Fascinate

One of the problems with business is that everyone has an answer. We earn our reputations and make our way up the greasy pole by solving problems – no regional head of sales wants to hear that your retailers aren’t interested in your product; no creative director wants to hear that it’s hard to come up with a new concept; no account director wants to hear that the client isn’t being clear. We want answers and we want them now, and if you can’t give me an answer, I’ll find ten people who can.

As a result, there are a lot of books that purport to tell you why things are the way they are. Got a problem selling? Got a problem buying? Got a problem thinking? Got a problem managing? Everyone’s got an opinion.

Which is why its really unfair when a book like Sally Hogshead’s Fascinate comes along – because she really does have answers, answers you can really use – and yet they’re apt to get lost in all the clutter and noise and crap yelling at you from the bookshelf.

So let’s see if we can rectify that a bit.

The genius here isn’t simply in the initial observation – you want to really connect with people, you need to fascinate them. Don’t get me wrong – that’s certainly a fair enough insight in it’s own right. But as someone who has read more than his fair share of these types of books, this is usually about as far as most of them tend to go. What makes this book so different, so important, and so valuable, is the rigorous way she breaks everything down into pieces so you can actually see how it works, see why it’s important, and see how to make it work for you.

Ms. Hogshead starts by using “fascination” as a sort of umbrella term to discuss the many deeply emotional qualities that attract people to other people, to movements, to objects – qualities that trump our logic and reason.

Then she breaks that term into seven component “triggers” which she then spends the bulk of the book diving deeper into – to explore their meaning and use. With examples drawn from marketing, popular culture, psychology, history and beyond, she brings these triggers to life in ways that not only illustrates, but convinces.

The book’s final section is where Ms. Hogshead really shines by taking “fascination” to the next level and showing you how to activate everything she’s explained thus far. For example, there is an online test you can take to see which triggers work best for you and in what order. And there are the “fascination” seminars and workshops she gives all around the world – that she gives you a taste of here.

In other words, Fascinate isn’t just an answer. It’s a strategy for success.

Now, if all you did was take this book personally – use the advice on how to make yourself more compelling – it would have provided a useful service. But that would overlook another aspect to “fascination” that Ms. Hogshead is just as concerned with – and which has unique resonance for those of us in the advertising business. Namely, the way you can apply her thinking to the brands and products you’re trying to make compelling to the public at large.

Because while Ms. Hogshead is not the first to draw the connection between the personalities of people and the personalities of products, it is testimony to the robustness of her thinking that the principles she describes work equally well for both. Or said another way, the marketer who fails to use her thinking for their brand does so at their peril.

Obviously, there’s a lot here – and what’s more, it’s the kind of book that you can go back to again and again in order to brush up on some of the insights you’ve grown rusty on, and to remind yourself, for example, how certain triggers work. And while books that you can refer back to are often thought of as dull and tedious (I think they call them “reference books”), Fascinate is anything but. Ms. Hogshead’s prose is entertaining and compelling and is peppered with footnotes and asides that will make you smile and at times laugh out loud. It’s like having a friend at your elbow as you read.

An eminently fascinating friend, to be sure…

Fascinate by Sally Hogshead was published by Harper Business on 2/9/10 – order it from Amazon here or from Barnes & Noble here – or pick it up at your local bookseller ( find one here). 

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