Monday, June 7, 2010

Learn how seven triggers pique our fascination

Author Sally Hogshead explores the fascinating world of fascination.


Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation 

Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation. Sally Hogshead. HarperCollins. 266 pages.

Gotta love somebody who takes a funky name and revels in it a la Smuckers. On her website, marketer, consultant and author Sally Hogshead proclaims, "A hogshead is a barrel that holds 62 gallons. So what's your name, smartass?'' I do know what a "Pachter'' is, by the way, but as impressive as the use of her distinctive name is, I was equally captivated by this interesting tome — with some reservations. We'll get to those in a bit, but first ...

For some, the best parts of a business book are the anecdotes and examples. As Hogshead wends her way around the world of fascination, her citations are funny and apt, even educational. She looks for things that elicit fascination and delves into such areas as fetishes, sexual attraction and ovulation — just to get warmed up.

Then she goes all over the virtual landscape, from Marilyn Monroe's "wet'' voice, to Godiva chocolate, to Ginsu knives, to the failure of the DARE program and beyond, as she identifies the seven "triggers'' for fascination: "Lust: why we're seduced by the anticipation of pleasure; Mystique: why we're intrigued by unanswered questions; Alarm: why we take action at the threat of negative consequences; Prestige: why we fixate on symbols of rank and respect; Power: why we focus on the people and things that control us; Vice: why we're tempted by 'forbidden fruit;' and Trust: why we're loyal to reliable options.''

None of these things, as you might notice, are associated with logic or reasoning. On the contrary, they are all highly emotional and, at times, irrational. After all, smart salespeople understand that prospects often make decisions based on intuitive and non-cognitive reasons, then use facts and "needs'' to justify their purchase.

Hogshead (the name also pops up in a Beatles song, by the way) is a sly and facile writer, and manages to keep things interesting as she flits and flies through her fascinating landscape. No surprise, she's also pop-culture-savvy and endlessly self-referential and self-deprecating.

When you read a book by an agency owner or consultant, you are frequently seeing an extended brochure for their products and services. That isn't necessarily the case here, though I'm confident that she would be happy to trigger a few inquiries.

The book closes with a number of assessments and exercises designed for businesses seeking to identify the elements of their enterprises that might be used to bring them to the forefront of fascination, plus a survey she commissioned on (what else?) fascination.

Despite her best intentions, I question, however, how smaller firms and individuals can apply this stuff to their work and lives without adding a veneer of bovine excrement to the mis en scène. It's not for lack of trying on Hogshead's part, but it would seem like artifice and inauthenticity, perhaps, to a small businessperson who's already in perpetual survival mode.

Regardless, Fascinate is a fascinating book and even if you don't use its how-to formula for manufacturing mystiques, it's still a lot of fun to ride along with Sally.

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