Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Contagious

Tuesday, May 16th, 2017 | Books

In Contagious: Why Things Catch On, Jonah Burger lays out his research on why some content goes viral and other content does not.

Triggers

Clever ads may get people talking in the short term. But what goes people talking in the long term? Burger argues you need a trigger.

For example, we’ve all taken the piss out of Rebecca Black’s song “Friday”. And Burger goes, too. But he also notes that it gets an incredible amount of views. Almost all of which happen on one day each week. Can you guess which one?

What is going on here? Once a week, it’s Friday. And it being Friday triggers your memory of how awful the song was. And you go watch it on YouTube.

This triggering is going on all over the place. For example, where you vote (school, church, etc.) affects how you vote.

Good advertising campaigns take advantage of this, too. For example “Have a break, have a KitKat”. Every time you have a break… Or Budweiser’s “what’s up” every time you answer the phone.

It needs to be something you run into commonly. For example, using a holiday as a trigger would be a bad idea because it comes around only once a year. Using the weekend as a trigger: much better.

It also needs to arrive at a relevant time. For example, a public service message about the importance of bathmats that shows someone slipping is of little use. Why? Because you can’t buy a bathmat when you step out of the shower. They need to slip when they are in a Bed, Bath & Beyond store.

Grow your environment

You can make your market larger, with the right message. For example, Boston Chicken. They could run an advert that said:

“Thinking about chicken? Think Boston Chicken.”

Fine. It might well capture a lot of the market for people looking for chicken. But how about:

“Thinking about dinner? Think Boston Chicken.”

Now you have cued people to think about Boston Chicken for dinner every time they drive home. Much better.

Emotion

In general, positive messages work better than negative ones. However, the situation is more complex than that. People share stories that are high arousal. This can be both positive and negative.

For example, awe and delight cause sharing. If something is amazing or really funny, you are far more likely to share it. Whereas contentment and sadness are low arousal emotions: they don’t inspire you to do anything.

On the negative side, there are two emotions that do promote arousal: anxiety and anger.

What is interesting about arousal is that you can artificially create it. If you have people do moderate exercise or jump up and down, and then look at their Facebook feed, they are more likely to share stories.

Social proof

People like to do what other people do. This is most evident in bad public service messages. “Say No To Drugs”, for example, reinforced the message that drug use was common and that all the cool kids were doing it.

Similarly, using the slogan “only 37% of people pay for music” encourages people to steal music because they feel like an idiot for buying it when everyone else is getting it from Napster.

“When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other.”

In the case of products, they need to be publicly visible to catch on. Toothpaste doesn’t usually go viral, for example. Whereas Apple’s iconic headphones did because everyone could see other people wearing them.

Practical value

People love to share things that provide practical value. Why? Association. They look smarter by sharing useful knowledge with other people. It gives them social currency.

While a silly meme may get traction in the short-term, a brilliant how-to will get milage for a long time because people will see the value in it and keep sharing.

Harnessing the value for your brand

To get value out of viral content [as a business], you need to make your brand integral to the story. For example, Golden Casino or whatever they are called sponsor a lot of stuff. But you can tell a story about someone buying a jar of air without mentioning their brand.

Contrast that with Will It Blend. We share this because it’s awe-inspiring to see a blender crush up iPhones, lighters and marbles. But, critically, you can’t tell the story without talking out the blender. And Blendtec benefits.

How to Write a Good Advertisement

Monday, May 8th, 2017 | Books, Business & Marketing

In How To Write A Good Advertisement: A Short Course in Copywriting Victor O. Schwab lays out a systematic approach to writing killer ads. That process is:

  1. Grab attention
  2. Show them the advantage
  3. Prove it
  4. Persuade people to grasp this advantage
  5. Ask for action

Each section is broken down into individual chapters. There are a lot of examples. In fact, one of the earlier chapters is just a list of a hundred effective headlines.

There is a lot of useful information in here. More importantly, it is presented in a logical narrative without the distraction of jumping around or confusing diversions.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck

Sunday, May 7th, 2017 | Books

Mark Manson came to fame because of his blogging and has since gone on to publish some bestselling books, including The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck.

His writing style shines through his book, too. It’s engaging and entertaining. You laugh at points. You identify with all of the material. It keeps you interested.

This made me think about longevity, though. Manson’s style is entertaining partly because of all the pop culture references. But a few times, it did cross my mind that in ten years time, nobody would know what he was on about. The truth is, my memory of _Everybody Loves Raymond_ is already fading.

His storytelling is compelling. I was with him on the edge of that cliff. I felt the same feelings.

He makes some good points, too. Life is about giving a fuck about the right things, and not caring about the rest. Nobody who is happy needs to stand int front of a mirror saying positive affirmations. But I think the reason you do that is that you’re not happy. And given how often our emotions are driven by our behaviour, I don’t write it off as a useless tactic.

Given all of that great delivery, though, I am wondering how much I take away from the book. He threw so many great ideas at me that I struggled to take it all in. And, which a not very conclusive conclusion, I was a little confused by the end. I’m a simple man: I need the take-home message spelling out for me. And maybe that was the title. But I would have liked a clearer finish.

