Once again, Williams has a lot of material for what these days would likely be called “brain hacking” … elements of perception and mental processing that can be channeled to particular persuasive ends. One early point he makes in this is “Lyrics are absorbed and processed almost exclusively in the 'nonverbal' right hemisphere.”, implying that putting messages into songs can “sneak them past the Inner Critic” (of the left hemisphere). A lot of this first section looks at right/left brain issues, and how different types of impressions are experienced and integrated in perception. It also is less targeted to actual marketing messaging, and much more “theoretical” than the material in the previous books (for instance particle/wave duality … hard to turn that into a product pitch!). There is a wealth of interesting stuff, however, such a the 4 kinds of thought, 3 kinds of people (verbal, analytical, abstract, and symbolic, and artists, businesspeople, and scientists) … which is immediately followed by a chapter analyzing some James Taylor lyrics.
Williams again revisits the “sleep” model of his previous books, only now noting that sleep tends to clear electrical short-term “working” memory, which is contrasted with “procedural” memory – the sort of thing like having learned how to ride a bike or type, which he suggests is primarily stored chemically. He also comes back to “Broca's area”, which he here describes as a “tollbooth” … if what is coming in to the brain is “predictable”, it will be shunted off as being of “low importance”, leading to it not getting much attention. So, playing with language, and surprising those parts of the brain, are key to getting messages in.
One thing presented here I found fascinating is the author's debunking of the visual/auditory/kinesthetic model so popular with network marketers and other salesmen whose approach requires building rapport with their targets … he quotes “This is a groundless theory based on zero medical research.” … so much for “cold reading” prospects for see/hear/feel verbs. Another very similar “myth” is also addressed here: the saw that “93 percent of all human communication is nonverbal”, which turns out to have been a generalization from a very specific study (of “the resolution of inconsistent messages”) which got picked up and spread by the self-help seminar crowd. On a less contentious footing, he closes out the “mind” section with a look at the Myers-Briggs type of personality sorting, which he seems to approve of, but (oddly) doesn't even make a stab at relating to marketing.
Of course, “Tools for Profitable Persuasion” flips over to nearly all business. He talks of “business morphine” - approaches that work, but are addictive and progressively less effective over time … these are great in the short-term, but damage the business long-term. He counters this will a look at a study in customer loyalty, there being 3 types of customers: nonswitchable – those that will not be convinced to change, switchable – those who, with the right messaging, can change brands, and price-switchable – those who will constantly switch, looking for a cheaper option. The latter are the prime audience of “business morphine”.
This section gets a bit complicated with theories … like his “gravity well” (much like a “sales funnel”) of increasing interaction with a brand, “share of voice”, “impact quotient”, “share of mind”, “personal experience factor”, “share of market”, “market potential”, and the “advertising performance equation” … all of which are inter-related: (SoV x IQ) = SoMi, (SoMi x PEF) = SoMa, (SoMa x MPo) = Sales Volume, or SoV x IQ x PEF x MPo = Sales Volume (yeah, I “glazed over” early on in this too). He spins out of this into a piece about statistics and how TV bundles up bad slots and tries to sell you less effective packages … which I guess would be useful to some.
Fortunately, the rest of the “tools” section gets back to more generally applicable stuff, from how to facilitate brainstorming sessions that will involve both introverts and extroverts, the New Coke fiasco as a study in what we say vs. what we do, etc. He then moves into a series of chapters where he turns various figures into verbs – Robert Frost into “frosting”, Dr. Seuss into “seussing”, and “being Monet” - all in the interest of “sneaking past the security guard” by getting into the right brain with messages that will then slip into the left using tools like “humor”, “mental participation”, and “subliminal associations” where a slight change in otherwise synonymous words can create big changes in people's perception and behaviors. He discusses how “numbered lists” (“7 habits”, etc. ad nauseum) appeal to the brain, and eventually works his way around to “chaotic systems”.
The third section, “Charting Your Destiny & Dreams”, involves quite a lot of “navel gazing”, about one's purpose, one's goals, one's dreams, and how you go about trying to define and/or reach these. He notes that the universe is “built on mutually exclusive truths”, such as the admirability of “reaching for the stars” and “being content the way you are”</i>, which Williams links thusly:
He also asks whether you'd prefer to spend a week with noted investor Warren Buffet, or Margaritaville's Jimmy Buffet.Being content and reaching for the stars both require an absence of fear. The fear of being average robs you of contentment. The fear of failure robs you of the joy of your dreams.
There is a lot of reminiscing into the author's past here, some random notes, and bits and pieces that one might find useful, aside from amusing. One of these is pointing out how both pessimists and optimists tend to make the reflections on events, positive or negative, Persona, Permanent, and Pervasive … as in “it's abut me”, “it's not going to change”, and “it's universal” … an interesting way to break down those sorts of thought patterns. Another piece here has a heading which is wise all by itself: “Experience must first be a verb.” … which he backs up with a quote from Oscar Wilde.
The final section, “Wizards at Large”, primarily looks at historical figures that Wiliams holds up as examples of his “Wizardry”. Many of these are of the “punch line” variety I've mentioned previously (he doesn't tell you who he's talking about until the very end), but others are more general descriptions. These range from Geoffrey of Monmouth, to Baron Rothschild, Coco Chanel, Mark Twain, Andrew Jackson, Lewis Carrol, etc., plus Ben Franklin advising Thomas Jefferson on editing, and the origin of the Tuxedo. Not a whole lot of “actionable” stuff in here, but interesting tales in the category that Arsenio Hall calls “things that make you go hmmmmmm”.
Magical Worlds of the Wizard of Ads is still available, at least through the on-line big boys, and you can land a used copy of the paperback edition for under a buck (plus shipping). This (like its predecessors) was and interesting read, but seemed to be a lot more oriented toward “folk wisdom” (or what its author had picked up over his career).