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Toolkit: Empathize and Define | Via DTActionLab

This content was created by the DTAction Lab team.

Guidelines for Interviewing

These guidelines will help you set the tone for the interview and get the most out of it.

1. You may bring a few prepared questions, but the most important thing is to maintain a connection with the interviewee and show that you are listening to what they are saying (ie, look at them, not just at your notes). Also, you should always follow up on interesting answers, instead of mechanically moving through a list of questions.

2. Take notes or record the interview. Capture on paper the person’s own words whenever possible, instead of rephrasing during the interview. If you record the audio of the interview (with permission), you will need to extract quotes from the recording later.

3. Start the interview by introducing yourself and the project you are working on, and start with lighter, more general questions to establish a connection and put the interviewee at ease

4. Listening is as important as talking (your interviewee should talk about 75% of the time). Also, showing that you are really interested in what the other person has to say goes a long way. Think of the interview as aconversation.

5. Ask open-ended, non-leading questions: “What do you think about that school?” is a better question than “Don’t you think that school is great?” The former doesn’t imply there is a right answer.

6. Be curious and ask “why?” often, even when you think you know the answer. Many answers will surprise you. Always follow up on answers that sound interesting, or whenever the interviewee says “I think…” A good way of doing this, in addition to asking “Why?” is to say “Tell me more about that.”

7. Ask for stories about concrete events. Instead of asking people how do they “usually” do things or how do they “usually” feel, ask them about the last time they did something, or the most memorable moment (in fact, do NOT use “usually” at all).

8. Don’t be afraid of silence. Resist the need to ask another question when there is a pause. The interviewee might reflect on what he/she has just said and say something deeper.

*Bonus points* If you have access to observing someone during an event that is relevant to the challenge (for instance, writing a resume, looking for jobs on the internet, etc.) and can talk to them while observing them in action, that would be extremely valuable to get insights about the challenge from the point of view of that person.

More resources:

II. Guidelines for the Empathy Map

Using the Empathy Map framework you will process what happened in the interview, make inferences about the thoughts and feelings of the person based on what they said, and connect the dots to identify a need or problem he/she has related to the challenge.

We suggest that you spend about 20 to 30 min creating the empathy map (longer if you need to transcribe an audio recording of the interview).

Go through the sections of the empathy map in this order:

SAY section. Write down here all the quotes from the interview that catch your attention as you review your notes. Be as literal as possible (as opposed to rephrasing what they said in your own words).

DO section (optional). If you observed the person in action, describe here behaviors you saw. You can also combine interview and observation, by asking the person to walk you through what they are doing. **Note that you may not have anything in this section if you did not have the chance to do observations**

THINK and FEEL sections. Here is where you will make inferences (educated guesses) about the meaning of what the person said. What if you are wrong? You may very well be, but if you don’t take a leap and make inferences, you won’t get at deep unexpected needs. At later stages in the process you will get more data that will allow you to refine your understanding and definition of the problem.

III. Guidelines for the Problem Statement

With the problem statement, you encapsulate concrete problems related to the challenge for the person you interviewed. In the next stage (IDEATE – next week), you will creatively solve them.

Since the person you are designing for might not articulate any needs/problems related to the challenge (these would be implicit needs), it’s your job to make educated guesses about those needs, based on the stories and data you gathered in the interview.

Write Problem Statements in this form:

STAKEHOLDER needs a way to ________(PROBLEM/NEED)____ Because ____(INSIGHT)_____

STAKEHOLDER: Here you should describe the person you are designing for (one you interviewed). Use at least 5 adjectives to describe that person. Make sure you add enough information to paint a picture of the person to someone who has not met him/her (“A detailed-oriented, reliable, degree-holding accountant, who is curious and able to work in teams, as well as collaborative and creative”).

PROBLEM/NEED: Use VERBS instead of NOUNS to define the problem/need. Nouns are often already solutions: as an example, contrast “Joe needs a better pencil” with “Joe needs a better way to write” or “Joe needs a better way to capture data.” In the first case the solution is already implied in the problem statement, so there is only opportunity for incremental innovation. In the latter frames, there is an opportunity to come up with innovative solutions that may go beyond an improved pencil.

