When Sally Hogshead was working as a creative director on brands such as Mini Cooper, Coca-Cola, and Nike, she wondered if there was a cheaper way for companies to get the solid branding advice they needed. After studying why ideas are fascinating, she has come up with a seven-element approach that you can benefit from in planning marketing, preparing presentations, or even heading out on your next date.
"I discovered a brand hack – a shortcut to come up with ideas very quickly. It's like a loophole in the creative process," she says in an interview.
She has become fascinated with the word "fascinate." It comes from the Latin word fascinare, which meant spell or witchcraft. In some cultures, it was associated with evil. During the Salem witch trails, Ms. Hogshead recalls, "fascination" was a crime punishable by death. But these days, we all would like to be fascinating and are attracted to brands with such charm. Indeed, she argues our brain was designed to be fascinated.
"When in a state of fascination we will pay as much as 1,000 times more for some item because we are in the grip of captivation. We are powerless to resist," she says.
But what exactly is fascination? Where does it come from … for a brand or person?
She boils it down to seven forms in her book Fascinate and an online diagnostic tool:
Innovation: Such brands revolve around the language of creativity. She lists five adjectives that indicate how to make that advantage come alive: forward-thinking, entrepreneurial, bold, surprising, and visionary. Virgin and Apple are exemplars. Innovation brands open our eyes to new possibilities and change expectations. They invent surprising solutions; they do the opposite of what is expected.
Passion: This is about relationships – building a strong tie between the brand and users. Key adjectives: expressive, optimistic, sensory, warm, and social. That luscious, gooey chocolate cake you spied on entering a restaurant and ordered was appealing to passion. So does the World Cup. Passion stirs our emotions, appealing to our five senses.
Power: This brand trait speaks of confidence. Key adjectives: assertive, goal-oriented, decisive, purposeful, and opinionated. The Tesla she and her husband recently bought is a power brand – not afraid to have opinions and lead the way. Beyoncé is also a power brand. Power brands need not be overpowering; they can guide gently, even lovingly. But they are confident, pursuing specific goals.
Prestige: This is about excellence. Key adjectives: ambitious, results-oriented, respected, established, and concentrated. It's a mark of excellence such as Chanel or Louis Vuitton. People shell our big bucks for the prestige of Channel sunglasses, she notes, while Louis Vuitton maintains its standards by shredding unsold bags so they don't end up sold at discount somewhere. She points to Brooks Brothers and Calvin Klein losing their prestige status as they opt for stores in malls.
Trust: This brand trait expresses the language of stability. Key adjectives: stable, dependable, familiar, comforting, predictable. It's Twinings tea or financial services provider Raymond James. She suspects Brooks Brothers and Calvin Klein now depend on this brand attribute. "Trust is the most fragile of the seven advantages. It's easy to break or lose but it's precious as it's increasingly rare," she says.
Mystique: In her book she calls this the language of listening, saying "Mystique reveals less than expected. It provokes questions. These brands know when to talk, and when to be quiet." Key adjectives: observant, calculated, private, curiosity-provoking, and substantive. This is the rarest of the seven approaches. KFC's 11 secret herbs and spices play to this sense of mystery. The puzzle can never be solved for the brand to remain potent.
Alert: This is the language of details. Key adjectives: organized, detailed, efficient, precise and methodical. "With its mastery of precision, Alert drives urgency and clarity," she writes. If you don't act soon or follow directions, there will be consequences. Bookings.com depends on the Alert phenomena to stimulate bookings. Public-health campaigns are alert brands.
To use her shortcut, you need to identify the prime advantage you hold for prospects and customers. But you can also apply some of the other fascination approaches as tactics, but don't overreach and dilute the prime brand message, she says. Lexus is a prestige brand, but its sumptuous leather has a passion appeal and its vehicles are thought trustworthy.
"All of us need to stand out, be heard, and be remembered when communicating," she concludes, in an interview. "Whether we're writing a love letter, being interviewed for a job, or talking to our kids. we need to fascinate."
Harvey Schachter is a Kingston, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online column, Power Points. E-mail Harvey Schachter