and shared videos on social media (usually Facebook), and in doing so, decreased or eliminated an expected donation to ALS research (usually through the ALS Association.)  The short videos followed a set format: participants accepted the challenge, nominated three friends, and closed by dumping buckets of ice over their heads.  It’s unclear how the campaign became ALS-specific, as the ALS Association did not initiate it, and the structure of the videos did not require any mention of the cause.          


Influence Tactics Used

The Principle of Social Proof

The campaign’s presence on popular social media site, Facebook, played a huge part in activating the principle of social proof, which is also known as bandwagon and consensus effect.  To paraphrase Cialdini, a person is more likely to comply with a request when he knows that many other individuals are, or have been, complying with it.  As the campaign picked up and people saw Facebook friend after Facebook friend completing the challenge, they were more and more likely to participate when called upon.    

Opportunity for Self-Enhancement

Serena Ehrlich, Director of Social for Business Wire, calls social networks “aspirational representations of who we are.”  The ALS ice bucket challenge offered people the opportunity to enhance their identities on social media in two ways.  First, it was a fun, attention-grabbing opportunity to broadcast their altruism.  Second, it offered many people an excuse to record and share videos of themselves wearing minimal clothing, during what happened to be the height of bathing suit season.  The spread of the campaign can be largely attributed to people’s desire to look good on social media.   

Cognitive Dissonance

Cognitive dissonance occurs when there is tension between the way one wants to see oneself and the way one actually behaves.  Perloff cites dissonance theorists, who say that persuaders can evoke dissonance in individuals, motivating them to reduce the discomfort.  While specific ice bucket challengers weren’t purposely invoking dissonance for the people they challenged, the theory did apply to the basic structure of the campaign in three specific ways: reciprocity, commitment and consistency, and guilt appeals.


The videos’ format explicitly appealed to reciprocity, which “allows one individual to give something to another with confidence that it is not being lost” (Cialdini).  By stating, “I was challenged by John, and I nominate Jane, Sarah, and Tom,” the participant shows herself honoring reciprocity, and sets the same expectation for the people she is challenging.  They complete the challenge in order to eliminate the tension between thinking, “Alice reciprocated.  Alice expects me to reciprocate.  Alice can trust me to reciprocate.” and, “I did not reciprocate.  Alice can’t trust me to reciprocate.”

Commitment and Consistency

When a person is called out in a public forum, he knows that others expect him to follow through on what he has been asked to do.  This is also called hectoring, after the story from The Iliad, when Achilles stood outside the wall of Troy and repeatedly yelled Hector’s name until he came out to fight.  Facebook, especially in this digital age, acts as an important public forum, and once the challenge is on Facebook, so is the expectation to participate.  “‘People want to look good to others, so it’s hard to turn down a prosocial cause,’ Jonah Berger, the author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On, wrote in an email to The Huffington Post. ‘ALS is a great cause, so when someone asks you directly to do this, it’s hard to turn them down without seeming like a bad person.’"  Faced with seeming like a bad person to others, people will complete the challenge to eliminate potential dissonance between the thoughts, “I know I am a good person.” and, “They think I am a bad person.”

Guilt Appeal

The ALS ice bucket challenge, unlike other social viral memes like planking and the cinnamon challenge, was tied to charity, which gave people a specific reason to participate and help it spread.  Perloff, citing Basil, Ridgway, & Basil, says guilt “‘occurs when an individual notes with remorse that s/he failed to do what s/he ‘ought to’ or ‘should’ do—for example, that s/he violates some social custom, ethical or moral principle, or legal regulation.’”  When nominated, people knew the campaign was for a good cause, and that participating was the moral thing to do, so they completed the challenge to avoid guilt-based cognitive dissonance (“The ALS ice bucket challenge is for charity.  Completing it is the moral thing to do. I am moral.” versus, “I did not complete the challenge.  I am not moral.”)


Measurements of Success

Between June 1 and September 1, over 17,000 videos were shared to Facebook and over 28,000 had “joined the conversation about the ice bucket challenge including posting, commenting or liking a challenge post” according to a Facebook press release.  To measure concrete success, we must measure whether the campaign increased awareness of ALS and funding for ALS research.  

Increased Awareness

In August 2014, the English Wikipedia page for ALS was visited 2,875,160 times, a remarkable 1,760% increase from its average of 163,300 views per month.  This increase in page views doesn’t indicate how long people stayed on the page or how much information they retained, but regardless, the challenge-initiated conversation did lead to increased curiosity about the disease.

Unprecedented Funds Raised

Between July 29 and August 19, the ALS Association received $22,900,000 in donations, per a press release from the association.  This was up from $1,900,000 during the same period the previous year.  In other words, funding increased 1,205% over three weeks.  Despite any weaknesses of the campaign, this was real money—donated by real people, to help a specific cause—that would not have been donated without the ALS ice bucket challenge.