INSIGHT: Here you provide a justification for the need you stated. The insight often comes from connecting the dots between different elements on the empathy map.

In order to get a good Problem Statement, craft more than one and then select one that is not too narrow (eg, Joe needs to get a job as accountant) nor too broad (Joe needs a way to improve his career) to continue the process.

Here is a template that contains and Empathy Map and Problem Statement:

1. PDF (Slideshare):

2. Prezi:

Ten guidelines for effective front-panel design | Via

While there are no hard-and-fast rules in front-panel package design, here are some guidelines to help you define your brand on today’s cluttered retail shelves.

By Ron Romanik, Contributing Editor

Branding, marketing, and advertising all converge on the front panel of a retail package. Dedicated package designers would argue a package does all of that and more, and that nothing represents the brand more than the retail package. That’s because the package is the last place the consumer interacts with the brand prior to making a purchase decision. There are certainly no hard-and-fast rules in front-panel package design, and some categories have much more freedom to experiment. But here are some guidelines that will help you define your brand on the front panels of packages on today’s cluttered retail shelves.1. Determine the brand “position.” Know your company and your brand and your core values. Ask the hard questions again and again, and don’t underestimate the savvy of today’s consumers. Is there a unique value proposition? What is the primary product benefit, lifestyle advantage, or convenience gain? For a new brand or brand extension, remember that getting noticed is often the most important goal.

2. Explore the competitive environment. Use differentiation in a category for one goal—giving consumers a reason to pick up the package. Go to the retail environments where the package will live, and ask these questions from the perspective of the brand:
• Who am I? Do I represent something tangible? Do I inspire trust?
• What makes me special? Where do I fit in among competitors?
• Why would they buy me? What’s the most important benefit or advantage?
• How can I connect with consumers emotionally? What cues can I use?
3. Settle on a hierarchy. Information organization is a critical element of front-panel design. Broadly, the importance of the information hierarchy goes: 1) brand; 2) product; 3) variety; and 4) benefit(s). Analyze all the messages you want to convey and put them in order of importance. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll be in that order, top to bottom, on the package, but it’s a good reference point to start with. Having a very organized, consistent information hierarchy across multiple product varieties helps your customer find the variety they desire and allows for a satisfying experience. Saving the shopper time in picking out a product should always be a priority.

4. Make one element the hero. Is the personality of the brand strong enough to stand on its own? Determine what is the most important single idea to communicate about your product. If you’re going to “own” something, what is that something? Align secondary brand messages under the primary umbrella message. If your brand is the hero, consider “locking in” a tagline with the logo. But make sure you’re committed to that tagline for the long haul. Otherwise, look for inspiration outside the category, which can often lead to breakout design. Use shapes, colors, illustrations, and photographs to reinforce the hero of your brand story. Above all else, make it easy for repeat buyers to find you the next time.

5. Keep it simple. Less is often more—communication-wise. Be succinct, both verbally and visually. Three main visual cues are all that the typical eye will tolerate. Successful package design is often an exercise in constraint. Remove overloaded messages on the front panel. Limit marketing claims and benefit statements. Any more than two or three, and the points will be counterproductive. Too many benefits will dilute the core brand message, and it will actually cause the consumer lose interest in the store aisle. Remember, most packages have secondary panels for more information. That’s where shoppers look when they want to learn more. Use the secondary panels, but don’t skimp on design for those either. If secondary panels are unavailable, consider a hangtag to tell a deeper brand story.

6. Manage stakeholder expectations. Expect some stakeholders to want to put all the information or marketing claims they have on the front panel. Remind them that a package is not an advertisement. Be prepared for the counter-arguments by having a repeatable design development process. Back the process up with checkpoints and transparency and show progress with visual aids. Explain how the process is both expansion and contraction, and have everyone sign off on the process before starting. Quickly develop three to five options so you can establish a common language to talk about the objectives. Be prepared with questions and suggestions should a stakeholder come to you with a printer or converter already in mind before design begins.

