Counting the Facebook Change: WATtapping

Let’s use Facebook to shoot fish in a barrel. Instead of trying to get Other Guys to hit a TACT that requires them to leave their app ‘n iGizmo, get dressed, and go out in the Local called reality, let’s hit the WATtapping TACT. While sitting in their preferred Digirati attire with their favorite app ‘n iGizmo, let’s run a Facebook persuasion campaign that only requires WATtapping for everything including your product or service. Everything about this persuasion is only digital.

Consider this convenient case.

20 Dollar FB Ad Experiment

An online marketer discloses how he counted the change with only a $20 ad campaign with Facebook. While he calls this an experiment, it is not. There’s no treatment group that gets Something and a control group that gets Something Else or even Nothing. He runs the same ad for everyone then observes what happens. If anything positive happens, you can call the intervention some kind of success, but compared to anything else, who knows? But, to his everlasting credit, he does offer details of his study and I think he’s telling the truth.

He begins with a population of Other Guys who are already his Facebook fans. They follow his work through Facebook. Already. As Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook CEO, might put it, they are Leaning In. For this intervention he wants his fans to hit the TACT called “enrolling in my 7-Day Free MLM Boot Camp.” This boot camp is apparently an online text description of how to be more successful at marketing. He creates an ad for this TACT through the Facebook Sponsored Ads program and the ad goes out to his existing fans (approximately 7700) and their friends (about another 17,000 people). Here’s what he gets.

20 Dollar FB Ad Results

He gets 19 new leads and converts 4 to hit the TACT. And remember, to hit the TACT all the Other Guys have to do is WATtap a couple of times and they are enrolled in the Free 7-Day Boot Camp which they can then WATtap through at their leisure. They don’t have to get dressed and leave the house or even put down their iGizmo. They don’t even have to pay for anything whether with PayPal or BitCoin or a credit card number. Just point and click, WATtap. And these guys were Leaning In.

This marketer then repeats his experiment several times with pretty much the same results. A handful of Other Guys (existing fans) who got a persuasive message to hit a WATtap TACT actually exert enough energy to click a mouse button a few times. He asserts that he does make money from this activity through affiliate sales which means he takes the new contact information he garnered and sells that to someone else who then bombards the hapless new Other Guy with emails for products and services that have nothing to do with the Free 7-Day Boot Camp. The marketer does not detail how much money this generates, but confidently asserts that he will recoup his advertising cost within a few weeks. Past recouping the advertising cost, the online marketer is silent.

As I noted earlier, I believe this guy largely because the results are so bad that anyone who would fess up to this has got to be honest.

Consider the Local.

Start with Other Guys who already know you and “like” you.

Hit them and their friends (hey, friends with benefits, right) with a simple message making a free offer.

All anyone ever has to do is click on a link. That’s all the energy behavior of this TACT requires.

For twenty bucks you get four or five new contacts you can then monetize through the work of somebody else. Maybe. Hopefully. Probably.

That’s Facebook persuasion for you. For 20 dollars you can hit nearly 25,000 Other Guys (your fans and their friends) who are already leaning in your direction and get 4 or 5 clicks with a new email address. And, if all goes according to plan, somebody else will someday send you some money that will cover your $20 persuasion budget.

Let’s enjoy this case study as persuasion panthers. You’ve convinced guys like this online marketer that Facebook persuasion works. He gives you $20 right now regardless of any outcome. You put that in your bank along with the thousands of other marketers like this guy. This guy comes back several times with these small budget persuasion experiments. You always cash his check before anything happens and regardless of what happens you get his money.

And, guess what? You get to watch the results of this guy’s experiment (and all those other marketing guys doing these small budget persuasion experiments) and you have even more data about it than you give him and the others. You get to learn about Facebook persuasion without having to pay anything for it. In fact, you get paid to observe this! Most importantly, you learn how to set the price point for small budget Facebook persuasion experiments so that you attract and keep these guys coming back for more. You run your own experiments with the kind of information you provide and what kind of Pretty Pictures you give and you automate this process so that every hour of every day you get a ticker tape feed.

Then you take the results from all these small budget persuasion experiments, combine them into types and segments and case studies and use that information to demonstrate the effectiveness of Facebook persuasion to other Sauds and Aleuts with larger budgets, showing them what works and doesn’t work.

Then the bigger fish put down larger budgets, doing pretty much what this one independent online marketer does but with Kate Upton or Jay-Z or a riff from a Rolling Stones or Beatles song and probably gets slightly better results than this experiment because the Big Boys at the Big Marketing Cool Table are a lot smarter than this online marketer.

That and Kate Upton.

