Insights that Ignite

Frightened and Excited

The Art & Science of Persuasion and Captivation

Fascination is a word that both frightens and excites. “The origin of the word, Fascinere comes from Latin meaning to bewitch. Romans believed it was an evil curse. Freud labeled the relationship between a therapist and a patient as fascination, a form of hypnosis.” ~Sally Hogshead Fascinate: The Seven Triggers

Frightens and Excites

As the economy evolved from an information economy to more recently an experience economy, consumers’ expectations are higher than ever. Attention spans are more splintered, the field of competition is thick, and products and services are easily commoditized. Today we are in the midst of the Fascination Economy.

The only way to stand out is to be more fascinating than your competition. In this book Sally teaches you that Fascination is a tool to be mastered through activating one or more triggers that captivate people.


Lust – Seduced by anticipation
Mystique – Intrigued by the unanswered
Alarm – Action at the threat of negative
Prestige – Fixate on rank and respect
Power – Focus on people and things that control us
Vice – Tempted by “forbidden fruit”
Trust – Loyal to reliable options


When I found this book (and Sally) I was lost I a sea of sameness at work and in my personal life. Ten years after a failed marriage and a stalled career at a major multinational corporation, I met Sally Hogshead at a Word of Mouth Marketing Association Conference at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. She was the keynote, and I her onstage guinea pig.

As Sally started her talk, I remember she told the crowd she was going to teach us how to not be boring. She declared that today you either fascinate or you bore your audience, boss, family, and friends. Gasp! That statement scared the crap out of me. Was I no longer relevant, or worse boring? Equally it intrigued. Sure I had in my past experienced being in the zone, channeling my muse, but could not consistently replicate it.

A friend once asked if I remembered how I got to those moments where I killed it in the boardroom of puffy executives, or how I charmed and beguiled a date. Did I remember the steps, the words, and the conditions of each time? I could not. Only the way I felt at those moments remained.

Sally dissects these scenarios and how the triggers evoke strong feelings for both the fascinator and fascinated. Her voice is fun, powerful and reassuring. After reading this book I discovered what my fascination triggers were and how to use them, consistently.


Jäger Virgins

During the keynote, Sally explained that the triggers of fascination could work even if a brand has a negative connotation. Her example involved a well-known brand of alcohol that everyone wrinkles noses at, but definitely has purchased – Jägermeister.

Sally began this experiment of Fascination by asking if the audience had drunk it  before. Nearly every hand in the auditorium of thousands was raised – even my mild mannered colleague, Emily raised her hand. She looked to her left to see that my hand wasn’t raised. The look on Emily’s face was one of amazement and disbelief.

Next Sally asked how did people decide to drink it? What was the occasion? Immediately, declarations shot out from the crowd. “Celebrating my divorce, getting fired, break-up, failed test…”

Sally asked the crowd, “Do you like Jägermeister, how does it taste?” The crowd, mixed with wrinkled up noses and groans of displeasure, rumbled a low and loud hum of “nooooo!” She laughed out loud. “Yet, nearly everyone in this room has purchased and consumed it, maybe even more than once?” She said.

Finally Sally asked who in the room had not tried Jägermeister. I looked around the room and only one or two people raised their hands. My colleague raised my hand straight up in the air (we were at a centered table about two rows from the front).




Sally put her hand on her forehead to shield her eyes from the lights and pointed at me, “You, you there at the center table, please stand. What’s your name?” Then Sally brought me up to try a shot of Jägermeister. The crowd roared. She poured us each a shot. A hip looking guy with an iPhone got in front of us ready to take a picture.

Sally talked about the German digestif made with 56 herbs and spices. She waxed poetic about the aroma, the bouquet and asked me to really savor it. “Bottoms up!” She said. I thought about my stalled career and failed marriage. Then I raised the shot to my lips and threw back my head. The auditorium erupted with gasps and laughter, and the hip dude took a photo upon my head coming back to center with an empty shot glass.