7. Communicate value visually. Of course, having a transparent window that shows the product inside is almost never a bad idea. Consumers want visual confirmation of the choices they make. Aside from that, you can say things non-verbally with shapes, design, graphics, and colors. Use the elements that will best communicate attributes and equities, sensations and feelings, emotional associations, and textures. Create an association with a sense of place. Suggest use occasions with graphics that have the elements of that use occasion. Involve a lifestyle. Today’s consumers judge products in relation to how the values of that brand fit into their values and lifestyle. Create a singular “reason to believe” that is capable of closing the sale in isolation.

8. Be mindful of category-specific rules. Each retail category has its own conventions. Some should be followed religiously. Some are important because bucking the convention can set a newcomer brand apart. For food products, however, the product itself should almost always be the hero. Spend the money on production and printing to create a photorealistic representation of the ideal serving suggestion. Conversely, for pharmaceutical products, the brand and product’s physical characteristics can be secondary—sometimes even unnecessary. The parent brand logo may not need to be on the front panel. Instead, emphasize the name of the product and what it does. Across all categories, though, it’s advisable to err on the side of less clutter on the front panel.

9. Don’t forget findability and shopability. Learn how consumers shop the particular category you’re in. Make sure they won’t be confused by the format or the information hierarchy. Remember, cognitively and psychologically, colors communicate ahead of everything else. Next come shapes. Words matter, but mostly as a support role. Words and typography are for reinforcement, not high-level brand communication.

Findability can be either about having a brand-first strategy or about creating a “blocking” element in the store aisle that draws shoppers in. Shopability is about having a consistent system of colors, shapes, materials, or front-panel hierarchy that guide both new and repeat shoppers in finding the specific product and variety he or she desires. If there are multiple lines under a parent brand, consider good/better/best strategies that indicate each value proposition clearly and succinctly. For instance, the relative strengths of different products in a line can be indicated by “strengths,” or relative saturations, of color.

10. Plan for future brand extensions. A brand that is flexible enough to extend to other categories also has a core brand identity that it owns. After that, a successful brand platform is one that can grow by adding product varieties or lines, or extending outside its original category. Test the versatility of a front panel’s design by applying it to new products and to new categories. Look at a wide swath of imaginary products and extensions, not just the flagship variety. Make sure they all work together, united as a brand but easily understood as separate offerings.

Even plan for future redesigns of your core product line. Don’t inhibit the future growth of your brand by creating a platform that is not both extendable and flexible.

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Why We Need To Value Students’ Spatial Creativity | Via MindShift

July 31, 2013

By Jonathan Wai

At 16, Albert Einstein wrote his first scientific paper titled “The Investigation of the State of Aether in Magnetic Fields.”  This was the result of his famous gedanken experiment in which he visually imagined chasing after a light beam.  The insights he gained from this thought experiment led to the development of his theory of special relativity.

At 5, Nikola Tesla informed his father that he would harness the power of water.  What resulted was his creation of a water-powered egg beater. Tesla, who invented the basis of alternating current (AC) power systems, had the unusual talent to imagine his inventions entirely in his mind before building them. He was apparently able to visualize and operate an entire engine in his mind, testing each part to see which one would break first.

Thomas Edison—famous for developing the light bulb and more than 1,000 patents—was fascinated with mechanical objects at an early age.  He once said: “To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.”  He wasn’t joking. In his lab he wanted to have on hand “a stock of almost every conceivable material.”  According to an 1887 news article, his lab was stocked with chemicals, screws, needles, cords, wires, hair, silk, cocoons, hoofs, shark’s teeth, deer horns, cork, resin, varnish and oil, ostrich feathers, amber, rubber, ores, minerals, and numerous other things.

Einstein imagined with his mind. Tesla imagined with his mind and built with his hands. Edison imagined with both. They all had extraordinary spatial talent—“the ability to generate, retain, retrieve, and transform well-structured visual images.”

Spatial thinking “finds meaning in the shape, size, orientation, location, direction or trajectory, of objects,” and their relative positions, and “uses the properties of space as a vehicle for structuring problems, for finding answers, and for expressing solutions.” Spatial skill can be measured through reliable and valid paper-and-pencil tests—primarily ones that assess three dimensional mental visualization and rotation. Read more about examples of items that measure spatial skill here.