Count the change, vampires. Count the change. Even in this small, homegrown example, a Facebook persuasion play should be shooting small fish in a small barrel, yet you can’t find a sardine in the can. Good grief, you couldn’t construct a better test of the persuasion power of Facebook than this beautifully simple, direct, and almost sincere application. And you get trivial changes that are coming in at break even costs. This online marketing guy is humping a lot of expense himself in this operation and is not including them in his calculations.

You see the persuasion with Facebook. It’s what they do to you to get the change they can count. And this only occurs because Facebook enjoys a jungle with few competitors. Right now, Google is still the lion with Facebook barely a hyena in the advertising hunt. And the existence of just these two killers is destroying the price structure for their advertising rates. A third killer would only further erode price and profits. Twitter, anyone?

Now we’re talking competition or else getting caught in price-fixing which Do No Evil Google will never do. Ad prices fall farther and maybe our online marketing guy and the dentist make a real penny of profit on a twenty dollar persuasion campaign.

Everyone keeps believing that apps ‘n iGizmos are a persuasion machine just like newspaper ads and radio ads and TV ads were and, while reduced, still are. iAds never count much change when you do a hard count on that change. I’m sure that Facebook has a couple of amazing slides on experimental persuasion campaigns they ran, but that’s taking the top of the distribution out of the meta-analysis. Add in all the Facebook experiments and give me that mean.

If you are buying persuasion, the last thing you can permit is for the Other Guy to run persuasion on you. Count the change.

the Cold Pressor Persuasion Play©™® with John Cheever

You may know John Cheever’s name from an infamous episode of TV comedy series, Seinfeld, where everyone discovered that George Costanza’s father-in-law had had a brief gay fling with Cheever as revealed in a box of letters, the only surviving item from a cabin fire set from Kramer’s Cuban cigars. John Cheever was a great writer who received a Pulitzer Prize in 1979 for his book of short stories. He was also a persuasion theorist.

A family is meeting at their summer vacation cottage on the Atlantic in New England. Like most families, there remains ancient tensions between adult siblings and one in particular drives everyone else to frustration. Yet, as Cheever the persuasion theorist reveals, they stumble upon a persuasion play as this paragraph narrates.

And now I remember that while Lawrence was visiting us, we went swimming oftener than we usually do, and I think there was a reason for this. When the irritability that accumulated as a result of his company began to lessen our patience, not only with Lawrence but with one another, we would all go swimming and shed our animus in the cold water. I can see the family now, smarting from Lawrence’s rebukes as they sat on the sand, and I can see them wading and diving and surface-diving and hear in their voices the restoration of patience and the rediscovery of inexhaustible good will.

Goodbye, My Brother, page 10, The Stories of John Cheever.

This, of course, is a variation on the cold pressor task so beloved of behavioral researchers. Just insert your body or a part in freezing water. If you’ve never fallen into a winter creek, you have no idea how compelling the cold pressor task is. It dominates you like Mike Tyson back in the day.

Typically the task is employed as the first independent variable in a study. You complete informed consent and stick your arm in that bucket. Then after a bit, you do something else, most often the dependent variable, such as watch the monitor that shows your blood pressure elevating like a rocket. Here we see Cheever as theorist perceiving the cold pressor task as something that modulates an existing condition. When unhappy Other Guys willingly go for a swim – which is a cold pressor task – they will emerge from the freezing brine with a new and favorable attitude!

The trick here is to get the Other Guy to willingly engage in a cold pressor task. Cheever’s argument is that if you can get her willingly in the water, she will change. Sure, you can get compliance in the lab with money or credit, but in the Local called the mess of life? This, of course, is where we separate the mavens from the muggles.

Here’s how I’ve done it with Melanie.

I use this persuasion play when it is either raining or cold and we’re having an argument. We’ve gotten stuck in the mud of grievance with neither party having the willingness or ability to turn the other cheek which means a Long Night ahead. So, I dare Melanie to take off her clothes and run around the outside of the house, naked, with me. As I make this dare, I strip. Melanie cannot resist a dare and also finds the sight of me naked and unmanned to be funny. By now she is undressing and giggling and putting on a pair of sneakers, then we’re out the door. I surprise her, I challenge her, and, sigh, I amuse her into the cold and wet.

I wish we’d learned the Cold Pressor Persuasion Play®™© when we were first married. Then we employed all the conflict management tactics from the interpersonal communication and human relations and counseling literature. Lots of listening. Active and reflective listening. Perception checking, I hear you saying. Descriptive feedback. Yada-yada. Still produced a lot of Long Nights. Racing your naked spouse in the rain around the house on a cold night works much faster.

Now, we have lived almost all of our married life out in the woods with no neighbors nearby. If you live in the city or a tight suburban tract, you might want to think carefully about running outside your house naked with your significant other. You might modify this play to include squirt guns filled with cold water for example. Or jumping into a cold shower together. That’s your challenge. As the Rule says:

Drive with Science, Putt with Poetry.

