Magically Memorable Marketing Part III: The Parts also the Whole

You will see this routine quite often in product demonstrations, when a company is showing off it’s technological prowess. From microprocessors to BMW engines, people love to know how all the parts work together, or at least feel like they do.

Simply, this routine describes the whole of a complex image, idea, text, in a coherent narrative, then it dives in and shows what the individual parts are. It can show ownership, it can show belonging, status, passion, tribal status, education,

The parts and the whole can help craft one’s identity in a very strong way. For example, Budweiser is attempting to replace, well, “Budweiser” with “America” On their bottles:

Budwiser America Credit Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau

I don’t know enough about the Budweiser clientele, sales, etc to judge whether this will work, but this is a BRILLIANT use of “the parts and the whole.”

The whole: America
The parts: If drinking beer, Budweiser is the brand.
Message: America drinks Budweiser.

Simple, and it makes a very bold statement about one’s belonging.

Marketers should be careful to put themselves in their customer’s point of view when they start using this routine. This routine is best implemented when you are looking to educate your customer on something that is complex, it acts as a filter for all the information that you will have.

An interesting insight: people are usually comfortable to not know how, until you show them that by learning the parts they can get some benefit or reward. Physicians study the systems of the body, down to the finest minutiae of detail, because they know there is a reward for knowing how the parts and the whole work together. Boeing is extremely proud of it’s carbon fiber wings on the 787, because its a part that makes the whole (cheaper aircraft to operate) possible.

In fact, there are two questions best associated with the two parts of this routine. The “what” corresponds to the whole, and the “how” corresponds to the parts.

In fact, this is perhaps the most effective strategy for those who sell online courses like Michael Hyatt, Ray Edwards, etc. They show you what you get (the whole) and then they tell you how (the parts). Their offer is, “here is the whole, don’t you want to know what the parts are that make up this whole? For very little money, I can teach you this valuable information”

The human brain finds this irresistible; it can’t not know “how” something works. Ask any scientist (mad or otherwise) and they will tell you their motivation is to understand how things work, how evolution works, how a reaction takes place. Philosophers and theologians also ask “how” (what is a reasonable way I can describe existence) in response to “what” (I exist; or do I?).

The parts and the whole are especially effective when you have information overload. The key is to know where to start. This will depend on your audience and their needs. If you don’t have a relationship with someone, the best place to start is actually the parts, to ask the question, hey, do you see how your ___ is actually part of a whole?

  • Do you see how your [ROTH IRA] is actually part of [FINANCIAL PEACE]?
  • Do you know how [PENZOIL SYNTHETIC] is actually part of [LESS ENGINE BREAKDOWNS]

Each of these are just the parts, leading up to the whole.

On the other hand, when someone has a problem, they want to go from the whole to the parts.

  • “Doctor, my head hurts!” “Oh, you have a gall bladder problem.”
  • “I feel uncertain about my retirement” “Oh, let’s take a look at your 401k.
  • “I want a new job and don’t know how to get there.” “Oh, let’s take a look at the process you are using.

The parts and the whole, are extremely useful for distilling big ideas into simple ones, and allowing you to go very deep. This is why a doctor can prescribe a medication, not because they know the molecular structure, but because they see the whole person, then they figure out the systems, then they figure out the reaction that will take place, then they know how things will work out. It’s seems so complex, and it is, but you can trust safely that the doctors know their stuff because they understand the parts and also the whole.

The brain is just built that way.



Magically Memorable Marketing Part II: Compare and Contrast

Here it is the second of a three part series on how to make your marketing message memorable to your audience until they meet their maker. It uses the same principles of teaching, and it encourages the audience to do the work.

We call these the “routines” of learning. By making someone engage one of their routines, you help them make the information their own. Also, the great thing about these routines is that they are very easy to activate in the subconscious, so if you have their attention (key!) they will easily be able to perk up and learn. The first routine of learning we looked at was “I see; I wonder.”

Today’s magical tool: Compare and contrast.

That might sound like kind of a letdown for some of you, but look how often compare and contrast is used in marketing. List of features between different plans? Compare and contrast. Your product do something better than another? Compare and contrast. You want someone to make a life change and sign up for your coaching services, but in order to do so they have to weigh two alternatives for their future life? compare and contrast.

Here is a quick example from the interwebs:


Compare and contrast is almost everywhere, but instead of shying away from it, we should engage it, using the exact same wording if part of body text, but more probing questions or quality visuals for headlines.

Compare and contrast is also useful for helping us understand completely different ways of thinking, of dressing, of living. In Marie Kondo’s book, The Lifechanging Magic of Tidying Up, she teaches us a new way of organizing and improving our life, simply by comparing her old with her new, looking at what her previous methods got her and what her current method gets her. She uses compare and contrast to accentuate the cost of doing nothing and also the benefits of following the KonMari method of organization. Guess what? I’m a total convert.

Compare and contrast is also part of our evolution, especially when we are constantly calculating our social standings or social hierarchy. This can be used very subtle. For example, there is a story about how a guy won a round of golf with Michael Jordan. The guy showed up wearing a pair of very nice golf cletes but Michael Jordan refused to play with him, because they weren’t Nike’s. He actually told the guy to go into the clubhouse and buy a pair of Nike’s, I can’t remember if he comped them or not. What that story illustrates is that Jordan knew if he were photographed with a guy wearing another brand of sneakers, then he would be creating confusion. The line of contrast between the best (Jordan and Nike) and everyone else would be blurred if Jordan were to appear on the green with someone else, even if he weren’t wearing them.