But despite the value of these kinds of skills, spatially talented students are, by and large, neglected. Nearly a century ago, a talent search conducted by Lewis Terman used the highly verbal Stanford-Binet in an attempt to discover the brightest kids in California. This test identified a boy named Richard Nixon who would eventually become the U.S. president, but two others would miss the cut likely because the Stanford-Binet did not include a spatial test: William Shockley and Luis Alvarez, who would go on to become famous physicists and win the Nobel Prize.

[RELATED: Can Playing Video Games Give Girls an Edge in Math?]

Today talent searches often use the SAT and ACT which include math, verbal, and writing sections, but do not include a spatial measure. All of the physicists described above (and Tesla who could do integral calculus in his head) would likely qualify today at least on the math section, and Edison would likely have qualified on the verbal section due to his early love of reading.  However, there are many students who have high spatial talent but relatively lower math and verbal talent who are likely missed by modern talent searches and therefore fail to have their talent developed to the extent it could.  Also, because colleges use the SAT and ACT for selecting students, many high spatial students likely do not make it onto college campuses.

Nearly every standardized test given to students today is heavily verbal and mathematical.  Students who have the high spatial and lower math/verbal profile are therefore missed in nearly every school test and their talent likely goes missed, and thus under-developed. What’s more,spatially talented people are often less verbally fluent, and unlikely to be very vocal. Finally, teachers are unlikely to have a high spatial profile themselves (and typically have the inverted profile of high verbal and lower math/spatial), and although they probably do not intend to, they’re more likely to miss seeing talent in students who are not very much like themselves.

So what does the research tell us?  In a study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology, my colleagues and I used longitudinal data from multiple data sets across 50 years to show that spatial talent (in addition to math and verbal talent) is important for success in STEM domains. The data came from the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth (SMPY), Project Talent, and the GRE. Of those students in the top 1 percent of spatial talent, roughly 70 percent were not in the top 1 percent in either math or verbal talent—showing a large fraction of students having the high spatial but lower math/verbal profile.

Now a new study by Harrison Kell, David Lubinski, Camilla Benbow, and James Steiger published in Psychological Science has made the connection between early spatial talent and creativity in adult life even stronger. The study, based on SMPY data, showed that spatial skill had an increment of prediction over and above math and verbal skills (assessed at age 13) when looking at scholarly publications and patents—even those in STEM.

Can We Enhance Spatial Skill?

So, can enhancing spatial thinking improve outcomes in STEM?  A new study by David Uttal, David Miller, and Nora Newcombe published in Current Directions in Psychological Sciencenotes that “a recent quantitative synthesis of 206 spatial training studies found an average training improvement of 0.47 standard deviations.”  The authors suggest that including spatial thinking in STEM curricula would “enhance the number of Americans with the requisite cognitive skills to enter STEM careers.”

The research is clear that spatial skill is important for STEM careers, and perhaps we can even enhance spatial skill to help more people join the STEM fields. What we need is research directed at understanding the best ways to develop the talent of students who are high spatial, but relatively lower math/verbal. Perhaps spatial video games and online learning coupled with hands on interventions might help these students.

[RELATED: How Thinking in 3D Can Improve Math and Science Skills]

This is what’s so great about the Maker Movement and “Why Kids Need to Tinker to Learn”: It will help encourage all students to tinker, invent, and to use their hands to make things again. Certainly the skills encouraged by the makers might be helpful to students who go on to pursue STEM careers. But the movement probably will be most effective for spatially talented students who have been neglected in our school systems.

One student who felt neglected in the school system was researcher Matthew Peterson. As a child, Peterson felt that he was drowning in words and numbers. And in many ways he was, as he was identified as dyslexic—similar to Einstein and Edison. This bothered him so much that today he has developed a way to teach math in an entirely visual manner called ST Math.

Ultimately we need to have the individual skill profile of each student matched to individualized instruction tailored to them. We need to experiment in the laboratory and classroom and conduct rigorous evaluations to find out what actually works.

