Grassroots Corner - February 21, 2020

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  • Source: FAIRtax
  • 04/09/2021
Making The FAIRtax
Stick – Part 2

In the January 31, 2020 Grassroots Corner, we reviewed the first of 6 principles in the acronym "SUCCESS" laid out in “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Take Hold, and Others Come Unstuck”, (Arrow Books, 2007).

These are the principles which could help make The FAIRtax message “sticky”.  This week we will review the second.  Please give us your “sticky” suggestions after you read this.

In taking apart sticky ideas to figure out what made them stick, the Heath Brothers came up with 6 principles summarized by the acronym “SUCCESS” (p.18, okay, that’s 7 letters.  The extra “S” at the end is added to make the acronym spell an English word).

The first principle of "SUCCESS” is "Simplicity" - finding the core idea of your message and expressing it in a compact way.  We examined that principle last time.

The 2nd principle, the “U” of "SUCCESS", is: “Unexpected”.  At its core, the principle of “Unexpected” says, when we lay out a principle conforming to peoples’ “schemas”, (a term in psychology to describe concepts the audience already knows and understands) the consistent sensory stimulation of the schema makes people tune out (p.64).
But when we break a pattern or schema, people pay attention.
Like centering this text in the middle of the page and bolding it.

Air travelers tune out to the pre-flight safety announcement.  But flight attendant Karen Wood used a little creativity on a flight from Dallas to San Diego to get passengers’ to pay attention:

… We sure would love to point out these safety features.  If you haven’t been in an automobile since 1965, the proper way to fasten your seat belt is to slide the flat end into the buckle.

… And as the song goes, there might be fifty ways to leave your lover, but there are only six ways to leave this aircraft: two forward exit doors, two over-wing removal window exits, and two aft exit doors.

The location of each exit is clearly marked with signs overhead, as well as red and white disco lights along the floor of the aisle.   Made ya look!

Was Karen working for THE low-fare airline?   By throwing in some unexpected humor, Karen broke the passengers’ schemas.

Breaking a schema is a corollary of surprise, which makes us pay attention and think (p.68).

A TV spot made viewers think they were looking at an advertisement about a minivan called the Enclave (p.66).  The spot goes through the minivan’s features and its smooth ride as it pulls into an intersection.  Then what happens?

A speeding car barrels into the intersection and broadsides the minivan.  There is a terrifying collision with metal buckling and an explosion of broken glass.  The screen fades to black and a message appears, “Didn’t see that coming?”  The message is replaced, as the horn keeps blowing, by “No one ever does”.

The final message appears: “Buckle up … Always”.

There is no Enclave Minivan.  The ad was created by the Ad Council.  The ad broke your "car-ad schema” and captured your attention – with no gimmickry.

So to make The FAIRtax idea stickier, we need:
  1. Find the core (previous GC)
  2. Figure out what is counterintuitive about The FAIRtax message
  3. Communicate The FAIRtax message in a way breaking the audience’s guessing machine (paraphrasing p.72)

But once we get people’s attention, how can we maintain people’s attention and keep the message sticky?

Professor Robert Caldini (p.80) set out to improve the way he talked and wrote about science.  Caldini for sure found, in the good passages, clear structure, vivid examples and fluid language, but he also found something else.
The most successful passages began with a mystery.
For example, how can we account for the most spectacular planetary feature
in our solar system, the rings of Saturn?

How could 3 internationally acclaimed groups of scientists come to wholly different conclusions?   The astronomer went through all the leads and dead ends the astronomers pursued.  Do you know what the answer was at the end?  Dust – actually ice-covered dust (p.81).

Now nobody cares about dust, and the makeup of the rings of Saturn is entirely irrelevant to one’s life.  But the astronomer kept attention through 20 pages by making the prose into a mystery.

Mysteries beget curiosity, which keeps audiences riveted.  Curiosity happens because we feel a gap in our knowledge (p.84).

We knew about the rings of Saturn but didn’t know what these rings were – and why it was so difficult for experts to find the answer.  What we did not know was a gap in our knowledge (p.88).  The gap has to be pointed out, because people generally think they know more than they really do.

Remember the Curse of Knowledge and the song-tapping example from the earlier GC?  Surprisingly, people who know more are more sensitive to the gaps (pp.89-90).  One who knows, for example, the state capitals of 17 of the 50 states may be proud of her knowledge.  But someone who knows 47 of the 50 state capitals is more likely to think of herself as not knowing 3 of the state capitals.

Here is an “Unexpected” idea for The FAIRtax.

People believe sales taxes affect the poor harder than the non-poor.  For the single mom on food stamps, a sales tax on a shopping cart of groceries hits her a lot harder than it hits Jeff Bezos.  So early on in the talk or the writing, we make the bold statement The FAIRtax is a sales tax helping the poor.  There’s a schema-breaker!

We ask the audience or the reader, how could a sales tax help the poor?  Stay tuned.  We then wait until the end before we talk about the Prebate, the pre-tax reduction of prices, and the repeal of payroll taxes.

What is your idea for how to make The FAIRtax “Unexpectedly” sticky?
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Yours In Liberty!   Yours In Freedom!

Jim Bennett
AFFT Grassroots Coordinator & Secretary
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