Category Archives: Style

fashionable fun in daily life

Bonded Persuasion

The WSJ boldly asks . . .

Then answers . . .

“With male identity, there’s a biological aspect to how we see ourselves, and for many men, the song releases feelings of invincibility and attractiveness,” said Eugene Beresin, professor of psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School. “Men link the theme to strength, adulthood and virility. It’s like the smell of a childhood baseball glove or a father’s aftershave.”

And this . . .

The Bond theme also has a paternal tie-in. Before the current movie-rating system was instituted in 1968, most theaters prohibited teens from seeing movies with a mature theme unless accompanied by an adult. “Which means most boys saw the film with their dads, who took them as a rite of passage,” said Louann Brizendine, professor of clinical psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, and author of “The Male Brain.” “The experience only strengthened the link between the song and coming of age.”

All good observations, but they don’t explain why the Bond theme hits a lot of Other Guys the way it does. Persuasion Theory, however, does.

Ding-dong, baby.

Classical Conditioning, the simplest and oldest theory of Change. If you heard the melody line of the Bond theme just by itself with no movie, you would have some kind of reaction to it, but that reaction would likely vary widely. For example consider this YouTube of the Bond theme on a classical guitar.

Now, Ding-Dong the melody with particular images, then sequences of images – danger, risk, sex, triumph – and that John Barry orchestration with the electric guitar, wailing horns, and driving beat.

But, no. It’s not Classical Conditioning. It’s the smell of Dad’s aftershave.

Yeah. Dad’s aftershave. Geez, what it takes to be a Harvard expert.

the Beatles Believe the Rules

At 35 seconds into the madcap press conference (YouTube) at JFK in 1964 a reporter asks the Beatles a question.

Question: Why do you think your music excites people so much?

Paul: We don’t know, really.

John: If we knew, we’d form another group and be managers.

There you have it, persuasion fans. The greatest pop band in the history of the world confirms what I’m telling you.

There Are No Laws of Persuasion (and If There Were Why Would Anyone Tell You?)

Maybe Malcolm Gladwell knows better in Tipping Points or maybe Sunstein and Thaler in Nudge or . . .

Out of the Closet Persuasion Play®

Persuasion plays almost always work best when hiding in plain sight looking like the proverbial Shakespearian third bush, just scenery or a minor character or a bit of stage dressing that appears to be only functional, like a balcony. As with fashion designers trying to break through with this play.

The scene shows a pretty young girl out living life on the streets of Manhattan, seeking attention with her style, her taste, her . . .

PIVOTING smartly, a hand on her hip, the better to show off her pipette jeans, Laura Ellner seemed the incarnation of street style. As she posed at Lincoln Center Plaza on Day 1 of New York Fashion Week last Thursday, a brace of cameras clicked and whirred, each competing to catch her performance.

Ahh, to be young and beautiful and graceful and . . . connected.

She was hoping to burnish her image (she poses routinely on On the Racks, her style blog) and to appear on a flurry of similar sites. She was also sharing the spotlight with her bag, a roomy multizippered affair that she readily identified as a Kelsi Dagger duffel from by Pour La Victoire, the leather goods company where she works.

See the Man Behind the Curtain called Girls In Their Summer Dresses? Fashion designers target girls who look kinda like models and aspire to fashion then give them bags, shoes, shawls, belts, scarves, dresses, whatever for a little street persuasion hiding on the bodies of those sweet young things. Here’s the play in detail.

Today many of them are Web icons, trotting out their finery for scores of fans. But what they are parading as street style — once fashion’s last stronghold of true indie spirit — has lately been breached, infiltrated by tides of marketers, branding consultants and public relations gurus, all intent on persuading those women to step out in their wares.

We’ve seen this play from the fashionistas. Remember those brand Ambassador’s? Working for nothing to spread the designer word, buying designer wares at training sessions, providing youthful vanity for the persuasion purposes of the designer; the girls are both persuasion hook and catch for the fashion industry.

Aren’t My Cues Beautiful? is the persuasion principle, of course. All that Comparison (If The Beautiful Girls Are Doing It, You Should, Too), Liking (If You Like The Beautiful Girl, Do What She Does), and interestingly enough Authority (When An Authority Does It, You Should, Too.) And see these Cues concealed in plain sight, beauty hiding in and on beauty. Beautiful girls with beautiful clothes and accessories.

P.S. Girls In Their Summer Dresses . . . by Irwin Shaw.

P.P.S. This is what people used to call a Tipping Point if you remember Gladwell’s fantasy persuasion (Hush Puppies!). You don’t hear that as much nowadays, do you? Because it wasn’t true, just beautiful, kinda like Girls In Their Summer Dresses.

Facebook Goggles

Having spent a fair amount of time at one of the top party schools in America, keeping my finger on the pulse of undergraduate thinking, feeling, and acting (It’s about the Other Guy, Stupid), and generally finding young adult life interesting, I dispute this NYTimes story about the death of the college bar, killed by social media. Here’s the money shot.