Compare and Contrast belongs in every part of your marketing, branding, sales letters, etc. It is enormously powerful because it activates the brain very, very quickly.


The Routines of Learning: I see, I wonder

As promised I am writing a series on the routines of learning, better helping us understand how people process information most easily so that our marketing messages can stand out.

The first routine of learning goes a little something like this: You present a picture, a passage of text or a scenario and you ask, “what do you see?”

Take the example of the picture in the “featured image” at the top of this post.

What do you see? I see:

  • I see a black boy reading a bible.
  • I see that the Bible is torn.
  • I see that his brow is just slightly wrinkled,  as if concentrating.
  • I see he is lying on a bed with white sheets.
  • A wood paneled back wall.
  • I see him looking intensely.
  • I see a very good job by the photographer in having good contrast.

Now, what do you wonder?

  • I wonder what passage he is reading?
  • I wonder if he is confused or interested?
  • I wonder where he got that old bible?
  • Since the Bible is ripped, I wonder if he is poor?
  • I wonder why he is reading the bible alone?
  • I wonder what he might be feeling?
  • I wonder where he is, if he is at home or on vacation?
  • I wonder who gave him that bible?

All of the sudden, “I wonder” has made us open to the story that we are about to tell. Maybe we are going to talk about how to interpret the bible, or literacy, or what people do in their free time, or poverty? Guess what, now we marketers get to give a narrative to what we are thinking.

What if there was copy at the bottom that read: “His grandfather left him a great inheritance. Discover yours at St. Matthews” and was the copy for attending a local church?  That would work fantastically well, and it would pick up on each of the questions we might have. It’s copy that answers our questions, it’s copy that allows us to tell the story ourselves, because it matches with the things we naturally wonder about.

For marketers this puts a great burden on the quality of the images, and it requires us to ask the question “what do they see and what do they wonder?” about our audience. For example, a devout atheist might see this and wonder:

  • I wonder when he will grow up and get into Kant and Dawkins.
  • I wonder who gave him that to read?
  • I wonder what he is going to do with all the sex and violence he is reading about? It looks like he might be in the song of songs after all.

Then you have to change the copy to match the image. “Full of sex, violence and lies. #BanTheBible” Okay, honestly I’m having trouble coming up with good copy for an atheist audience, but you see where I am going.

The first routine of learning is extraordinarily powerful for coming to one’s own judgments about a deep, big-picture questions. For example, how do you get a group of 5th graders to talk about what do international children’s rights look like? First, show a picture, then ask the questions. What do you see? What do you wonder?

This routine is also powerful for discovery and priming the mind and helping it ask the questions that ready it for an answer. This means that the audience is ready and prepped to discover something big–they have already made mental space in their minds for the question you are about to ask. If we are looking at a cell membrane, the teacher can more effectively ask, “what do you see,” and then ask, “what do you wonder the function of this cell might be? What do you think these purple structures are?”

Perhaps the best location for this kind of advertising is places where your eyes tend to wander and gaze on things for a while. For example, in the inside of a subway someone will tend to zone out and look at the posters. If the image and text is engaging for them, then they will naturally start to ask questions. However, they may need some guidance and you may have to literally ask “what do you wonder?” If the image is clear enough, you will be able to simply add some guiding copy that starts to answer questions and ask more questions.

Making Information Unforgettable: the Routines of Learning

How do you make information completely unforgettable?

I’m talking “in 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue” kind of unforgettable. In a world where attention and being memorable matters more each day, how do you stand out?

Let’s take a look at this psychologically: when the brain is confronted with new information, it has to digest that new information somehow, it has to “learn” something. Learning Astrophysics? Physiology? How to wear a tie? What is the nature of reality? You have to start digging into these immense topics with some kind of cognitive tool, otherwise it’s just a flash that you forget–kind of like the majority of interruption marketing that we see.

Only when the brain starts to “learn” something can it remember something. Let that sink in. Unless your marketing is actually “teaching” the brain something, it will not stick. In essence, by “teaching” the brain something, you are earning psychological permission to take up space in the neural networks of your students. Effective teachers, by profession, are those that promote the greatest amount of learning. They have become masters of helping our subconscious digest information quickly and turn it into actionable, memorable and concrete information. By contrast, ineffective teachers spend most of their time is spent saying, “pay attention.” And no, students really aren’t going to respond to that request.

So what are is the cognitive trick to making information completely unforgettable? There are only three, so it’s easy to remember. These are called the routines of learning. That is to say, they are the cognitive processes that help us digest new information and make it extraordinarily memorable. Over the next couple of days I’m going to write about how to use each of them in our marketing. They are:

  • I see; I wonder
  • Compare and contrast
  • The parts and the whole

They don’t have a lot of meaning just yet, but I guarantee that you will find them very powerful in the coming weeks.

FYI, this blog post was inspired by what Harvard Scholars have done as part of the Visible Thinking project, so I must give them their due credit.