The science of the Cold Pressor Persuasion Play©™® demonstrates that it really changes the Other Guy, but the poetry of the play is getting her willingly wet. Now, if I knew the circumstances of your Local, I might be able to make suggestions, but do you really want me to know you and yours that well?


P.S. What’s great about the science of the Cold Pressor Persuasion Play©™® is that even when you know why you are doing it, it will still make a change you can count on. Often awareness of the persuasion principle kills the play; not with this one.

P.P.S. This is a type of Embodiment Persuasion effect. Change the outside to change the inside.

An Acxiom to Grind

While reading the morning papers I found this interesting paragraph.

In March, Acxiom published a white paper describing this process, along with the results of a study it conducted of banner-ad campaigns by more than 50 companies over roughly two years. It found that, on average, the ads drove $9 of sales for every dollar spent – primarily in physical stores.

Hey, some real live research on digital marketing from a Big Marketer we’ve seen before, Acxiom. Sure, it’s only a White Paper for Thought Leadership, meaning it is a General Semantics Persuasion Play®™© wherein you eat the White Paper thinking you’ve consumed Thought Leadership when you’ve just had a glass of Peitho Diet Water©™®. But, still. It’s getting quoted in the Wall Street Journal and it is available online.

Except it isn’t.

On Monday April 14, 2014 I repeatedly tried to access this White Paper along with various other examples of Acxiom Thought Leadership and kept hitting a 403 Access Forbidden page. Then I noticed something even more entertaining. Consider this screen shot (click to enlarge).

Acxiom White Paper Comments

This from the White Paper landing page at Acxiom. On this page Acxiom quietly extols its Thought Leadership on all things marketing with an emphasis upon digital while leading you to 403 Forbidden Access and an active comment function that markets . . . other marketers!

Shaego! Breastpumps! BillionaireBrains! And some even have active links to spam farms!

Acxiom provides an advertising platform for the lowest kind of persuasion on the web. No human edits the comments, apparently that function is handled by a super secret Acxiom PHP script adapted from its marketing system. All digital, all the time with no human intelligence ever needed! Just like Acxiom marketing. Or Thought Leadership!

You could call this a Persuasion Engine . . . running in reverse.

Yeah. Big Data. Big Analytics. Big Social Media. Big Marketing. This. Changes. Everything.

P.S. The WSJ article describes Acxiom experiments which follow the Cascade from Exposure to actual purchase Behavior in a store. Acxiom randomly (!!!) assigned Other Guys to either Ad or No Ad and then tracks out to purchase. Acxiom has so much data from so many sources that it can measure most of the stages of the Cascade with linked data (anonymous, of course!) making it possible to follow persuasion from beginning to end. The article asserts from reading the 403 Forbidden White Paper that $9 of in-store sales flow from every $1 of advertising. Really. Pay $1 and get $9 in sales. Really.

I’d like to believe that all of this is true, the experiments, the tracking through the Cascade, the 9 to 1 return, but then I see that White Paper page that leads to 403 Forbidden Access and a comment function that delivers more spam than Hormel sells in a year. How can Acxiom be all things wise and digital and present a web page that functions this badly? And, if this is what their own web work looks like, can you trust their databases, their experiments, their analyses, their White Papers?

P.P.S. Or, maybe Acxiom truly knows the Queen of Tomorrow and behaves this badly to throw everyone else of the scent? I’m the persuasion genius who looks like the persuasion idiot so you don’t realize just how dangerous I really am!

Pedaling Persuasion

While dreaming of persuasion . . .

Smoking tobacco is the single biggest risk for premature morbidity and mortality in the US. While a small percentage of smokers will show few negative effects, most smokers will die 8-10 years sooner than nonsmokers and with many more preceding years of ill health.

Smoking is also a blast. You look cool as hell. You get to use cool as hell gadgets. You get the thrill from the nicotine. You create fabulous moments as when the glow of the cigarette illuminates the curve of your lover lying beside you.


Biking is the most dangerous form of personal transportation in the US. Biking takes a trivial amount of both transportation time and distance, but accounts for 2% of transportation fatalities.

The 677 pedal cyclist deaths in 2011 accounted for 2% of all traffic fatalities during the year.

And as bad as that is, biking kills at much younger ages, even younger than smoking. Biking is overwhelming attractive to the same kind of personality that like to smoke, males who like risks. You see that in the fatalities, almost always men who have safer options but pick biking instead. Consider this appeal for a charity bike run.

Assault on the Carolinas

Biking is also a blast. You look cool as hell in those bad black spandex outfits. You get to use cool as hell gadgets. You get the thrill from the pump. You create fabulous moments as when the glare of an on-coming headlight illuminates the curve on which you will die.

Like smoking, biking is a public health menace and should be banned.

