amazing-girl-quits-6What makes some urban leg­ends go viral?

Well, for the real answer, you can always read the highly rec­om­mended Made to Stick, which was based on the Heath Bros study of this very ques­tion.  But apart from their SUCCES model, there’s one fac­tor that I think the book doesn’t dis­cuss quite directly enough:

Often­times, the urban leg­end is some­thing we want to be true.

Now, in a world of leg­ends about kid­ney thefts, that might sound a tad grue­some, and I’d be will­ing to admit this fac­tor isn’t always at play, but more often than not, I think you’ll find even the scary urban leg­ends con­tain some ele­ment of Schaden­freude — some way of mak­ing the world more inter­est­ing or poet­i­cally just, even if that requires rais­ing the spec­tre of the bogey man to do so.

Case in point, this won­der­ful fable about a girl quit­ting her job via dry erase board pics e-mailed to her entire office.If you haven’t seen it, I prac­ti­cally guar­an­tee it’ll brighten your day.

So while I usu­ally check these things out on Snopes or Google, I didn’t do that for this one. I wanted it to be true. Even after I was e-mailed the news the story was false, it still felt like it ought to be true.

And isn’t that a les­son in copywriting?

Start off with an image or story that the reader wants to be true — and really IS true — and you’ll find the rest of the per­sua­sion process easy.


  1. Steve Shaw on 08.13.2010

    That’s a pow­er­ful point made in such a short post. I blasted it out through amplify.

    You really go to the heart of the mat­ter when it comes to persuasion.

    Get them to vividly imag­ine some­thing they want to believe, and indeed see them­selves doing.
    .-= Steve Shaw´s last blog ..What keeps your cus­tomer up at night =-.

  2. Jeff on 08.13.2010

    Thanks for the com­ment, Steve — and for the Amplify blast ; )

    - jeff

  3. Dino Dogan on 08.13.2010

    Hey man, great post :-)

  4. Jeff on 08.13.2010

    You crack me up, Dino. And true to my word, I’m thrilled with the comment ; )

    .-= Jeff´s last blog ..It’s what we want to be true – isn’t it =-.

  5. Holly Buchanan on 08.13.2010

    Jeff, You are the only writer I know who could com­bine “social sta­tus” and “schaden­freude” in the same phrase. Just kind of rolls off the tongue.

    great post.

  6. Jeff on 08.13.2010

    Thanks, Holly. Must be my male-communication style seek­ing hier­ar­chy and one-upsmanship ;)

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