My picture would now be on the wall of Jägermeister Virgins at the corporate HQ, on their website and social sites. I couldn’t wait to share it with my friends. I received the GIANT bottle of Jägermeister to take home. (NOTE:  Sadly this picture is no longer available)


This experience both frightened and excited me

When I returned home and to my office, I couldn’t wait to share what I learned with my colleagues, and immediately purchased Sally’s book– hard copy and audio.

The book is chocked full of data and history and real world modern examples of how to consistently apply the triggers of fascination. There’s even a step-by-step guide to take you and your team through finding the triggers that make your brand (personal or business) the most fascinating.

Reading Fascinate: The Seven Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation, and listening to Sally read it to you is essential to stand out in today’s economy. She has a fantabulous style that is equally powerful and warm. Sally’s words stir and activate change for individuals and brands.



I am a huge fan of the book and the woman; so much so that I joined the Fascinate® team as a Certified Advisor of the program. If you’d like to learn more about it, shoot me a note here.Certified Fascinate® Advisor


  admin   Sep 24, 2015   Books, Brand, Fascinate®, Favorite Reads, Insights that Ignite, Marketing, Strategy   0 Comment Read More

Mythbusting Gen Y

Here at CKS we like to work with great companies who believe in using data and insights to drive business. Recently, Christina was invited to guest blog posted with such a company, RetailNext, the market leader in Big Data solutions for brick-and-mortar challenges.

Holiday 2014: Mythbusting Gen Y

As the Holiday season approaches, some brands are counting on the boom in sales to make their year, and Millennials, aka Gen Y, are a juicy target. This market segment is now larger than the Baby Boomer generation in sheer numbers, and their spending power has nearly quadrupled since 2012 (The CEB: Iconcoculture “Inside the Millennial Mind, July 2013 & Cassandra summer/fall Report 2012).


The total spending power of this group is a whole lot more than their older counterparts, whose habits in turn are increasingly influenced by Gen Y. In a 2013 Accenture study (Seamless Retail for Millennial Consumers: Getting it Right), it was estimated that Gen Y spending will account for 30% of all U.S. retail sales in 2020.

But alas, Gen Y suffers from an image problem, with many perceiving the segment as possessing some not-so-appealing stereotypical behaviors, making them a challenge for retailers to court. To those perceptions, I call BS.

Myth 1 – Entitled and Broke
Responsible & uncompromising
Gen Y’ers are the “me generation,” loafing on their parents’ couch, or so says Joel Stein in his Time article The Me Me Me Generation, where he takes them to task for not rising to the occasion.

More likely, Millennials are passionate and uncompromising about personal fulfillment, while at the same time proactively managing personal debt. They are saving and investing at higher rates than the elder generations, and giving back to communities and causes at higher rates than Gen X and Boomers.


Myth 2 – Price sensitive
Prefer local business, altruism and experiences
A 2014 study by Deloitte shows more than 63% of Millennials donate to charity. In focus groups I conducted for a client looking to attract and retain Gen Y employees (November 2013), the groups confirmed this notion and noted that they also prefer to purchase goods from smaller, local community businesses, or from businesses that might not be local, but are committed to performing good works within the community.

If a Millennial thinks there is a higher, altruistic benefit, community support, or a great experience, then price is no option. Tom’s shoes cost a lot more compared to private label versions at discount stores, and while Warby Parker glasses are less than some eyewear stores, they definitely cost more than drugstore readers, yet both brands benefit from strong penetration into the Millennial segment. This segment spends more with brands like these because it combines two strongly valued considerations – altruism in a cool shopping experience.


Consume differently in the “share economy”
Millennials grew up in the digital age and share nearly everything – photos, videos, music, and more with friends and the larger social community. As such, their expectations of renting what’s needed for a short period versus purchasing an expensive item is a “no-brainer.” Companies like AirBnB, Uber and Rent the Runway have been among the first to fully capitalize on this behavior.


Myth 3 – Apathetic
Value-driven – passion, happiness, diversity, sharing & discovery
The values of Millennials are different from those of their Boomer parents, and one example is the value of producing work with meaning. Millennials value happiness, passion, diversity, sharing and discovery. Conversely their boomer parents tend to value justice, practicality, security, family and duty.

In a 2013 study by Keenan-Flagler Business School at UNC, 30% of Millennials said they would take a lower paying job that was meaningful over a high paying one.


