Stick – Part 4
What principles could help make The FAIRtax message “sticky”?
In the January 31, 2020, February 21, 2020, and May 12, 2020 Grassroots Corners, we reviewed the first 3 principles laid out in Heath, “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Take Hold, and Others Come Unstuck” (Arrow Books 2007).
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” (p18. The extra “S” at the end is added to make the acronym spell an English word).
The 1st principle is “Simplicity”, which is really finding the core idea of your message and expressing it concisely. The 2nd principle is “Unexpected”. This principle states, when we break a pattern or expectation, people pay attention. The 3rd principle is “Concrete”. Concrete is perhaps the biggest challenge to The FAIRtax, states ideas are easier to remember when tangible.
Today we examine the 4th principle. The other “C” of SUCCESS is: “Credible”. To illustrate the “Credible” principle, we look to a different book: “The Little Prince” by French satirist Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
In the story, Little Prince lives on an asteroid discovered by a Turkish Astronomer in 1905. But when the astronomer presented his finding to an international convention of astronomers, no one believed him. The astronomer wore a traditional Ottoman-Turkish headdress called a “fez”.
After the 1905 presentation, Turkey changed its rulers. The new President, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, banned the "fez" and required his citizens to wear Western dress. So, twenty years later, the same Turkish astronomer made the same presentation to the same international convention. This time, he wore a suit and no "fez". This time, everyone believed him.
The same story happened in real life during the eighties. Conventional wisdom directed duodenal ulcers resulted from a buildup of excess acid in the stomach (Heath p130). Two medical researchers in Perth, Australia, Barry Marshall and Robin Warren, identified something different. They discovered a tiny, spiral-shaped bacteria as the culprit. Antibiotics would be the easy fix.
But no one believed them. One problem was the researchers themselves (p 131). Warren was a staff pathologist at a hospital. Marshall was a thirty-year-old internist in training, not even a doctor yet.
There was another problem, location. The medical community expects important discoveries to come from Ph.D.'s at research universities and world-class medical centers. Science is science, but social snobbery did not expect science to emerge from Perth, Australia. Marshall finally had enough (p132).
Then like magic, Marshall cured himself with a course of antibiotics. Skeptics persisted, but in 1994, ten years after he drank the swamp water, the National Institutes of Health endorsed the idea antibiotics were the preferred cure for ulcers. In 2005 Marshall and Warren received the Nobel Prize.
The FAIRtax, like the Little Prince and like Marshall and Warren, has a credibility challenge. The FAIRtax is outside-the-box. It challenges peoples’ schemas and belief systems. You, as a FAIRtax Advocate, need to be credible by diverting attention away from yourself. When in the West, be an astronomer in a Western suit, not one wearing a “fez”.
Besides being personally unremarkable, what can you do to have people re-examine their belief systems? Honesty is critical. People are bombarded with messages and have learned not to trust everything they read or hear (p136).
When we advocate The FAIRtax, we must make only those claims we can back up with authority. For example, do not overstate embedded tax cost savings from The FAIRtax. Boortz made this mistake in his first book but cleaned it up in his second. If all your claims about The FAIRtax are accurate and credible, people will trust you. Citing authority, by the way, is an excellent way to be credible (p134).
Vivid details can also help with credibility, even if they do not seem directly relevant (p137). California, for example, has mountains, beaches, vibrant metropolitan centers, and a gorgeous year-round climate. These images don’t relate directly to taxes, but they do challenge peoples’ schemas when they hear folks are moving from California to Texas. If Texas had The FAIRtax, wouldn’t the trickle from California become a torrent?
We may have a “Sinatra Test“ (p151), too, to get people believing in The FAIRtax. Old Blue Eyes sang about New York, New York, “If I can make it here, I’ll make it anywhere”. STATES thrive with no personal income tax system, The FAIRtax clearly can make it everywhere. Nine of our states have no personal taxes on “earned income”, and all but two of these states also leave “unearned income” alone. Over time, these states do very well.
So, to summarize, the first 4 principles of “SUCCESS”, to make The FAIRtax idea “stickier”:
1 - Find the SIMPLE core
2 - Figure out what is UNEXPECTED about The FAIRtax message and break the audience’s guessing machine
3 - Be CONCRETE
4 - Be CREDIBLE
What is your idea for how to make The FAIRtax “Credibly sticky?”
Yours In Liberty!
AFFT Grassroots Coordinator & Secretary
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