Focus on Participant, Not Cause

Because of the structure of the videos—participants mentioned who had challenged them and who they were challenging, but nothing about the purpose of the challenge—many people considered the ice bucket dump as the purpose for the campaign, while donating was an alternative, or secondary at best.  Vice’s Arielle Pardes criticized it as “a game of Would-You-Rather involving the entire internet where, appallingly, most Americans would rather dump ice water on their head than donate to charity.”

Defenders would argue that even if participants didn’t donate money, they were raising awareness.  However, because the videos did not typically include any mention of ALS as a disease worth donating to, they tended to, naturally, focus on the people making them rather than the reasons for doing so.  Will Oremus summed up this criticism, asserting, “As for “raising awareness,” few of the videos I’ve seen contain any substantive information about the disease, why the money is needed, or how it will be used. More than anything else, the ice bucket videos feel like an exercise in raising awareness of one’s own zaniness, altruism, and/or attractiveness in a wet T-shirt.”

Pardes identified this focus on one’s zaniness, altruism, and/or attractiveness under the guise of charity as the crux of millennial “hashtag activism,” where instead of actually doing something, you can just pretend like you’re doing something by posting things all over your Facebook.”

Under-Informed Altruism

The campaign spread due to its inherent sharability, rather than participants’ (even implied) dedication to finding a cure for ALS.  Responding to the socially fueled surge in financial support for ALS research, Vox published an article asserting “viral memes shouldn't dictate our charitable giving.”  It featured an infographic highlighting the discrepancies between annual charitable giving by disease type, and the number of people killed by those diseases.  According to the infographic, motor neuron disease (including ALS) had raised $22,900,000 and killed 6,849 in a year, while heart disease had raised $54,100,000 and killed 596,577.  That breaks down to $3,343.55 per person killed by ALS, versus just $90.68 per person killed by heart disease.

ALS Association’s Missed Opportunity to Raise Awareness

The ALS Association remained remarkably quiet throughout the duration of the campaign.  Though they published press releases about funds raised and sent emails to their subscribers encouraging participation, from an outsider’s perspective, they didn’t do much to manage messaging about ALS.  The organization would have likely benefitted from actively driving people to its website to learn more about ALS, where they could have shared important, targeted information about ALS, instead of losing page views to popular, yet less reliable, sites like Wikipedia.  Leading people to their site, the ALS Association may have also increased donations by including a simple call-to-action accompanying information about the disease.

Conclusion and Implications for Future Campaigns

Similar success will be difficult for other organizations to replicate.  UNICEF’s Syria appeal, for instance, did everything “right” when developing the #wakeupcall campaign.  The challenge was silly, youthful, and explicitly nominated other people to join in, just as the ice bucket challenge had.  But the web is an unforgiving place, says writer Caitlin Dewey, and only the strongest hashtags survive.  “Organic hashtags that nonprofits jump onto later — a la #icebucketchallenge — have grown up in this environment. They’ve proven that they can survive in the wild.”  In developing future charitable giving campaigns, organizations should focus on employing strong influence tactics—such as the principle of social proof, self-enhancement, and cognitive dissonance in the forms of reciprocity, commitment and consistency, and guilt appeals—rather than creating challenges to go viral.  As Dewey puts it, “You can’t make fetch happen; it has to happen on its own.”



Cialdini, Robert B. Influence: Science and Practice. Vol. 5. N.p.: Pearson Education, 2009. Print.

Ehrlich, Serena. "Business Wire Chat for USC APOC." Center for the Digital Future, Los Angeles. 3 Feb. 2015. Lecture.

Perloff, Richard M. The Dynamics of Persuasion. 5th ed. New York: Routledge, 2014. Print.

Stenovec, Timothy. "The Reasons The Ice Bucket Challenge Went Viral."The Huffington Post., 19 Aug. 2014. Web. 02 Feb. 2015.

"The Ice Bucket Challenge on Facebook." Facebook Newsroom. N.p., 18 Aug. 2014. Web. 02 Feb. 2015.

McCarthy, Niall. "Ice Bucket Challenge: ALS Wikipedia Page Views Increase 18-Fold [Infographic]." Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 08 Sept. 2014. Web. 02 Feb. 2015.

"Ice Bucket Challenge Donations Reach $22.9 Million to The ALS Association." The ALS Association. N.p., 19 Aug. 2014. Web. 02 Feb. 2015.

Pardes, Arielle. "Dumping a Bucket of Ice on Your Head Does Not Make You a Philanthropist." VICE. VICE, 13 Aug. 2014. Web. 02 Feb. 2015.

Oremus, Will. "Stop Dumping Ice on Your Head. Just Give Money." Slate. Slate, n.d. Web. 02 Feb. 2015.

Belluz, Julia. "The Truth about the Ice Bucket Challenge: Viral Memes Shouldn't Dictate Our Charitable Giving." Vox. Vox, 20 Aug. 2014. Web. 02 Feb. 2015.

Dewey, Caitlin. "Will There Ever Be Another Ice Bucket Challenge?"Washington Post. The Washington Post, 8 Oct. 2014. Web. 07 Feb. 2015.

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Prep