Redefining and Valuing a Different Kind of Creativity

Today we idolize creative actors, dancers, artists, musicians, and writers. But when was the last time someone raved to you about a creative engineer or mathematician? Why isn’t STEM considered creative or cool? Longitudinal research has made a solid link between early spatial talent and later creativity. Yet for whatever reason, we don’t appreciate the highly creative nature of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

It would seem impossible to argue that the theory of relativity, alternating current, or the light bulb were not creative innovations.  And yet it is easy to forget that these advances fall squarely in the STEM disciplines.  Consider the device you are reading this article from right now.  Spatially talented people imagined it in their minds eye and then they built it.  Not everyone is going to be an Einstein, Tesla, or Edison, but if we identify the many spatially talented students who have been neglected in our school systems we might discover many brilliant kids who are just waiting to develop their creative potential.  We need to help them.  After all, we will ultimately depend on their visions to help create our future.

Jonathan Wai is a researcher at the Duke University Talent Identification Program and Case Western Reserve University and writes “Finding the Next Einstein: Why Smart is Relative” for Psychology Today.

Link to original article:

8.1.13 / THE PSUEDO-SCIENCE OF ADVERTS | Via “The Daily Heller @ Print Magazine



Anyone who says that the mid-1950s Creative Revolution (The Big Idea epoch)  was merely a semantic change in the way advertising was practiced, should look below. Try to find the creative in this primer of persuasion.

The advertising industry, which Edward Bernays suggested was the propaganda ministry of the nation, sought whatever scientific means it could to guarantee success. Capitalism runs on commerce, so psychology, as Aldous Huxley has written, was employed early in the 20th century and adopted for better or worse in the postwar era.

adverts 10

Freud was the Mad Men’s best friend.

What everyone wants and advertising must exploit.

What everyone wants and advertising must exploit.

More fundamental wants and desires.

More fundamental wants and desires.

Advertising is a science?

Advertising is a science?

What's that in his hands, rope and bat? Hmmmmm.

What’s that in his hands, rope and bat? Hmmmmm.

Aspiration, inspiration, perspiration.

Aspiration, inspiration, perspiration.

Women: Consumer and allurer. . .

Women: Consumer and allurer. . .

Beats me . . . !!!

Beats me . . . !!!

Truth. You want the truth, I'll give you the truth!

Truth. You want the truth?! You can’t handle the truth!!!

Let's review. Got it? Got it!

Let’s review. Got it? Got it!

Es retirada campaña multimillonaria de Coca-Cola |

Es retirada campaña multimillonaria de Coca-Cola

Vía: El poder del consumidor.

“Conocer y reconocer la opinión y puntos de vista nos hace mejores, más críticos, con mayor poder de decisión. FHR”

• La campaña publicitaria “149 calorías” de Coca-Cola es de las más grandes que ha sido retirada y sancionada por autoridad en México.
• Esta campaña también fue retirada por la autoridad británica a raíz de las protestas presentadas por los consumidores.
• El envase del refresco de 600 ml. con el cual se confunde a la población contiene 252 calorías, significativamente más que las 149 calorías contenidas en un envase de 355 ml.
• La ingesta extra de calorías representa un riesgo para el 40% de la población mexicana que estando en su peso ya presenta síndrome metabólico y pone en riesgo aún mayor al 14% de los adultos que sufren diabetes.

22 julio 2013. La campaña de Coca-Cola “149 calorías” presente en miles de espectaculares distribuidos en todo el país, en spots de radio y televisión, en impresos e internet, ha sido retirada y sancionada por Cofepris y Profeco por engañosa y representar un riesgo para la salud.

La empresa Coca-Cola, que tiene sus mayores ventas en el mundo en México, se vio obligada, así, a retirar miles de espectaculares en todo el país, sus spots en los medios electrónicos, sus anuncios en medios impresos y en internet.

El 19 de junio de 2013, El Poder del Consumidor presentó ante la Procuraduría Federal del Consumidor (Profeco) una denuncia contra la campaña de Coca-Cola “149 calorías” por engañosa, a lo que la autoridad respondió que se integraba a un expediente ya abierto contra esa publicidad (PFC.B.B. 13/000039/2013).

