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?
- Provide powerful visual imagery of positive outcomes
- Include a sense of poetic justice in your story lines
- Don’t shy away from the subtle call to social status or use of schadenfreude
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.