“Students don’t need bars to create a community the way they used to,” said Stephani Robson, a senior lecturer in the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell who specializes in restaurant psychology.

Great. They find somebody who’s an expert in restaurant psychology to assert the death of the college bar by Facebook. And the story details compelling examples to illustrate the senior lecturer and her expert point of view. I like this one.

“You could have this really amazing night, but if you didn’t get a picture, it’s like it didn’t happen,” said Ms. Parr, 22, a senior at Gettysburg, whose friends often order designer outfits from the Rent the Runway Web site because incessant documenting makes wearing anything more than twice taboo. “It’s crazy how much pictures consume our lives. Everyone knows how to pose and how to hold your arm and which way is most flattering, and everyone wants the picture taken with their phone.”

Yeah. It’s the pictures.

You remember Rent The Runway. They are the persuasion guys who seduce pretty women into unpaid “internships” that spread the good brand word with chalkboard graffiti then “suggest” to those pretty women buying the brand while attending Rent The Runway workshops. Call this Rent The Runway play, Cueing Up The Cue wherein Rent The Runway seduces both the undergraduate population with Pretty Women and also seduces the Pretty Women into buying their stuff as part of the unpaid “internship.”

Of course, none of this requires any good, old fashioned, face to face, oops, f2f persuasion. It’s all SM2.0, baby. That’s why all those High Street bars in Morgantown, once again the party champion of university campuses (and 9th ranked football team in the current polls), have shut down.

Gee whiz, I appreciate that the NYTimes needs to fill the digital space with . . . digital space fillers. But this is just Bad Persuasion without even being Sincere!

Think about it. If Facebook killed college bars, then its stock price wouldn’t be down nearly 50% from its IPO (that’s half, you knuckleheads). If this story had a ounce of truth in it, a jello shot in the navel of your favorite quivering undergrad tummy, then Facebook would be selling at $600 a share today.

P.S. Fun story, though. Liked the photos.

Notice you don’t see anyone – no one! – on a smartphone texting or Facebooking or twittering. Just young adult undergraduates doing that young undergraduate thing. Face to face. Skin to skin. Laughing in each other’s faces. Man, look at that eye contact. Yeah. SM2.0. Pull my finger. Now, pull my leg.

P.P.S. WVU doesn’t party today like it did in 1988 or 1992. Princeton would have needed a new counting scheme to keep up with the Gold and Blue back then. Girls of the Big East for Playboy. The Girls Gone Wild party bus. And that was for the Comm 80 Rock Breaks during regular classtime! Still makes me blush. And, no. No pictures. They’re all adults now and that was 20 years ago.

Great Moments in Bad TACTs

If you can’t clearly define the TACT, the Target Action Context Time or Who does What Where and When, your persuasion will fail. Define the TACT well and you can do some business. So consider this TACT from Glamour magazine.

The campaign, now under way, celebrates the Glamour readership not as Glamour Girls but as “Generation Glamour,” referring to the so-called millennials, or Generation Y, roughly defined as Americans born in or after 1980. The campaign, with a budget estimated at $250,000, comes six months after Glamour’s editor in chief, Cynthia Leive, known as Cindi, introduced a makeover of its editorial look and content, which was meant to increase the appeal of the magazine to its primary audience of women ages 18 to 34.

So. Glamour wants to improve its appeal to women 18-34 with a new persuasion campaign aimed at women born after 1980 . . . which means they are 32 or older!

What? Your target is 18-34 and you’re aiming at 32+?

This sounds like a math problem, but it is a TACT problem and that clear definition of Who does What Where and When and Glamour appears to have trouble defining the Who.

P.S. Persuasion props to Glamour for the Instagram mashup on their website. Women submit their own images through Instagram and Glamour pulls them into their campaign. You can also sort the images by popularity. Finally somebody makes good use of Social Media. In a play similar to what we’ve seen before, Glamour lets the women they want do most of the work in the campaign. Nice use of various Cues. Commitment and Consistency Cue. Comparison Cue. Nice Modeling theory. Now. Straighten out the TACT!

Ernestine Tests the New New Thing

While completing a PB post on Gore Vidal, I immediately recalled the old Laugh-In sketch with Lily Tomlin as Ernestine the Telephone Operator calling Mr. Veedle (widely assumed at the time, 1969, to point to the infamous Mr. Vidal) to discuss his phone bill. It provided a nice close to that post, but it also stimulated an interesting tangential thought. Take three minutes to listen to the YouTube of Tomlin’s sketch.

Did you catch all those privacy violations of personal information? Tomlin as Ernestine menaces Mr. Veedle with facts from his banking and investment accounts as well as his 1965 IRS return! In other words, everyone joked in 1969 that the telephone company knew everything about you and would use that to secure the unpaid balance of $23.64 or else send a burly fellow to the house to collect.

