Ben Parr - Captivology

2015-Mar-22

Ben Parr (Wikipedia) is a journalist, VC and entrepreneur. In March 22, he presented his book Captivology at Rainbow Mansion, the intentional community shared by young technology workers from the likes of NASA, Google or Apple.

Below are my notes.

Due to information overload, attention is a precious currency. We live in an attention economy. How can one capture their fellow's attention?

There are seven attention triggers

  1. Automaticity
  2. Framing
  3. Disruption
  4. Reward
  5. Reputation
  6. Mystery
  7. Acknowledgement

1. Automaticity

We automatically respond to stimuli we've associated with situation needed an urgent reaction - for example red traffic lights. As a hitchhiker, wearing red or yellow will boost your changes to get a ride, by as much as 60% for women.

Orange and yellow correlate worst with competence. Blue teal best.

2. Framing

A New York subway violinist does not play at rush hour because the audience's mindset is "in a rush to work". Instead, she lays from 10am to 3pm, and in the middle of the hallway so people have about 30 seconds to listen before they get to her and stop.

Understand and adapt to the frame of your audience.

3. Disruption

Violate expectations, aka the bizarreness effect. Example: Patagonia's "don't but this jacket" campaign doubles sales. Old spice had a similar campaign.

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Be careful: the disruption must match your brands values. Quizno's weird ad featuring rodents around food backfired. Nationwide kills children was another recent controversial ad.

4. Reward

Dopamine creates wanting. Scopely ran a highly unusual campaign to get software engineers, including rewarding them with a harpoon gun. Incentives are least effective. Surprising rewards work best. See also Random reinforcement.

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5. Reputation

We pay most attention to "experts". A doctor's coat increases attention and memory even if the subject wears it! Academics are 2x more credible than CEOs (1 or 2). Smart brands leverage outside experts. The crowd is also an expert.

See the directed deference concept in Cialdini's work.

6. Mystery

The Cloverfield trailer make no mention of a movie name.

Memory is better for incomplete tasks. This was evidenced by recall tests done on subjects asked to complete puzzles. Those woh has their puzzles taken away midway remembered the puzzle better. Suspense and cliffhangers work.

When issuing am apology, close all questions, leave no suspense. Create closure - the story will die. AirBnb learned this the hard way after their first scandal. Airbnb's response to the 2014 orgy scandal was much more mature than their response to the apartment trashing scandal in 2011.

7. Acknowledgement

People pay attention to those who pay attention to them. An experiment was done on married women, who were subjected to electric shocks applied to their ankles. The women were divided in three groups: one group were alone; another held a stranger's hand; another held their husband's hand. The latter group reported the least pain. Plus, the level of pain reported correlated inversely with the strength of the marriage - the happier the marriage, the less pain the women reported.

Buzzfeed acknowledges their audience all the time with articles like "X facts Minnesotans are proud of".

Parasocial relationship, the fascination we develop with celebrities, are strengthened by interacting even with a very small part of the fan base. Taylor Swift filmed herself sending gifts to some fans and posted the video. That "scaled the inscalable". Even though she sent gifts to only a few fans, all of her audience felt great (the video alone has 16 million views).

Validate your audience, involve them.

Recipes sell better when they involve having to do some work. E.g. a cake recipe that shipped with powdered eggs (perfectly equivalent to fresh eggs for the purpose of the recipe) sold worse than the equivalent recipe that required having fresh eggs instead of egg powder (too uninvolved).

See the Exploding Kittens game campaign on Kickstarter.

Eliminate the paradox of choice

Decision-making requires effort. After making three choices, attention drops. To teach boring stuff, guide your audience on one line. See Dr. John Sweller's work - cognitive load theory.

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