Wednesday, June 21, 2017

(Sticky 27) - GE's Millie Dresselhaus ad

I have worked in STEM, (Science Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), for over 30 years. People complain about the demographics, "there aren't enough women in the STEM workplace". I have even served on prestigious working groups, but if progress were water we couldn't fill a thimble.

Enter the GE commercial. It is short, well done, and frames its message. If it gets enough airplay it could potentially help raise awareness, to get people to think about the issue of women in STEM.

But that is not going to happen. For whatever reason the video is not sticky. There are currently less than a million views since February on YouTube.  The folks that thought it up and brought it to life must be heartbroken, but that is the world we live in; not everything sticks.

Let's look at sticky a bit deeper, because this is important. The term and idea was coined in Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

The formula for stickiness in the book: Simple Unexpected Concrete Credentialed Emotional Stories (SUCCES).

  • Simplicity: “It’s hard to make ideas stick in a noisy, unpredictable, chaotic environment. If we’re to succeed, the first step is this: Be simple. Not simple in terms of ‘dumbing down’ or ‘sound bites.’ What we mean by ‘simple’ is finding the core of the idea. ‘Finding the core’ means stripping an idea down to its most critical essence.”[2] GE kept it simple - what if we looked up to successful female scientists they way we look up to Wonder Woman.
  • Unexpectedness: Use surprising statistics to wake up a meeting and then generate interest and curiosity. GE only uses one statistic that I can see, how many women they intend to hire in STEM positions. It isn't surprising and there is no context for it, seems like it got plastered onto the conclusion.
  • Concreteness: Explain ideas in terms of human actions and speak in concrete language. An example of abstract thought in concrete language is “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” Use terms that will mean the same thing to everyone in the audience. GE is close here in places, but "what if" and action are far apart.
  • Credibility: Ideas have to carry their own credentials. Instead of simply presenting hard numbers, make data accessible and understandable. [3] GE succeeded here.
  • Emotions: We are wired to feel things for people, not abstractions. Make people care about the idea by appealing to their emotions. Urban legends specialize in creating emotion. In research conducted with Chris Bell and Emily Sternberg at Duke University, we studied a sample of more than 100 legends that we selected because they had emotional content. When we measured the emotional impact of the legends, it turned out people wanted to retell the stories that were more emotion-provoking. When we altered the legends to make them more emotional, people became more willing to tell them. And when we measured the distribution of the legends on the Internet, legends that provoked more emotion were the most widely distributed. The emotional quotient is key to helping ideas propagate and survive.[4] GE missed here and that is probably the reason the video is not sticky. I smiled and thought, "that's nice", but was not stirred, (I surely hope this does not mean I have a calloused heart).
  • Stories: People respond to narrative tales. Putting an idea into the context of a story will draw in the listener and help him remember the idea.[3] Could GE have used the story angle? Maybe a STEM student is sleeping and dreams of an alternate Millie Dresselhaus reality? It would have added 15 - 20 seconds, but potentially could have served as a foil for unexpected, emotion and would count as a story.
ACTION REQUEST: If you have not watched the video, please do. If you feel the message is important, even if not sticky, tell someone, put it on facebook, twitter etc. If we pull together, maybe we can help them get 1 million views. Thanks!

All URLs visited June 21, 2015 except as noted
NOTE: much of the text in this article is based on a previous work by the author
1.   *this page is now blocked off for direct access.
3. *article is no longer accessible

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

-Sticky (26) When your website thinks your brand is a mispelling

Some ideas stick, others don't. I am a student of ideas, products, slogans that stick. Today I ran into a series that don't. I realize readers prefer positive and upbeat; so do I. But when you run into something that is -sticky, (not sticky), it can be instructive to understand why.

At SANS.EDU we use Grammarly on student papers to ensure a certain degree of objectivity. And it works pretty well, or at least did until it didn't. Today, for some reason, I can't load the robot copy editor. 

I looked all over the website for a contact us, or support link; it might be there, but I could not find it. On a whim, I wrote and got an answer back almost immediately with a canned note and trouble ticket number.