Hey. How come bikes aren’t inspected every year? They run on the same roads as cars. How about this? Require odometers and usage clocks on all licensed bikes. We can collect good data (maybe even Big Data!) on actual usage then have a better base rate to run fatality and injury incidents against. Who is against a scientific study that counts the change with usage and biking death or disability?

Still not convinced? Let’s try this persuasion.

In 2011, 677 lost their lives in bicycle/motor vehicle crashes, just under two people every day of the year in the U.S. While lower than the 732 fatalities in 2001, this number represents an increase from the 618 bicyclist fatalities reported in 2010.

Now. Compare that to this.

In 2010, unintentional firearm injuries caused the deaths of 606 people.18

More people are killed in biking accidents than in firearm accidents! And more people have accidental “access” to guns than have accidental “access” to biking. Think about it. Best guess is that about 40% of American households have a gun in them which means a possible gun accident every day for over 125 million household occupants.

By contrast, a recent population survey of bike riding found 18% of people 16 and older rode a bike at least once in the year which means at least once a year 60 million people were at risk of a biking accident. Please model out however you wish those 60 million people and how many days they biked. But by any count it will be less than the daily exposure to a gun in the house with 125 million people. Yet the number of deaths are almost equal. At minimum given the numbers on exposure we’ve got here, accidental deaths from biking are at least twice as high as from gun, a near Medium Windowpane.

We need gun control (that cannot get passed for a variety of persuasion muggle reasons), but for a risk that is at least twice as large as the risk of accidental death from a gun, people demand more biking!

. . . awakening I wonder whether I’ve been dreaming or have just opened my eyes.

Doing Fear Appeals Effectively

Every muggle knows the overwhelming persuasive impact of fear appeals. Just scare the Other Guy and you will get a change you can count. Of course, when you actually do count the change you typically find almost no change to count. Yet muggles persist (warning labels, anyone?) in declaring and doing something that is disproven.

Until now. Here’s the best available evidence we’ve got for understanding fear appeals and, better still, for doing them effectively. This comes courtesy of a recent meta-analysis of experimental (!!!) studies published in Psychological Bulletin. If you do anything remotely approaching fear appeals (risk appraisal, for example), you need to read this paper and carefully. Again, I want to underline that the studies included in this meta are experiments which provides not only control, but clarity, for understanding this surprisingly complex and tricky persuasion play.

The authors essentially replicate the problems we’ve noted with other fear appeal studies or metas. First, a fear appeal has several moving parts, not just one, and those several individual moving parts typically show Small Windowpane effects on outcomes like intention or behavior. You might recall a previous meta we discussed on the Health Beliefs Model that found this same outcome. Any one moving part is weakly related to the TACT you want to hit. Here’s that same analysis in this meta of experimental studies.

Risk Meta Table 3 Effect Sizes

I’ve highlighted the d effects (Small = .2, Medium = .5, Large = .8) for both intention and behavior. All are in that Small+ range which means there’s something going on, but you have to count carefully. So far, we’ve got nothing new. Then the authors start testing the impact of interactions between the individual moving parts of a fear appeal. This table provides a nice illustration.

Risk Meta Interactions

Take a minute and read each panel to get oriented because each panel is presenting an interaction between two variables. The y-axis reports the d effect size for behavior change. The x-axis displays the level of one moving part (e.g. heightened risk perception) and at the top of the panel you find the second variable (e.g. perceived severity). The interaction clearly demonstrates that while any one part may have little or no effect, when you properly combine them, you’ve got some change to count. It’s still Small+, but you see what kills fear appeals. When you fail at one moving part, it reduces the effectiveness of other moving parts.

That point is made most strongly with this table. It focuses upon two prominent variables Kim Witte has been pounding on since the 1990s and her EPPM, response efficacy and self efficacy.

Risk Meta Coping Efficacy

Please note that far right panel with the proper combination of response and self efficacy. That’s a Medium+ Windowpane on intention and a Small+ Windowpane on behavior. The researchers note other combinations and provide this compelling summary.

Crucially, the impact of heightened risk appraisals was boosted when self-efficacy or response efficacy was enhanced, or when response costs were reduced. In fact, the largest effect sizes in the review obtained when interventions heightened risk appraisals, response efficacy, and self-efficacy simultaneously ( d+ = 0.98 and 0.45 for intentions and behavior, respectively).

When you do fear appeals correctly and implement all the moving parts, you can get Large intention change and Medium behavior change. Here’s how the researchers put it.

