Sunday, May 17, 2009

Simple Messages Drive Complex Behavior

People confirm and reinforce their behavior using simple messages. Reasons:

On the message side:
1. Easy to remember
2. Easy to understand

On the behavior side:
1. Simple to explain to our friends, our co-workers, our family and the mirror.
2. Our brains are wired to work like running water - seeking out the path of least resistance. Thus, it naturally goes for the easiest message to remember and understand.

A few examples (with explanations - although they aren't needed):

  • TGIF (Thank God It's Friday) - We use this to define our urgency to escape the drudgery of work and get to the "good life" of the weekend. This is an example of how a simple phrase can reinforce a negative behavior.
  • Fake it 'til you make it - This is used to remind people that sometimes you have to just start something (like smiling) and then you will feel like doing it. This is a positive behavior example.
  • I love you - When sourced from the genuine feeling, this phrase is an extension of one of the most powerful forces in human emotions. Again, based on the context, this is the most positive behavior example.

You can leverage this powerful tool to help put a long tail on your content. Here's the strategy: find the simplicity in the complexity of your message, develop a unique phrase or word that embodies the core meaning of this simplicity and then repeat that phrase/word throughout your presentation, in your handouts, on your visuals and during the before and after connection points with your audience.

(Hit tip -

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