Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation by Sally Hogshead

My notes on “Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation” by Sally Hogsheadfascinate

Fascination Scale

  • Avoidance
    • You’ll take steps to avoid TV commercials
  • Disinterest
    • You might leave the room during a commercial break to grab a bite
  • Neutrality
    • You don’t really care if you watch the commercial or not. You’re not going to take steps to avoid it, or to watch it
  • Mild Affinity

    • If a commercial happens to pique your curiosity, you’ll watch. Otherwise, eh, whatever
  • Interest
    • Commercials entertain, at least the good ones
  • Engagement
    • You actively enjoy commercials. During Super Bowl, you pay more attention to the commercials than the game
  • Immersion
    • You go out of your way to watch commercials, even going online to search them out
  • Preoccupation
  • Obsession
  • Compulsion

Trends Driving the Need for Fascination

  • An overload of distracting choices
  • The rise of the ADD world
  • Earning attention, not paying attention
  • The ability to shut out messages
  • Shift from the information age to the fascination age
  • The Fascination Economy

Golden Hallmarks of a Fascinating Message:

  • Provokes strong and immediate emotional reactions
    • Polarising – love or hate
    • Eg Botox
  • Creates advocates
    • Passionate, dedicated fans
    • Eg Religions, Nascar, The Da Vinci Code
  • Becomes “cultural shorthand” for a specific set of actions or values
    • A reference point for how people define themselves and their world
    • Eg tattoo’s, Louis Vuitton, Virgin
  • Incites conversation
    • Top of mind. Earns more attention than it pays for
    • Eg Twilight series, Grey’s anatomy, Richard Simmons
  • Forces competitors to realign around it
    • Establishes new standards and criteria. Irreplaceable for audience. Cannot be exactly replaces or duplicated by inspires look-alikes, me-too’s, imitators.
    • Eg Microsoft, then Apple, then Microsoft. Wal-Mart
  • Triggers social revolutions
    • Disrupts the status quo of accepted beliefs. Forces us to think differently about ourselves and our world
    • Eg Bono, Mini Cooper, Yoga, Prozac, YouTube

The Seven Triggers


If you trigger lust, you will draw others closer. They will crave your message, wanting more and more until satiated.

  • Lust creates craving for sensory pleasure
  • Stop thinking, start feeling
  • Make the ordinary more emotional
  • Use all five senses
  • Tease and flirt
    • As a motivator, desire is more powerful than fulfillment (eg Monkeys like the sight of a luscious grape, enjoy the moment just before eating, but are a bit bored when eating it). Eg2 burlesque shows are rarely performed in the harsh morning light
    • Journal of Consumer Research says sex sells: A woman in a bikini increases man’s sexual stimulation and increase the likelihood of indulgent decision making. As the brain opens to possibilities, the wallet opens as well


Trigger mystique, and you’ll encourage others to learn more about your message. They’ll be intrigued, and seek information

  • Mystique lures with unanswered questions
    • Eg celebrity deaths
  • Spark curiosity
  • Withhold information
    • Information is the opposite of mystique
  • Build mythology
    • Tell stories, don’t recite facts
    • Eg Coca Cola secret recipe
  • Limit access


With alarm, you compel others to behave more urgently. They’ll take action in order to avoid negative consequences.

  • Alarm threatens with negative consequences
  • Define consequences
  • Create deadlines
  • Increase perceived danger
  • Focus not on the crisis most likely, but on the one most feared
  • Use distress to steer positive action
    • Eg “The Tap project” charges for glasses of water, that money goes to Unicef to provide a child clean drinking water for 40 days


A message with prestige will elevate you about others, inspiring covetousness or envy.

  • Prestige earns respect through symbols of achievement
  • Develop emblems
  • Set a new standard
  • Limit availability
  • Earn it


If you effectively trigger power, you will control others. They will defer to you and your message.

  • Power commands and controls
  • Dominate
  • Control the environment
  • Reward and punish


By triggering vice, your message will tempt others to deviate from their usual code of conduct. They’ll act outside of standard habits or norms.