The theoretical significance of these findings resides in the empirical support they appear to offer key ideas in the EPPM and early versions of PMT. Both of these theories predicted interactions between risk appraisal and coping appraisal but, with the exception of G.-J. Y. Peters et al. (2012), evidence for such interactions has proven elusive ( Maloney et al., 2011; Ruiter, Verplanken, De Cremer, & Kok, 2004; Witte & Allen, 2000). By meta-analyzing a larger number of interventions than was available heretofore, and by restricting analyses to interventions that generated significant effects on risk appraisals or coping appraisals, the present review enabled us to undertake relevant empirical tests. The findings not only supported the broad hypothesis that risk and coping appraisal combine to influence outcomes but also indicated the specific elements of risk and coping appraisal that are important. In particular, both risk perception and perceived severity effects were augmented by elements of coping appraisal; and response efficacy, self-efficacy, and response costs each augmented the impact of elements of risk appraisal.

Underline that last sentence.

In particular, both risk perception and perceived severity effects were augmented by elements of coping appraisal; and response efficacy, self-efficacy, and response costs each augmented the impact of elements of risk appraisal.

All that is a fear appeal that works. Anything less than all that is what you get with the FauxItAll clamor from the Cool Table with warning labels, scared straight, and Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God: Nothing. Fear appeals are not as simple as they sound or as simple as common sense would have them be. Kim Witte’s EPPM describes all this in great detail and with excellent practical illustration. The problem is that most people don’t execute the EPPM correctly.

On purely a practical basis, you can understand my cringing reluctance to use fear appeals. Sure, if you do a great EPPM implementation you will get great effects. But, you’ve got to get a lot of things moving in the right direction to get the effect and if you screw up one part, it can kill everything else. The complexity of the play makes me nervous as a practical persuader.

Now, if Kim is holding my hand and speaking to me in a soft quiet voice and using little words, then I’m okay. And, in the times I’ve worked with Kim, it has been okay. Nothing blew up. We got a change you can count. She ran the EPPM play and I cheered from the sidelines or ran interference with those who would interfere. So, I’m all in for fear appeals as long as I’ve got Kim Witte on a contract. If not, I’m doing something like Implementation Intentions or a Standard Model design or building low WATT Boxes and Plays with CLARCCS Cues. Those plays, as I prove, are something an idiot can do and get some change to count.

Past our learning about how to do fear appeals correctly, realize how we have learned it. See the value of well-done science for understanding practical persuasion. We’ve had a field of workers doing fear appeals under a wide variety of conditions for a very long time, long enough now that we have a lot of true experiments with random assignment, controlled conditions, smart comparison, and careful counting. That science deftly illuminates what works, what doesn’t, and why or at least how.

Compare that against the Tooth Fairy Tales from the Four HorsePersons of the PostModern Apocalypse. No randomization. Huge samples. No control. Adjusted and debiased data sets. Shifty comparisons. Tricky effect size presentation. And always that parade of statistical significance. Science doesn’t prove everything, but when you do it right, you can produce more change you can count with it than with Tell Me A Story Of Statistical Significance.

Let’s get out of here.

While you’ll always finding me lagging behind, waiting for Kim, you can execute the fear persuasion play and produce obvious, practical, and observable changes in the Other Guys. It is complicated and anyone selling simple fear is selling sand and ice along with ignorance. They will cash your check before you count the change and will not be in the room when you have to explain why you failed. You know what to do: Get Interactions! It’s the combination, stupid. And, you know how to do this. Just chase down Kim Witte and the EPPM! She explains it well enough for even a fool like me to understand it, so imagine how well you’ll do!

Sheeran, P., Harris, P. R., & Epton, T. (2013). Does Heightening Risk Appraisals Change People’s Intentions and Behavior? A Meta-Analysis of Experimental Studies. Psychological Bulletin, 140(2), doi:10.1037/a0033065

P.S. Background Sidebar: I’ve known about the EPPM since Kim has been in the field in the 1990s. By dumb luck, I was on a persuasion panel at a conference with Kim. I’d been out for awhile, but Kim was just finishing her doc and feeling a bit nervous in the presentation. And since it was the EPPM, it is was complicated and even though this was a professional conference with really smart people in the room, most of them were dazed and confused. Hey, it’s a fear appeal; it’s simple, right?

Kim stopped in the middle of the presentation and politely asked, “That makes sense, doesn’t it?” and the room fell silent. So, I chirped out, “Makes perfect sense to me!” and she smiled, then rocked on. Of course, I only understood it enough to be scared of it and realize that if I was going to do fear appeals, it would be as a cheerleader and blocker for Kim.

P.P.S. Found this fun and well done senior thesis project on the EPPM and Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. If only zealots persuaded this well with fear!

Finding the Tea Leaves with ObamaCare

After a bad start, Team Obama hit its public number of 7 million enrollees in ObamaCare. Some insiders are now talking about the persuasion campaign. Consider this question and answer.

Q: Think at the 60,000-foot level about the way history books talk about presidential administrations and how they have problems and confront them. Are there lessons about the mistakes made?

