Branding should be fascinating

The following is a review of my book Fascinate, Revised and Updated: How to Make Your Brand Impossible to Resist by seven-time, New York Times best-selling author of Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive Harvey Mackay.

“You can’t stand out if you’re trying to blend in.” That’s the message Sally Hogshead drives home in the revised edition of Fascinate, her how-to handbook for making any brand impossible to resist.

“In any crowded marketplace, you have to make a choice. Either have the biggest marketing budget or be the most fascinating. Otherwise, your messages will be ignored and forgotten.”

Her research shows that a product or service can charge up to 400 percent more, without changing the product, by identifying how to fascinate buyers. She goes on demonstrate how anyone can make anything fascinating. Her book gives the tools to prove it.

In her original version published in 2010, Hogshead explained how our brains become captivated by certain people and ideas. She shared the seven ways in which brands fascinate people, or as she puts it, “the why, but not the how.”

In 2016 she revised the book, with more than 60 percent new content. Most exciting was the introduction of her Brand Fascination Profile, a process that enables you to measure your own product or service and to identify your brand’s most captivating advantages.

Another feature was TurboBranding, a step-by-step process that shows you how to create brand messages in about an hour.

Sound like useful information? You can’t begin to imagine how many ways you can apply this advice. After all, as Sally writes, “Corporations don’t create brands. People do.”

What attracts people to certain branding messages and not others? “Every day, in every relationship, you’re ‘marketing’ your ideas to be heard,” Hogshead says. “You want clients to hire you, or customers to recommend you.… Your influence will be measured by your ability to fascinate.”

The word “fascinate” comes from the Latin fascinare, which means “to bewitch or hold captive so that others are powerless to resist.” Fascination is the most powerful force of attraction, drawing customers into a state of intense focus.

How do you harness this fascination? “If you master the forces that influence human behavior, you win,” she says. “You can win bigger budgets, more time, better relationships, greater admiration, deeper trust.”

But if you don’t attract people, you lose the battle. She cautions: “As a business, if you can’t persuade customers to act, you might as well donate your entire marketing budget to charity.”

You will know that your brand is fascinating if you are provoking strong and emotional reactions, creating advocates and inciting conversation, or forcing your competitors to realign.

The examples and stories that Hogshead shares offer convincing evidence. One example describes how women who were given the choice between sunglasses with a designer logo and plain sunglasses were willing to pay more for the logo, although the functionality of the product was the same. The experiment showed that they weren’t concerned about buying something that was better, but something that was different.

“That’s the heart of differentiation,” she writes. “It’s tough to be better. But far easier to be different.”

Fascination goes beyond rational thinking, she says, “transforming customers into fanatics and your brand’s products into must-have purchases.”

But what if your marketing budget is limited? “The goal here is not to spend more money on marketing. It’s actually to spend less money by marketing more effectively,” Hogshead advises.

“Spend less but see better results. Outthink instead of outspend. If you don’t have the biggest budget, then be the most fascinating.”

The real meat of this book comes in Part II, “The Seven Fascination Advantages: How To Make Your Brand Impossible To Resist.” She describes the creativity of Innovation, the emotion of Passion, the confidence built by Power, the new standards set by Prestige, the stability of Trust, Mystique’s language of listening and the rules of Alert.

She next moves into Tactics, a practical system to customize your message. The seven Advantages are coupled with specific tactics to position your message more effectively. Hogshead also shows how to combine the seven Advantages with each other to customize your branding.

The closing section sends you on your way with a five-step action plan. “The ‘Fascinate System’ is not a substitute for a full-service agency,” she says. But “it condenses the time-honored marketing process into a streamlined and straightforward process for identifying your brand’s message and key competitive advantage.”

In a nutshell, “Fascinate” is fascinating. Your brand can be fascinating too.

Mackay’s Moral: Big time branding doesn’t require a big-time budget, just a commitment to fascinate.


A version of this article originally appeared in the Des Moines Register.

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About the author

Sally Hogshead

Sally skyrocketed to the top of the advertising world in her early 20s, fascinating millions of consumers for clients such as MINI Cooper and Coca-Cola. Since then, she’s published two New York Times bestsellers on the science of fascination, and is one of only 172 living members in the Speaker Hall of Fame. Over a million professionals have taken the Fascination Advantage® personality test to discover how others perceive their communication.


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