  • Vice tempts with “forbidden fruit” causing us to rebel against norms
  • Create taboos
    • Eg reality stars fight for the notorious villain role – Simon Cowell
  • Lead others astray
  • Define absolutes
    • Eg “don’t look in the box”, “don’t do drugs”
  • Give a wink
  • How to encourage someone to want do break your rules:
    • Enforce rigid black and white rules. Exaggerate consequences (eg “if you kiss a boy, you’ll get pregnant)
    • Give a firm “no” without reasonable reasn why
    • Fail to establish trust (no familiar people or context)
    • Trigger mystique by telling them what not to do, without telling them why
  • How boring brands can trigger vice
    • Electronic company: Include a secret “road to deafness” setting on your headphones
    • Car company: buy a private autobahn for people who buy a new car


With trust, your message will comfort others, relax them, and bind them more closely to you.

  • Trust comforts us with certainty and reliability
    • Are your favourite brands the highest quality or just the most familiar?
  • Become familiar
  • Repeat and retell
    • You can dabble in other triggers, but you must establish trust with consistency
    • Hitler: “The greater the lie, the greater the chance that it will be believed” if it is simple and you keep saying it
  • Be authentic
  • Accelerate trust
    • By tapping into values
    • Bring back old marketing devices

Your Potential Fascination Badges

  • Purpose: Your reason for being; your function as a brand
  • Core beliefs: The code of values and principles that guides you; what you stand for.
  • Heritage: Your reputation and history; the “backstory” of how you came to be.
  • Products: The goods, services or information you produce.
  • Benefits: The promises of reward for purchasing the product, both tangible and abstract, overt and implied.
  • Actions: How you conduct yourself.
  • Culture: All characteristics of your identity, including personality, executional style, and mind-set.

Steps to Find the Edge of Your Bell Curve

  1. List your badges (both existing and potential)
  2. Evaluate against the hallmarks of a fascinating brand
  3. Plot on a bell curve
  4. Push badges outward on the curve by infusing them with more of your primary trigger
  5. Push badges outward on the curve by infusing them with a new trigger
  6. Build your message around these badges

More Notes

Fascinating Faces

We are all find faces fascinating and we all consciously/subconsciously attempt to interpret facial expressions. Cutting edge software analysed Mona Lisa’s smile. The results: 83% happy, 9% disgusted, 6% fearful, 2% angry

The Fascination Economy

  • Goods-based economy >> Service-based economy >> Information economy >> Knowledge economy >> Experience economy >> Fascination economy
  • Fascinating company’s/brands:
    • Charge a premium
    • Command more influence in the marketplace
    • Build more loyal relationships over time

People Want to Connect with…

  • Not brands. With each other.
  • Fascinating companies create more opportunities for people to connect with each other through the brand (eg Harley-Davidson)
  • For marketers, it’s not about marketing a message – it’s about getting the market to create messages about you.

An idea is worth…

  • An idea is only as valuable as its ability to solve a problem
  • Ideas don’t live in a vacuum. They only become precious only once they successfully answer a specific need; otherwise they’re just scribbles

Red-tape will kill your fascinating plan

  • Avoid committee mentality. The most fascinating ideas are often fragile because they can easily be “dumbed down”
  • What policies and protocol block fascination by forcing a “red tape” mentality, or an over-thought, over-controlled approval process?
  • Are you so concerned with neutrality that your communication is diluted down to gray mush?
  • Are you so focused on keeping a low profile, playing it safe, that you’re kill fascination opportunities before they’ve had a chance to hatch?
  • Fascination requires putting yourself out there for remarkable ideas, accomplishments and innovations

Brand Example

  • Cirque de Soleil: Mystique (tightly held secrets) + Prestige (high-end execution) + Power (extraordinary training and skill) + Lust (playful style, elaborate costumes, makeup, artistry) leaves the audience craving more at the end of the show

2 Replies to “Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation by Sally Hogshead”

    1. Thanks Sally!

      It must be a bit scary as an author these days to see large sections copied out of your book and posted on blogs for free. But smart authors like yourself know that the larger the audience your ideas are exposed too, the greater the number of people will go ahead and purchase the full version.

      Now I’m off to Amazon to write a short review of your book 🙂

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