MR. MCDONOUGH: Look, I’m a person with a very active conscience. But I’m not going to bare that to you today. I’ve done a lot of thinking about that . . .

. . . The third is something I’ve been saying ever since October 1, which is the strength is in the planning, not in the plan. There’s never a plan that you run in the government, and I don’t know, maybe the private sector, that survives first contact.

McDonough maintained operational leadership of the persuasion campaign and his perceptions are crucial to understanding what happened. And, like a good panther, he’s not going to tell us anything about that. He has a “very active conscience” which sounds like the beginnings of a confession, but then the cold heart of a panther kicks in.

McDonough does imply a key point we’ve been featuring in the continuing analysis of the ObamaCare campaign: Planning. Giving his response, I believe that McDonough believes Team Obama did a poor job in planning, but not in the sense that they failed to write a book called the ObamaCare Persuasion Plan – they did – but because they assumed the plan would work once it became operational.

To me that suggests Team Obama failed to count the change at key steps along the operation, just assuming that The Plan was working without gathering data along with way. Only until The Plan failed massively did anyone realize that they were not checking it. Some folks make a distinction between process evaluation and outcome evaluation. Process evaluation counts things related to the campaign operations – how many minutes of media time have aired, how many print ads have gone out, how many hours of volunteer time on the phone. Outcome evaluation counts primarily the TACTs – in this case the number of enrollees.

McDonough’s response can be understood as marking a failure in process evaluation. Team Obama just let the Plan rip and waited to count the enrollees instead of counting the process markers which would have revealed problems much sooner.

Or not.

Again recall McDonough’s line: “But I’m not going to bare that to you today.” He’s still not telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth and in so not doing, maintains his panther status. In other words, we still don’t know precisely why things went sideways so fast and then recovered so well. Nobody writes honest confessions about practical persuasion. Honesty makes you too famous.

The politics of ObamaCare muddy the persuasion waters. Everyone’s got a position on this issue and that biases everyone’s analysis. You can only draw your own conclusions and work from there which is another way of saying you need a lot of salt, lime, and tequila when you read my take on this.

Regardless of the politics of ObamaCare, I perceive it as a badly failed persuasion campaign that could have and should have been a success given the resources available. McDonough’s observations about the Plan versus Planning indicate to me that a lot of persuasion idiots had input to the Plan because only persuasion idiots think their Plan will need no Planning once it hits the ground. What I call the First Campaign failed.

And while the Second Campaign hit the magic number, it is obvious that the number is magic. You can use it for the politics, but if you count with the cold persuasion heart of a panther, there’s not much change to count. All the independent data on ObamaCare enrollees indicates that a smaller proportion were the crucial targeted Other Guys – previously uninsured and healthy adults. A larger chunk of the 7 million were either previously enrolled in a health insurance plan or else were uninsured and unhealthy. And, we’re still facing nearly 40 million uninsured adults who now face fines for noncompliance. Whither Nudge?

And, you can see the failure in ObamaCare with the active presence of the Third Campaign operating with a number of Democrats up for re-election. Several Representatives and Senators who voted for ObamaCare in 2010 are now availing themselves of wiggle room as they confront an electorate with a decidedly mixed opinion of the law. Those politicians are now running the Third Campaign that permits them to be both for and against ObamaCare now. If the persuasion campaign had been a ripping success, everyone would be shouting ObamaCare Today, Tomorrow, and Forever.

Now think of the hundreds of millions of dollars that were available for this campaign both from the Fed and Big Insurance. This was one of the largest and best funded persuasion campaigns aimed at behavior change ever created. It’s been in the works since 2010. This is like doing D-Day in World War II with Saving Private Ryan and not like responding after the sneak attack at Pearl Harbor. Team Obama had everything it needed to launch a successful campaign.

McDonough only hints at the practical problems in this persuasion failure at that Plan versus Planning distinction. We are left to read the tea leaves which means different panthers will see different lessons. Politics passed the law and left it to persuasion to implement. If you ever wondered at the difference between politics and persuasion, you now have a great example.

Data, Big; Analytics, Big; Persuasion?

Persuasion is in the details, but not in the minutia, and most of the Big Data with Big Analytics is minutia. All that Big Minutia allows you to make bigger persuasion mistakes. Like this.

Office Max Big Data Car Wreck

In the confused stream of building Big Data with Big Analytics someone entered that car wreck fatality in a database and off it went into Big Persuasion. It happens.

Such incidents are inevitable—part of the cost of doing business in collecting and collating information on millions of individuals, said Steven Sheck, owner of customer-data provider On rare occasions he has seen obscenities find their way into mailing addresses, likely entered by angry customer-service representatives during a contentious telephone call.

For this specific case, no one knows how it happened.