After I returned from the gym, there was a support URL. Went to the support site, it is mostly a FAQ GUI. Found a place to report the problem.  When I put in a subject line for my report the interface marked Grammarly as a misspelling, (note the red squiggle in the graphic). Calling your brand a misspelling on your own site is humorous, but not sticky.

And I am back to where I started, with the same canned email from Grammarly with a new support number. To be continued . . .

Stephen Northcutt is Director of Academic Advising for SANS.EDU and chairperson for SANS Rocky Mountain 2017, Denver, 6/12/17, please mark the date.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Sticky (25) Veteran's Parking Places at Home Depot

Check out the orange in the sign. These are really good spots. At my local Home Depot they are on par with the handicapped spots.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Sticky (24) Pineapple dump

For my physical activity yesterday and today, I rode my trike to Pineapple dump. I think the area just North of Kealia is incredibly beautiful. Kauai used to earn money from sugarcane and pineapples. There was a narrow gauge railroad that carried the cores and skins to an area just North of Kealia beach and they dumped them in the ocean. Most of the time, the currents took them out to sea, but if a strong North wind was blowing all the refuse ended up in Kapaa, stinking up the place.

They say at night you can hear the faint cries of the dead pineapple cores, but I think that is just a legend.

Pineapple dump looking North

Pineapple Dump end of the line

Pineapple dump looking South

The reason I think this is "sticky"(Simple/Unexpected/Concrete/Credible/Emotional)" 

  • Simple: You can seed the simplicity of Pineapple Dump.
  • Unexpected: Trains dumping pineapple cores and skins in the ocean, have you seen that beforE?
  • Concrete: "Concrete details allow us to imagine a scene and, crucially, imagine ourselves in it." [] First off, it is concrete :)  But it is easy to imagine watching the train dump.
  • Credible: The first time I saw this 38 years ago, it was very rural. Nobody in the tourist business knew it was there, or why. Now there is one of those informative park signs telling the story.
  • Emotional: When you think of the ocean turning orange. When you read that if the currents were going in the wrong direction there was a stench over Kapaa. That is going to cause some emotions, especially in the year of an unprecedented die off of the Great Barrier Reef.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Sticky (23) WD 40

Saw this on facebook, the ad lead in seems a bit racy for 1964, but they are targeting males.

Just about everyone has a can of Water Displacement formulation number 40 around the house. I live a block from the beach in Hawaii and spray all the tools in my tool box a couple times a year. They still rust, but much slower.

The reason I think this is "sticky"(Simple/Unexpected/Concrete/Credible/Emotional)" 

  • Simple: Blue letters on a Yellow block. Shades of Boston Strong
  • Unexpected: There had never been anything like this
  • Concrete: Water Displacement, corrosion
  • Credible: Stuff really works, that is why most guys have a can laying around, what is the first thing that comes to mind when a door lock is acting up?
  • Emotional: They sent goodwill kits to the soldiers in Vietnam so their weaponry would continue to operate in adverse conditions at a time where many Americans were not supportive of our boys.
Here is their history page. Here are some uses of the product you probably never thought of, bet you are just dying to WD 40 the pole of your bird feeder, (squirrels hate the stuff).

Stephen Northcutt is an advisor for the SANS Technology Institute, a cyber-security graduate school and chair of the upcoming SANS Boston 2016, August 1 - 6 where he will be teaching MGT 512, Security Leadership Essentials.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Sticky (22) Northstar Wine Club

This blog is a consideration why some products and ideas go viral, survive a long time, become the standard and others don't. It is important to understand that while we generally consider the positive effects, there is also a variant of sticky that is pure poison. There are scads of wineries in Western Washington, but Northstar is my go to for Merlot. And somehow they survived the 2004 movie Sideways with the famous quote, ("If anyone orders Merlot, I'm leaving, I am NOT drinking any f*cking Merlot!"), that durn near killed Merlot, at least in the USA.

It wasn't even a great movie, it falls in the class of movies that I saw once, do not intend to see again and not because I sometimes drink Merlot.