It’s 1969 and we’re in the Summer of Love, the Beatles are together and making Abbey Road, Richard Nixon is President, we’re fighting overseas . . . in Viet Nam, GM is making Oldsmobile’s, Neil Armstrong is on the Moon, babes are wearing miniskirts and, can’t forget, everyone is smoking! Now. Flash forward 43 years and wonder about all that Big Data being collected on you from the Internet. If Big Marketing and Big Tech back were invading our privacy then, how much more privacy can they invade today?

But what about all that New New Thing today with Big Data and Big Analysis? Evil Marketing and Evil Technology had computers, databases, and stat routines back then, too.

Think about it. The New New Thing is just the Old Old Thing except no one nowadays wears paisley bell bottoms, smokes Camels, or shows a lot of leg at the office.

Get Back. Get Back to where you once belonged.

When In Doubt Take the Peripheral Route: Breastaurants

The Cue and Its effect speak for themselves.

You know about Hooters, but did you know that there’s now a category called, Breastaurants? And that they are doing okay?

The nation’s top three “breastaurant” chains behind Hooters each had sales growth of 30 percent or more last year, according to Technomic, a food industry research firm. They still represent less than 1 percent of the nation’s top restaurants, but the upstart chains are benefiting as other mid-priced options like Applebee’s and Bennigan’s have experienced declines during the economic downturn.

Of course, the servers don’t get better tips just because of, uhh, you know. All the economic benefits of those shapely Cues appear to flow to the owners and not the workers. (Where’s Communism when you really need it?) So, if you are a worker with an appropriate Cue, use it to get the job, but then use other Cues and Strategies to get the tips. And, if you are the running dog capitalist owner, hire the right Cue and a good tax lawyer. Of course some of the capitalists already get that.

The owner of Tilted Kilt is just as frank. “We hire only spectacular talent,” Lynch said. “They have to fit into that costume.”

But, don’t forget the Rule!

You Can Get Farther with a Kind Word and a Big Stick Than with Either Alone.

Persuasion as Universal or China Goes Vogue

Advertising (understood as applied persuasion) is doing great in China.

Late last year, Cosmopolitan editors in China started splitting its monthly issue into two magazines because it was too thick to print. Elle now publishes twice a month because issues had grown to 700 pages. Vogue added four more issues each year to keep up with advertising demand. Hearst is even designing plastic and cloth bags for women to easily carry these heavy magazines home.

But given the vast cultural differences between East and West you know that the persuasion for advertising in East and West must be different, too. Like this.

Persuasion principles are universal for all faces and places, times and rhymes. You just change the wrapper.

Leaving the Atocha Station with Nonverbal Persuasion

You tend to think of persuasion as a business skill where sources try to change Other Guys for a large mission, product, service, event, anything larger than just yourself. And even when it’s just little old you, say a teacher employing Why? Because! to motivate students, it still feels exterior, external. But, sometimes, you persuade to leave an impression about yourself on Other Guys to accomplish social gains. Like this fictional account.

The streets in Chueca were so narrow and its plaza so full in those months that it was easy to mill around in such a manner that people on your right assumed you were with the people on your left and vice versa. This was also true in its various overflowing bars; I could order a drink and stand looking bored in the middle of the bar and people would suppose I pertained to one of the adjacent parties; indeed, people in one large group or another often began to speak to me, assuming I was one of their number whom they hadn’t had the chance to meet. Over the general din I could hear next to nothing, but I smiled and nodded and sometimes slightly raised my glass, and henceforth turned a little more toward the group whose member had addressed; slowly I would be absorbed. Which is how I met Arturo . . .

This from Ben Lerner’s first novel, Leaving the Atocha Station. Adam Gordon is on a poetry fellowship in Spain where he discovers his Spanish skills are not as good as he thought they were and worse still his poetry skills may be lacking, too. Gordon wanders through Madrid feeling isolated from others and himself, hitting upon these nonverbal persuasion plays to connect with others. Hey, take a crowded scene in a sociable bar with lots of drinking and you’ve got Low WATT processing and people Cue-ing off of smiles, body lean, and proximity to make friend judgments. Even if your language skills are weak, just look like you’re in the game and esto, you are in the game.

Of course, such persuasion plays are shots in the dark and Adam Gordon misses as often as he hits. And his misses lead to getting punched in the face from angry, drunk, and high Spanish men who think Gordon’s language-impaired silence means mockery. Persuasion giveth and it taketh.

There is a marvelous art of social persuasion, sometimes studied as impression management, shy like a fox, Machiavellians, and on and on with the tactics of getting ahead in your social world. If you like this line of concept, you might enjoy reading Ben Lerner’s book, Leaving the Atocha Station, about the fellowship adventures of a young man, Adam Gordon. Lerner displays a deft and light touch with material that borders on cliché – the young American artist abroad. Leaving the Atocha Station floats through perspective taking, language, meaning, and translation all the while telling an interesting story. I found the book to be one of the better novels I’ve read in the past ten years, especially given that this is Lerner’s first attempt at a novel after success as a poet. The guy is a helluva good writer and I hope he produces more novels.