Del mismo modo, al día siguiente, El Poder del Consumidor presentó una denuncia contra esa publicidad por representar un riesgo para la salud ante la Comisión Federal para la Protección contra Riesgos Sanitarios (Cofepris).

La campaña multimillonaria de Coca-Cola, extendida por todo el territorio nacional y a través de muy diversos medios, publicitaba su bebida principal con las leyendas “149 calorías de felicidad”, “149 calorías para disfrutar”; acompañada con las frases “disfrutando 22 minutos en bicicleta”, “20 minutos para bailar con los amigos”, “para usar en más actividades felices”.

La denuncia se centró en señalar el riesgo a la salud que significa la promoción de un mayor consumo de calorías gastándola a través de la realización de diversas actividades físicas, considerando que se dirige a una población que en su gran mayoría (70% de los adultos y más de 30% de niños y niñas) presenta ya un consumo excesivo de calorías y un gran déficit de actividad física.

“El consumo de calorías extras significa incrementar los riesgos en salud para la mayoría de la población mexicana, complicar su tratamiento y aumentar el gasto familiar y público en salud. La ingesta extra de calorías agudiza los problemas de sobrepeso u obesidad que afectan a la mayor parte de la población mexicana, representa un riesgo para el 40% de la población que estando en su peso ya presenta síndrome metabólico y pone en riesgo aún mayor al 14% de los adultos que se considera sufren diabetes” señaló Xaviera Cabada, nuestra coordinadora de Salud Alimentaria en El Poder del Consumidor.

Katia García, investigadora en Salud Alimentaria de El Poder del Consumidor declaró que “entre otro de los elementos presentados en la denuncia destaca el análisis de las imágenes y su relación con el mensaje de esta publicidad. La empresa usa un envase de cristal de 355 mililitros muy poco consumido en nuestro país para confundir a los consumidores, por su tamaño, haciéndoles pensar que se trata de un envase de 600 mililitros, el más consumido en México. En letras muy pequeñas establece que dichas calorías aplican para un refresco de 355 mililitros o una lata. El envase del refresco de 600 mililitros con el cual se confunde a la población contiene 252 calorías, significativamente más que las 149 calorías contenidas en un envase de 355 mililitros. Esto se constituye en publicidad engañosa”.

Por su parte, Alejandro Calvillo, nuestro director de El Poder del Consumidor, señaló que “como denunciantes hemos solicitado a Cofepris y a Profeco conocer las resoluciones del caso, pero se nos ha informado que los expedientes todavía no se han cerrado y, por lo tanto, no podemos tener acceso a conocer la resoluciones y cuáles fueron las consideraciones de la autoridad para retirar y multar a Coca-Cola por esta campaña, que representa, sin duda, la campaña publicitaria de mayor inversión que ha sido retirada por la autoridad en la historia del país. México es el mayor consumidor de refrescos en el mundo y de Coca-Cola en particular. El consumo regular de esta bebida está asociado al riesgo de desarrollar obesidad, síndrome metabólico y diabetes”, concluyó.

La campaña de Coca-Cola ha sido también retirada en el Reino Unido por tratarse de una publicidad engañosa que representa un riesgo a la salud. “Es importante lo que está pasando a escala internacional, tenemos la necesidad deponer un alto al engaño de la publicidad, al engaño de las etiquetas que han sumido a los consumidores en la ignorancia y que han llevado a esta epidemia de sobrepeso y obesidad. El caso más extremo lo representa las campañas de Coca-Cola que asocian su consumo a la felicidad, cuando este tipo de productos tienen una responsabilidad en la epidemia global de sobrepeso, obesidad y diabetes”, agregó Calvillo.

El Poder del Consumidor denunció públicamente que Coca-Cola está violando aún la resolución de la autoridad manteniendo esta publicidad en algunos espacios, como en el segundo piso del Periférico en dirección sur-norte, en el entronque con Viaducto, donde aún se encuentra un espectacular con esta campaña.

Research: How Sensory Information Influences Price Decisions | HBR Blog Network

by Steve W. Martin  |  11:00 AM July 26, 2013

The conversations salespeople have with prospective customers involve these visual, auditory, and kinesthetic channels. Can different amounts of visual, auditory and kinesthetic information influence the price customers will pay for an item? Recently, a sales linguistics experiment was conducted in order to answer this question. Sales Linguistics is the study of how customers and salespeople use language during the complex decision-making process.

