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 😉