This book is an entertaining and enjoyable exploration of Manson’s philosophy. Whether it helps you, I’m not sure. But you are unlikely to feel it was time wasted.

The Boron Letters

Saturday, May 6th, 2017 | Books

The Boron Letters is a series of letters written by Gary Halbert while he was in prison, to his son. It is held up as a significant piece of work in the copywriting field.

The thing I struggled to get past is that it is not discussed why Halbert was in prison. My guess is that it is something to do with fraud. Fraud from his copywriting. And therefore I am sceptical about how much to take from his work.

However, there is good stuff on here. There is a relentless focus on finding buyers, rather than making a product. Everything stems from finding the marketing opportunity first. And there is some practical advice on how to do it.

He also offers advice as to how to make someone feel special. To explain to them why they have been selected for such an amazing offer and create a sense of scarcity.

The letters made some important points. However, whether it adds as much value as books like Ca$hvertising and How To Write A Good Advertisement, I’m not sure.

A Woman in Berlin

Friday, May 5th, 2017 | Books

Let it never be said that I do not listen to my wife. Elina said I should read A Woman in Berlin and I did. And I’m glad because it is one of the most powerful books I have ever read.

It reads like a novel, but it is, in fact, a real-life memoir of a woman who lived in Berlin during the Second World War. It tells the story of the Soviet invasion and the rape of an estimated two million German women.

It’s not something you hear about a lot. We did the world wars extensively in school. But most of it focuses on the fighting, or on the British side of things. This is only to be expected when you are in Britain. And we did cover All Quiet on the Western Front, which gives a German perspective of things.

Two million is a lot of rapes, though. It seems like that deserves mention. But even in Germany, it was rarely talked about, and it was only the re-publication of this book that brought it into the spotlight.

There is not a great deal of graphic detail. It is just the story of one woman getting on with life. A life that involves having your property stolen, being taken by two soldiers on the stairs, and being forced to prostitute yourself to a Soviet officer to get protection from the rest of them.

Certainly worth a read. I even based a chunk of my 2017 public speaking world championship speech on it.

Smartcuts

Thursday, May 4th, 2017 | Books

In Smartcuts: The Breakthrough Power of Lateral Thinking Shane Show presents his ideas for her you can shortcut your way to success by working smarter, not harder.

He starts by taking about the video game Super Mario. How did his friend turn the record time for completing the game from 30 minutes to 6? He used the tubes that the game designers put in for easier testing. Whether or not this is relevant, I’m not sure. But who doesn’t love Super Mario?

Lateral thinking plays a part. For example, Great Ormond Street wanted to reduce the number of children who were dying (not that it was loads, but ideally you want it to be none). So they brought in the Ferrari Formula One pit crew. They learnt how Ferrari work seamlessly as a team and took lessons from it.

Snow argues that being the prime mover is not that important. According to his figures, only 11% first movers stay ahead in the long term. This is because fast followers can copy what has come before and are not held back by the initial technical problems.

He also makes a case for pattern spotting. The best surfers spend a long time learning to spot the perfect wave so that when it comes, they know which one to hit. Similarly, as an entrepreneur, you need to be able to spot the best opportunities so that you can ride the wave of success without wasting time on those that will take you nowhere.

Mentoring is also important. Find someone who has the success you want, and get their advice.

It’s an interesting read, but I’m not sure I took a huge amount away from it. I normally have a lot of notes at the end of a book, and I didn’t have a huge amount from Smartcuts. But maybe I just need to re-read it to take it all in.

Do More, Worry Less published

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017 | Books, News

I’m pleased to announce the launch of Do More, Worry Less: Small Steps to Reduce Your Anxiety. As of yesterday, it is available in the Worfolk Anxiety web store, as well as via Amazon and iTunes.

Like any book, it takes a long time to put together. Arguably, this was a quick one: it’s taken me over six months, but the restaurant guide took years. However, it has been a long time in the making. The research in the book has taken years to accumulate. And there is a lot of it. 291 footnotes and citations to be exact.

The book takes you on a journey, exploring what anxiety is, why it prevents us from reaching our goals and the proven strategies and tactics to overcome these problems and hit your targets. It then explores every aspect of lifestyle: exercise, diet, sleep, relaxation, personal growth, relationships and community to find the things that improve your mental health and what to do about them.

You can find out more about the book here.

Introducing the Human Baby Cookbook

Saturday, April 1st, 2017 | Books, News

Unlock the secrets to cooking human baby with this beautifully presented new cookbook.

Been tempted to try the other other white meat, but been confused by unclear instructions, endless barbeque sauce choices and the law? Never fear: let us take you by the hand. Learn how to buy, prepare and cook a meat that is abundant, sustainable and environmentally friendly.

This no-expense-spared hardback edition contains 31 delicious recipes, each illustrated with a full-page full-colour edge-to-edge photograph.

For anyone who considers themselves a foodie, this is a must by. Nobody could possibly walk past your bookshelf without commenting!

Order your copy now for £29.99 (plus shipping).