OfficeMax said it doesn’t know how the information got there.

“We would like nothing more than to tell the world what happened,” said a spokeswoman for the Naperville, Ill., chain, which merged last year with rival Office Depot Inc. “We don’t know what happened yet. We haven’t been told. It was not our data and we don’t have access to the original information.”

Think about this for a moment. You’ve got the smartest technology run by the smartest people in the history of the planet with more data and more analytics than ever, and yet you cannot detail how the details are collected, entered, databased, shared, or analyzed. Consider the Rule:

If You Can’t Count It, You Can’t Change It.

Normally we apply that Rule to understand the impact side of persuasion, but you can move back upstream in the persuasion Cascade with this Rule, too. If you can’t count your persuasion plays, you can’t control them! Here we see that Big Data with Big Analytics can’t even count itself. We’ve seen this lack of control in Big Data as with my hyphenated last name or the big feet of Facebook or the wildly untrue data profiles of Other Guys. Big Data with Big Analytics makes a lot of stupid mistakes that cannot be controlled, predicted, or explained.

While I do not operate with a palantir from Sauron, I do cast a wide search for information about persuasion, particularly scientific information, information that is generalizable knowledge with practical impact. And, I’ve yet to find a reasonable literature that scientifically tests Big Data with Big Analytics to determine whether it changes anything, how big that Windowpane is, and how the change occurs. Almost everything we know about Big Data with Big Analytics is only persuasive: Selling sand and ice to Sauds and Aleuts. The cold hearted counting of a persuasion scientist is not easily available.

You know why?

Big Data with Big Analytics doesn’t work for persuasion. In its own way Big Data with Big Analytics is exactly like those trendy, stylish, and useless activity bracelets the tragically hip and worried well wear to collect the physical activities of their daily lives down to the calorie in Personal Big Data with Pretty Picture Big Analytics.

FitBit Bracelets

Hey, stupid. You eat too much or you move too little. You need Big Data with Big Analytics to know that? And chances are great that if you are a Digital Aesthete wearing one of those bracelets, you don’t need the damn thing anyway.

Do you see the Bolivian Banks here? A few very smart werewolves have packaged faux science in a name – Big Data – or a bracelet – FitBit – and sold a bucket of steam. The persuasion play is the Authority Cue and you know this is all a Cue because we’ve noted the absence of a reliable scientific literature on these inventions and the presence of no effect and little control in their application. Lots of Other Guys go Low WATT, observe the trappings of Expertise or Science or Authority, and hit the TACT without thinking.

I understand why so many Other Guys glide down the Peripheral Route with FitBit, but can the Guys running Office Max be this stupid, thoughtless, and gullible? What’s great about this is that peace and prosperity has created such a large cushion that Other Guys can blunder like this and still survive. You wonder where bubbles come from?

As I’ve noted frequently on the Persuasion Blog this is the greatest time in the history of persuasion to wear a white lab coat, flash a Pretty Picture infographic, and call yourself scientific. Persuasive Science cannot fail big enough, often enough, or obviously enough to kill that Cue in this Local. A lot of Other Guys will remain easy, ripe, and luscious for the beat of the coldest heart in human thought and action: Science.

Kids, the dangerous 1% are not that wealthy 1% despised of the 99%, but the 1% who operate beyond good and evil with persuasion. They get more than your money.

Mavens and Magic; Good and Evil

Dexter and Mr. Brooks, serial killers. Jackie, the mob hit man. John Tuld, master of the financial universe. Mandy, inSincere political operative. Nick Naylor, earnest tobacco lobbyist. Iago, plotter from pridefulness. Odysseus, builder of wooden horses. Each fictional character follows the Rules of Persuasion while everyone else looks warily upon them.

Now. Two quick fictional contraries: Gandalf and Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Gandalf Obi Wan Kenobi

Each a master of change, both admired by all observers, yet neither mavens of persuasion, only of magic!

See two dimensions. First, Change as anchored with either Persuasion or Magic. Second, Value as anchored with Good or Evil. Now, cross the two dimensions. We prefer our fictional characters to make Magic for Good and perform Persuasion for Evil.

Certainly we find Black Magic which only proves that Evil is always everywhere. But, see that Persuasion is never Good in fiction and that Change for Good must be Magic.

This suggests a powerful persuasion persona: the Magical Maven. Whether from the Force or Wizardry, find a device you can hold in your hand that you wave, shake, or point as you make change. Let the Other Guys call it, Magic, while all you do is follow the Rules of Persuasion. Other Guys expect the Good to be Enchanted.

See, too, the marvelous fictional possibilities of White Persuasion. Think upon a Good Iago or Nick Naylor or Mandy or Dexter or Jackie or . . . perhaps we’ve discovered a new genre! But, now realize this is fiction which explains in part the continuing White Persuasion failures of those working for Good in the practical world. We could conceive a literary White Persuasion, but only as an aspiration for created characters because, apparently, White Persuasion is never practical.