Sensory Information Price Test

Study participants were separated into three groups and six items were presented to them in a classroom setting. All participants were business professionals and university graduates between the age of twenty-four and fifty-seven. The groups were asked to estimate the price of each item and rank whether they had a low, medium, or high level of comfort with the answer they gave.

The first group would be presented only visual information consisting of a picture of the item and a brief description. The second group would be shown the same visual information as the first group, but the description would be read to them with dramatic emphasis and accentuation, creating an auditory connection. The third group would be shown the visual information, read the description in the same manner as for group two, and also be provided the opportunity to hold and inspect the item before making their guess, creating a kinetic bond..

The participants were presented with an eclectic mix of items. In order, they were shown a baseball hit by famous home run hitter Manny Ramirez of the Cleveland Indians, a six inch wooden penguin honoring Admiral Byrd’s expedition to the south pole, a black plastic stapler, a copy of Rudyard Kipling’s second Jungle Book published in 1915, a vintage brass letter opener from Italy, and a 1886 Morgan United States Silver Dollar.

Understanding the Test Results

While the test results provide many different revelations about how people interpret information, two high-level metrics underscore the impact sight, sound, and touch can have when making a decision about price. Below are the average answer comfort scores for each group (with three being the highest score). You’ll notice the scores increase with the addition of more sensory information by approximately 20 percent. The third group who received the highest amount of information from all three sensory channels had the highest sense of comfort with their answers.

Comfort Scores Chart

The next point of comparison is average total overall price, which is calculated by adding the estimated price together for each of the six items. The average total overall price for each group varied greatly with group two (visual and auditory information) being the highest at $325,000. In addition, 29% of group two members estimated all the items cost over $250,000 whereas none did in group three. 

Overall Price

Clearly, the test results show that different amounts of visual, auditory and kinesthetic information influence the perception of the item’s price. The experiment also provides other important lessons for sales and marketing professionals.

Customer Miscommunication

The mind does not treat all information equally. Information is ignored, misinterpreted, and generalized based upon surrounding experiences. For example, study participants misinterpreted that the baseball hit by Manny Ramirez was a home run ball when it was only a foul ball. You should never assume prospective customers have received the message correctly.

Verbal Suggestion Susceptibility

The mind is quite susceptible to verbal suggestions. Group two’s average total price was nearly seven times that of group one and close to twenty times the average of group three. The tone, tempo and demeanor of what you say can have more impact on a prospective customer than the actual words you speak. This is a particularly important point for salespeople who sell primarily over the phone.

E-mail Communication Dependency

Salespeople have increasingly grown to rely on e-mail for their primary method of communication with prospective and existing customers. There is a down side to this dependence since the persuasiveness of verbal suggestions is forfeited. Check your sent box and examine the last twenty e-mails you sent. Where would a phone call or in-person conversation have been better suited?

Avoid Product Evaluations

No salesperson typically wants to slow down the sales cycle by having the customer conduct a lengthy product evaluation. This study provides an entirely new reason why they should be avoided. The results suggest that hands-on familiarity with an item actually lowers the perception of its value. For example, the average price for group three who handled the brass letter opener was $100 while group two’s average was nearly $10,000.

Sales Presentation “Talk Track”

The “talk track” that accompanies sales presentations and product demonstrations plays a critical role in shaping the prospective customer’s perception of value. In this regard, many companies don’t take the time to ensure the fluency of their sales organizations by providing them compelling written scripts and testing them to ensure they are able to delivered persuasively.

it was Rudyard Kipling who said “Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.” He was right. Your most important competitive weapon is your mouth and the words you speak. This test proves it’s not only what you say, but also how you say it! 

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Use Sales Linguistics to Structure Winning Presentations | HBR Blog Network

There’s an exciting new area of study called “sales linguistics” that provides key strategies on how to structure language-based interactions that turn skeptics into believers. The goal of sales linguistics is to understand how salespeople and their prospective customers use and interpret language during the meetings and presentations.