Influence: The Science of Persuasion

Sunday, March 19th, 2017 | Books

I will admit it: I’ve been a bit prejudice. When I was recommended a book called Influence: The Science of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini, I thought to myself “wow, that is a very Machiavellian-sounding name.

However, as I read the introduction to the book, I was soon corrected. Cialdini is a professor at Arizona State University. His research on influence stems from his own confusion as to how he continues to end up with magazine subscriptions, kitchen appliances and charity direct debits that he never wanted.

He is an academic, trying to make sense of a world in which compliance professionals (sales people, charity chuggers, marketers) keep hoodwinking him. Of course, a true master of the Machiavellian art would disarm me by leading to believe this. But, if so, fair play: I’m sold.

He did his homework, applying for sales jobs and following people around to see how they worked. In the book, he describes many commonplace situations that many of us have probably found ourselves in. Everyone should read this book, if only to understand what has happened to us so many times over the years.

He breaks the tactics down into a series of topics. I will discuss some of the most interesting below.

Contrast principle

Sell someone a less expensive item after selling them something big. For example, why are extras on cars so expensive? The answer is that once you have spent £20,000 on a new car, £500 for a slightly-better-looking tyre seems like small change.

Reciprocity

When we are given a gift, we feel an obligation to give back. It is wired into us. This is a tactic used relentlessly by the Hari Krishna movement. They thrust a free gift into your hand, and then ask for a donation later.

I have a copy of the Bhagavad Gita on my shelf. And yes, I gave the guy a donation after he gave it to me.

It even works when you do not want the gift. At airports, Cialdini observed the Kristina’s in operation, scooping their gifts out of the bins people had thrown them in, to re-use on the next target.

I also fell for this in Milan. Around the major squares are groups of African men who put bracelets on tourists and then ask for money. Before I knew what was happening, there was a bracelet on my risk. And yes, I did give him a euro.

Cialdini points out that the defence strategy we most often use is to steer a wide mark around such people. Why? Because it is to hard to resist our natural urge to give back.

Concession

Concession is about asking for more than you want and then backing down. Say you want to borrow £50. Ask for £100. Then, when they say no, ask for just £50. Because you have made a confession, the other person will feel like they have to make a concession also. It also makes them feel like they have set the terms.

This can often be seen in extended warranties. “Do you want the 5-year super-protect plan? No? Okay, just the 3-year basic plan then?”

Declarations

Companies love to get you to declare that you like their product? Why? Because people are driven to act in a way consistent with what they have said.

Charities do this all of the time. They will give you a free sticker or ask you to sign up for free information. Why? Because once you have expressed that you are in some way a supporter of them, when they ask you for money, you are far more likely to feel you have to.

Written commitments are the best. These were used extensively by the Chinese communists during the Korean war. They would get American prisoners of war to write essay contests and give away small prizes. Once someone wrote something positive amount communism, they would have them read the essay out. Maybe even put it on the camp radio. Step by step, American soldiers were broken down as their guards asked for more and more.

Likability

Bad times for ugly people: being attractive helps. People are more likely to help out and be more generous to attractive people. Shared interests are important too. Salespeople love to find out your hobbies so that they can pretend they do them too.

Similarity is a big key here. You identify with people similar to yourself. So, if you want to market to a certain demographic, you need to use an actor from that demographic.

Finally, compliments are also powerful. Cialdini tells the story of a car salesman who earned more than almost anyone at the entire company. What was his secret? Every month he sent a postcard to all of his previous customers with three words on the front: “I like you”.

Summary

Compliance professionals are experts at getting us to do what they want. We do this because we work on auto-response. There is too much data in the world for us to sort through all decisions and check everyone’s back stories. So we use social cues to shortcut these decisions. Salespeople know we do this and try and exploit it.

Cialdini suggests the best defence is to listen to your gut. If you feel awkward, even if you cannot describe why it may be that you have been pressured into doing something you did not want to do. If so, follow Cialdini’s example and say “I’m not taking your product: no click wurr for me!”

Amazing Malaysian

Friday, March 17th, 2017 | Books, Food

Malaysia is a cool country when it comes to culinary history. They have the Malay people, along with large minority populations of Indian and Chinese people. They also have colonial influences from the British and Portuguese. Their food is almost fusion in itself.

I also like that they do not worry too much about food being hot: it all gets served together. This is nice because serving scorching hot food is, quite frankly, a hassle. A hassle worth going to when the food calls for it, but in this case, it is fine to let rice steam for 15 minutes after cooking.

The narrator is Norman Musa. He hails from Penang, but is better known for Ning restaurant in Manchester.

Most of the recipes followed a set pattern. You would start by blitzing a mixture of ingredients: typically chilli, garlic, cinnamon, star anise and onion (or not, in my case) then mixing it with some ground cinnamon and a pandan leaf, before frying it and adding some meat.

It turns out that you can get pandan leaf in Leeds. Many of the other rare ingredients we were unable to procure. Musa also uses dried chilis in most of his recipes. We managed to pick up a bag of a few hundred at the international supermarket.

Fish pate. I have no idea if I was doing this correctly.

Indian lentil patties.

Spicy baked haddock.

Beef with pineapple.

Beef with tomatoes.

Aromatic chicken curry.

Beef with rice.