See the paradox. Almost everyone wants to change the world for the better yet they taboo persuasion!


Effect Sizes Visually with Eyes!

Note our two faces and that number on the forehead.

Eye Gaze Visually

We randomly assign Other Guys to one face or the other, but just one face. In a moment, we’ll change the symbol on the forehead and ask the Other Guys to identify the new symbol. Who does it faster?

The analysis of RTs revealed main effects of gaze direction, F(1, 15) = 8.88, p < .01, η2 = .372.

That eta squared of .376 is a Large+ Windowpane, roughly a correlation of .60, an 20/80 difference. Direct eye gaze obviously captures our attention as you know if you’ve ever looked across that proverbially crowded room and seen someone looking at you.

Anne Böckler, Robrecht P. R. D. van der Wel, and Timothy N. Welsh. (2014). Catching Eyes: Effects of Social and Nonsocial Cues on Attention Capture. Psychological Science, first published on January 7, 2014.


P.S. Persuasion Bonus. You capture Reception – the first stage in the Cascade – with direct eye gaze on your Other Guy. You’d better bring the good stuff if you then walk across the room.


When Gay Is Not Gay and Vice Versa (plus Persuasion Metaphor!)

The beloved artist and illustrator Norman Rockwell died many years ago and is now receiving the biographer treatment, which means that persuasion might be involved. Rockwell created images of America that some found more than a bit trite, sanitized, and idealized, John Wayne without the John Wayne. Like this.

Rockwell Thanksgiving

Or this.

Rockwell Problem

Hard to sell something this sweet in a biography, so add some sex, although this is about as sexy as Rockwell ever got.
Rockwell Dating Diner

Yet, read the latest Rockwell bio and you’ll be surprised to learn about Rockwell’s sexuality, hiding there in plain sight on the canvas.

In the book, Ms. Solomon raises the question of whether Rockwell was gay, writing that he “demonstrated an intense need for emotional and physical closeness with men,” and that his marriages may have been a strategy for “controlling his homoerotic desires.” She described a camping trip in Quebec that Rockwell took with his male assistant, during which the men swam and played cards together late into the night, and Rockwell noted in his diaries that his assistant looked “most fetching in his long flannels.” There is nothing, Ms. Solomon cautioned in the book, “to suggest that he had sex with men.”

Later in the book, Ms. Solomon writes that “we are made to wonder whether Rockwell’s complicated interest in the depiction of preadolescent boys was shadowed by pedophilic impulses.” She again added a disclaimer: “There is no evidence that he acted on his impulses or behaved in a way that was inappropriate for its time.”

The Rockwell family who cooperated with Solomon while she was writing the book is shocked and upset at the implications about Rockwell’s sexuality. Solomon is shocked and upset that the Rockwell family is shocked and upset. She tells the NY Times.

Asked whether she believes Rockwell was gay, she said, “I’m a biographer, I am not a psychiatrist. I would never presume to say that someone is gay. But I do feel entitled as an art critic and an art historian to analyze works of art. And I do think a case can be made that some of Rockwell’s paintings display homoerotic tendencies. He specialized in affectionate portrayals of the male figure and lamented many times that he could never paint a sexy woman. And nowhere in the book do I say that he is gay.”

Let’s put it this way as an illustration.

Asked whether she believes Rockwell was a child molester, she said, “I’m a biographer, I am not a psychiatrist. I would never presume to say that someone is a child molester. But I do feel entitled as an art critic and an art historian to analyze works of art. And I do think a case can be made that some of Rockwell’s paintings display pederastic tendencies. He specialized in affectionate portrayals of children and lamented many times that he could never paint a youthful adult. And nowhere in the book do I say that he is a child molester.”

Solomon believes that as an art critic and historian she can count the change in pictures but that in no way counts the change like a psychiatrist or family member or police or . . . art collector!

Three Norman Rockwell paintings sold for a combined total of nearly $58 million at a Sotheby’s auction Wednesday. The three paintings, which had long been displayed in a Massachusetts museum named for the artist, were among 10 Rockwell works sold at auction today.

Who knew that pederasty paid like this!

P.S. Persuasion Metaphor Bonus. Consider one of those Rockwell’s that sold at auction, The Gossips.

Rockwell Gossips

See various persuasion plays and communication concepts. Networks. Mediated Networks. Word of Mouth. Comparison. Uncle Norm. Social Media 1.0.

Yeah. iGizmos change everything.


P.S. Henri Matisse, another painter known to art critics and historians, was once questioned about all the pictures of naked young women he painted and was asked whether he indulged with his models. Matisse replied that he also painted still life, but didn’t eat the fruit.