From a sales linguistic perspective, every interaction has three stages, and each stage requires different linguistic strategies. The opening stage comprises the few minutes at the beginning of the talk, the main stage is the longest period of interaction where the main messages are delivered, and the closing stage is the time at the end of the speech. For example, if you were making a 30 minute presentation, the opening stage would be about seven minutes, the main stage would be seventeen minutes, and the closing stage six minutes.

Your personal demeanor should vary at each stage, moving from approachability (not overfriendliness or too formal) in the opening to confidence when talking in the main stage. At the close, you want to establish “situational dominance.” Most people mistakenly equate this term negatively to the use of brute force to overwhelm someone. Conversely, situational dominance is when the listener chooses to accept and internalize your words so they follow your advice.

The goal of the first stage is to establish a behavior interruption. Put yourself in the position of the listener for a moment. You’ve sat through thousands of different presentations, and you probably have a lot of other things on your mind. Therefore, the first step should be to perform a behavior interruption to break the listener’s mode of thinking and stand out from previous memories.

The behavior interruption starts the process of building rapport, engages interest, and provokes open-mindedness. It successfully sets the stage for the remainder of the speech. But what exactly is a behavior interruption? Let me explain with the following analogy. An Apple iPod can store thousands of songs. We have several iPods in my household, and I frequently listen to my daughter’s to check out the latest hits. As I thumb through her playlists, each song has just a few seconds to capture my attention. If the introduction isn’t interesting, different, or exciting, I immediately move on to the next song.

Do not equate a behavior interruption to simply telling a joke or funny story at the beginning of your presentation. A behavior interruption is pre-meditated language structure. For example, I worked at a company whose core technology was originally developed by the California Institute of Technology and funded by a grant from NASA. Explaining the origins of the company during presentations — not with one simple slide with a few bullet points, but using highlights of the project and its successful results set against the black backdrop of the space shuttle in outer space — was a great behavior interruption.

You should consider this fact when structuring the main section of your presentation. The average person will hear only seven and a half minutes of a one-hour presentation and remember only half of the words he or she hears. In essence, we don’t listen and our conscious mind rejects far more words than we actually hear. However, the subconscious mind acts as a reservoir for this overflow of information.

One sales linguistic persuasion technique that can be used to present information is the metaphor. Metaphors are stories, parables, and analogies that communicate ideas by using examples that people can relate to and identify with. Metaphors enable complex concepts and theories to be explained in an understandable, interesting, and persuasive manner. Using metaphors is a nonthreatening way to present your point of view, facts, and directions you would like your audience to follow.

The power of metaphors lies in their individual interpretation. While the conscious mind is listening to the content of the surface-level story, the subconscious mind is deciphering its own message. For example, every cigarette package contains a factual warning from the surgeon general that smoking causes cancer. However, I highly doubt these warnings are actually preventing people from smoking. Rather, I believe the personal stories you see on television told by previous smokers about their tremendous health problems are far more influential.

The language structures to be employed during the closing section should include commands and presenting foreground and background suggestions. A command is an instructional statement that creates a binary type of yes or no response from the recipient. It is typically associated with a hard close and “take it or leave it” mentality. Foreground suggestions (medium close) are explicit, but they deflect the source of the request from the demander. Background suggestions (soft close) lead recipients to believe they are acting of their free will when in fact they have been directed to follow a message.

Let’s pretend I am a passenger in your car and I feel you are driving too fast. A command would be “Slow down!” A foreground suggestion would be “You know the speed limit is 45 mph and police ticket a lot of speeders here.” A background suggestion would be “A speeder was in a horrible accident last week in this exact spot.” While the background suggestion may be more subtle in its delivery, it can trigger a more profound reaction.

Every presentation is based upon the complex process of communication consisting of verbal and nonverbal messages that the listener receives consciously and subconsciously. However, since we are talking all the time we tend to take the process for granted. Persuasion is not about getting others to acknowledge your arguments; it’s about making them internalize your message because they believe that it is in their best interests. Ultimately, persuasion is the ability to tap into someone’s emotions and reach the deeper subconscious decision maker within that person.

More blog posts by Steve W. Martin
More on: Sales