Northstar makes consistently good Merlot, (and other vintages), and they charge a significant price for them and not just because they are in Walla Walla, (the city so nice you have to say it twice and where you can expect to pay at least $10 more per bottle).

In business, it is wise to be ready to wine and dine and some people don't go for Pinot Noir if you get my drift, so I belong to the wine club which is an assortment of six bottles per year, so Kathy and I share their other vintages and keep the Merlots in that special rack that people keep for visitors right next to the Otis Kenyon.

Now, I know what you are thinking, this doesn't sound sticky to me. Hold on, being a member means you can take a friend, or client to their wine blending class. Everybody I have taken to that has had a blast. Yes, that too is pricey, but you get a tour, the class and the blending lab and get to take home of bottle of your own blend.

Something happened this morning that put them on my sticky list. I received an email: This email confirms that your order has been processed. We will send another email with tracking information when your order has shipped. If you have any questions about your order, please reply to this email or call us at 800-391-1409.

One problem. I am in Hawaii and my wine is headed to Washington, you have to sign for alcohol and I don't really want two $40 bottles sitting on my front porch even if UPS is willing to skip the formality. So I called the 800 number, they stopped the order, are storing our bottles for us, (good thing, one of the bottles was their Petite Verdot and Kathy loves it), and they rescheduled the delivery for the day I get back.

The reason I think this is "sticky"(Simple/Unexpected/Concrete/Credible/Emotional)" 

  • Simple: Join the club, get the case discount when you are in Walla Walla, the bottles find their way back to you.
  • Unexpected: I had no idea it would be so easy to change my shipment.
  • Concrete: "Concrete details allow us to imagine a scene and, crucially, imagine ourselves in it." [] I have the bottles right in my rack.
  • Credible: This is what they call internal credibility, "Internal credibility is the ability of our ideas themselves to convince through an appeal to our audience’s sense of how the world works and how they see it." [] They are my "snob bottles". I do not usually spend this much on wine, (a $13 bottle of H3 from Costco serves me just fine), but if someone knows red wine, they know the Northstar winery.
  • Emotional: Now that you know the Sidekick story please join me in feeling like a rebel when you pop a Merlot.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Sticky (21) Boston Strong

Just read the article about the Boston Strong banner being displayed on the final stretch of the 120th Boston Marathon next week.  When I read that I got just a bit teary. You know the story, two college students, Nicholas Reynolds and Chris Dobens, came up with the idea of the t-shirts, published it on Facebook and by the time the smoke cleared, earned almost a million dollars for charity. Some claim the phrase is losing steam, but I beg to differ, so does the One Fund.

In the words of Howard Fineman, "Today, rescuers were running toward the wounded on Boylston Street in acts of true heroism -- running toward the sound of the screams.

In the end, the terrorists will fail because Bostonians did not turn from their fellow men -- they turned toward them. And that is the real music of mankind."

Proof that "Boston Strong" is sticky? Easy, almost nobody you meet remembers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, but everyone remembers Boston Strong.

The reason I think this is "sticky"(Simple/Unexpected/Concrete/Credible/Emotional)" 

  • Simple: Blue and Yellow, block letters. There are other renditions of course, but this is the core.
  • Unexpected: Two college students, near instant turnaround, it went viral. No way to see that coming.
  • Concrete: "Concrete details allow us to imagine a scene and, crucially, imagine ourselves in it." [] I have the slogan as a refrigerator magnet and reflect on the heroics and strength of the people of Boston every time I see it.
  • Credible: This is what they call internal credibility, "Internal credibility is the ability of our ideas themselves to convince through an appeal to our audience’s sense of how the world works and how they see it." [] It is credible! The rescuers ran towards the screams.
  • Emotional: Here is an article with just five of the heroes of the bombing. Feel more than a bit teary? Of course you do. Me too. 

(Stephen Northcutt is the conference chair of SANS Boston 2016, August 1 - 6. Boston is one of his favorite cities. He is also, as you can see from this blog, a student of stickiness and curious about why some ideas stick while others don't.)