Developing Gen Y strategies
While Millennials are a complicated segment, all is lost; there are ways to reach this elusive, but potentially lucrative, generation at retail.

1. Acknowledge the bad economy and how it’s affecting their wallets, and perhaps even dare to celebrate it. Millennials are more likely to sacrifice when it comes to private label store brands for products like wine, or staples like pasta. On The Radio is a fun, interactive way that introduces unique and cost effective Trader Joe’s branded products with visually stimulating experiences via an interactive graphic of an old-time radio.


2. Message broad, ever-evolving lifestyle values like discovery and success. Old Navy scores big with Millennials through its combination of low prices, humorous TV ads, and social media campaigns like this ad for $19 jeans with Amy Poehler.

3. Provide participative social network platforms and programs that highlight experiences over product specifications. Millennials are very likely to look for iinformation and talk about brands online, so make this behavior work for your brand. GoPro does this very well on its Facebook site by having customers upload personal photos and videos. Each day the staff at GoPro picks one and posts it as the “video of the day” for others to view and comment on.

Millennials buy, they just buy differently. Some argue Gen Y behaviors are a life stage, and as this group grows older they will fall into line with the buying patterns of older generations. I disagree, as Millennials are changing the way we all shop regardless of generation.

I am a boomer and my children are Millennials who have taught me ways to optimize my spending. For example, I now can’t live without retail apps like Target’s Cartwheel, where I now move through stores more efficiently and optimize my savings. When purchasing expensive items, I check reviews online and ask my friends and family via Facebook before making decisions, and if my shopping experience is less than my expectation, I’ll find another place to get what I need by checking again with friends and family online. And lastly, I’m dipping my toes in the share economy for a big business trip by considering AirBnB instead of a hotel chain.

The difference in expression of values and definitions of happiness, satisfaction, and ultimate success is what Millennials bring to the table. The key for retailers and brands is to make communicating with Millennials a holistic benefit of product and service to live it, be it and truly breathe it. The message has to ooze from every pore, every communication and every aspect of each touch-point. Millennial seek truth – so your brand must deliver.

  admin   Sep 09, 2014   Favorite Reads, Gen Y, Holiday, Insights that Ignite, Marketing, Millennials, Retail, Strategy   0 Comment Read More

What Great Brands Do

What Great Brands Do

A great and natural read on operationalizing your brand, Denise Lee Yohn’s book What Great Brands Do quickly became one of my favorite reads. It’s a must have for entrepreneurs and CEOs alike. Denise outlines her 7 principals in a real and conversational way. As I read the book, it was as if I was having lunch with her and discussing it face to face. The principals are not rocket science, rather the challenge is applying them consistently in line with your brand’s strategy. Below are the seven principals. The act of entrepreneurship naturally leads to following these principals.

Denise uses great corporate brand examples in her book, and often highlights local SMBs on Instagram and Facebook that exemplify these principals.
The first principal, “Great brands start inside,” is clearly an advantage of the entrepreneur. Think about your favorite local small business, why do you choose it?

Antonio’s Mexican Food down the street from my home is one of mine. Antonio’s is family owned and run. They serve up fresh and mostly locally sourced Mexican food. The restaurant has a modest dining room and a 24-hour drive-thru. The recipes are family secrets. The employees are siblings, cousins, parents, aunts & uncles, nieces & nephews, and grandparents. The restaurant is full people who are happy and have a passion for great food and complete customer satisfaction. Every time I eat at Antonio’s it feels like as if I’m an auntie or sister. The team greets me with a smile and asks how I am and how my family is. They remember what I usually order, that my daughter lives in New York and my son’s girlfriend loves their bean & cheese burritos with green sauce. And in 23 years this culture has remained steadfast.

Through out the book Denise chooses impactful, real world examples to illustrate how some brands do this well, and sometimes how others do not. After reading What Great Brands Do you’ll start noticing things your favorite brands do that keep you coming back. And maybe find ways to employ the principals at your business.

  admin   Jul 10, 2014   Books, Brand, Favorite Reads, Insights that Ignite, Marketing, Strategy   0 Comment Read More