Heading upstream

A lot of decisions that we make are based on preconceptions. We are creatures of habit and we think we know best. If something has worked for us once then we may well use it again. If it hasn’t, we probably won’t. And messages, marketing or otherwise, are screened using what has gone before (or our experience). What this means is that we have to find different and innovative ways of saying things to break down these barriers that inherently exist.

 To be innovative – we have to go ‘upstream’ if you like.

 ‘Upstream’ is a term (I like) that Dave Trott used in a talk a couple of months back at the APG on ‘The Art of Persuasion’ (It was a great talk and you can view it here). He told the story of a group of young girls in American high schools who enjoyed kissing the mirror of the restroom (It’s an American story alright!) and leaving lipstick marks. Despite protestations about the time it took the janitor to clean the mess – the kissing continued. Eventually the head teacher took the group of girls into the restroom and asked them to ‘look how long it takes to clean the lipstick marks off the mirror’. The janitor then plunged his mop into a nearby toilet bowl and scrubbed the mirror. The girls recoiled in horror. Not because of the time it took – but because of where the water was from….

 There are numerous ways to tell the same story. And different ways create different results.

 Human beings are inherently selfish. So, we need to find ways to tell stories that provide a benefit to that person if we want to convince them to do something. It’s obvious really…

 My next door neighbours had an overgrown garden. It was horrible and the weeds were growing over my fence. When I suggested that they get their landlord to come and cut it – I received no response. When on the other hand, I suggested that they might be annoyed that they couldn’t enjoy summer barbeques in the garden that their rent should cover – I found that a week later – the garden had been cleared…

 Offer a benefit otherwise people won’t bother.

 The concept of a benefit is a pretty open though. A benefit can be a piece of entertainment, some engaging content, the chance to see something etc

 Here is someone making people pay attention to something that they would normally ignore. People pay attention because something traditional is approached in a new way. The star of this show goes upstream to deliver his message. And provides a benefit to those who do in the form of entertaining content. 

Give people something that benefits them in some way and they’ll likely tell their friends. As we all know, engagement is great – but participation and conversation are better.

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