Posts tagged “persuasion”

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Lou Rosenfeld revisits an old engagement where the client sought to dissuade usage – What they told me was that they didn't really want to make it easy for veterans—those people risking their lives for their country—to learn about the health benefits that they were entitled to. And that taxpayers had committed to funding. All to save money—and for what??

    IT issue? Not. It was an issue of business model design, and this particular business model was shrouded in a sick morality emanating from the top levels of the VA's management structure. Absolutely immorally, shamefully, and horribly sick.

    [With the theme of persuasion, manipulation, and user-centeredness floating around lately, good to consider an example where the organization goals are 180 degrees from the user's supposed goals]

  • Citations for California drivers not using hands-free are on the rise – Seems like there was good compliance when the law was first passed but the numbers are climbing back up. One might think the best way to drive adoption of a product/service/behavior is to make it legally mandated but people are citing the poor user experience with Bluetooth headsets as a reason/rationalization for ignoring the law. "Sometimes, it can be more dangerous to figure out your Bluetooth than just to pick up the phone."

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Robert Fabricant of frogdesign considers whether understanding users means that design is or isn't persuasive/manipulative – How do we decide what the user really 'wants to achieve'? The fact is that there are a host of different influences that come to bear in any experience. And a host of different needs that drive user behavior. Designers are constantly making judgment calls about which 'needs' we choose to privilege in our designs. In fact, you could argue that this is the central function of design: to sort through the mess of user needs and prioritize the 'right' ones, the most valuable, meaningful…and profitable.

    But according to what criteria? These decisions, necessarily, value judgments, no matter how much design research you do. And few designers want to be accountable for these decisions. From that perspective, UCD, starts to seem a bit naive, possibly even a way to avoid accountability for these value judgments.

    [Obviously no easy answers here; even defining the terms for the discussion is challenging, but the dialog between Robert and others is provocative]

  • Dave Blum, treasure hunt designer, offers 100 treasure hunts around the world – I was always a puzzle and a game kid. I had a friend when I was growing up in Millbrae, Mike Savasta, and he and I were just board game and card game fanatics. Monopoly, Life, Sorry, Stratego.

    In college, I played thousands of games of cribbage. I like the intellectual challenge, the analytical challenge. I'm very much a "play-it-by-ear" kind of guy, so I like a game where you have to think on your feet.

    After college, I lived in Japan for 3 1/2 years and taught English. Then I spent 11 months traveling through Asia and Europe, and when I came back to San Francisco, I worked in tourism for a while. I said, "I need to find a career that I really love." I thought if I could combine group work, travel, games and puzzles – that would be the ultimate job. I started Dr. Clue in 1995.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Reasonable Consumer Would Know "Crunchberries" Are Not Real, Judge Rules – Judge England also noted another federal court had "previously rejected substantially similar claims directed against the packaging of Fruit Loops [sic] cereal, and brought by these same Plaintiff attorneys." He found that their attack on "Crunchberries" should fare no better than their prior claims that "Froot Loops" did not contain real froot.

    (via BoingBoing)

  • A Manhattan Writing Of Six Therapists – “Everybody comes in with their own stories, and they can be so staggeringly original,” said Bonnie Zindel, the psychoanalyst who started the writing group seven years ago. “We all need stories to make sense of our lives, we’re all wired to tell stories, and nature gave us that. For us, we wonder, ‘What is the story that our patients are telling?’ There are mother stories, father stories, ghost stories and the eternal universal story of a child trying to separate from its mother.”
  • 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive – Read this post now, it won't last long! Most of our readers – including people like you – are already choosing to look at this post.

    (Lone Gunman, I'm giving you folks credit for this and look forward to you reciprocating, thanks!)

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Mass Customization of the Fiat 500 – A number of folks we recently met in Europe mentioned this new (although an updated classic) car as being perfect for their needs. The variation and customizing, while perhaps not unique in today's marketplace (I'm imaging the Mini's variability is similar if not beyond) was still striking: "The 500 is available with four different trim levels: Naked, Pop, Lounge, and Sport. Customers can choose also between 15 interior trims, 9 wheel options, 19 decals, and 12 body colours. There are over 500,000 different personalized combinations of the 500 that can be made by adding all kinds of accessories, decals, interior and exterior colours, and trims."
  • Searching for Value in Ludicrous Ideas – Allison Arieff writes about "inventor/author/cartoonist/former urban planner Steven M. Johnson" whose "work tends toward the nodes where social issues intersect with design and urban planning issues." I'm reminded of my formative experiences with Al Jaffee features from MAD magazine where he's describe future products or technologies, or explain (fancifully) the workings of some current product (i.e. bars of soap that are made with quick disappearing stuff on the outside and then a small interior core that takes a long long time to dissolve).
  • Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us) by Tom Vanderbilt – Suggested to me by René Vendrig at the Amsterdam UX Cocktail Hour, after my talk on looking at cultural differences based on everyday observations. He tells me "It is about traffic, but the real subject is human psychology and how we deal with that kind of situations."
  • It's Not TV, It's HBO – HBO's standard-creating slogan, giving words to the premium experience of their programming.
  • It's not just coffee, it's Starbucks. – New ad campaign for Starbucks attempts to differentiate on quality, but sounds just a bit familiar.
  • All This ChittahChattah | Flying the sneaky skies – (see link for screen grab)

    While checking in online for a United Airlines flight, you may be offered the opportunity to upgrade to Economy Plus. It’s likely that most people decline upsells in many situations, though. The default would be to click “no thanks” and move on to completing the transaction. But United has done some tricky and manipulative interface design. The bright yellow arrow with bold text placed on the right is almost irresistible. E-commerce sites have trained us to envision a transaction moving from left to right (granted that they’ve landed on that model since it corresponds to how we read and other cultural factors); it’s very easy to click on the arrow and make a purchase you didn’t want. It takes cognitive work to search for the preferred option which is a lowly blue-underlined unbolded text link off to the left.

  • Evil-interface design in airline website design spanked by European Commission – "Another common problem is the use of prechecked boxes offering services like travel insurance; consumers must uncheck the boxes to remove the unwanted charge." I've written before about United's website being slightly more subtle in their evilness, by offering an upgrade during check-in where the highly visible (colored graphic arrow) button in the default location will cost you tons of money; it's more effort to realize, locate, and decline the offer. Why do we live in a world where major brands want to sell us things that we don't want by tricking us? It's unconscionable that any company can claim to respect consumers and then pull crap like this.
  • Cyd Harrell of Bolt | Peters reacts to the ludicrous Dell campaign trying to sell computers to women, in 2009 – "…a woman, with the last Dell I will ever own. It’s my current laptop, and I chose it because I needed a computer powerful enough to run screensharing tools and high-res video; I needed mobile broadband to stay in touch with my clients and employees, and not just my kid (heresy!); I needed my screen to look great when I go to meetings with clients. That is to say, I needed it for work. Dell, let’s make it official: you can bite me and the millions of other women who take themselves and their technology seriously."

    I love the articulate passion here, as well as the insight into what may have happened organizationally/culturally at Dell (ahem, really crappy research) that leads to such a horrendously offensive sales pitch to HALF of their buying population

Environmental and Emotional Impact Assessment

This NYT article on the influence of language about the environment is a good example of the issues I explored in my recent interactions column Poets, Priests, and Politicians.

The problem with global warming, some environmentalists believe, is “global warming.” The term turns people off, fostering images of shaggy-haired liberals, economic sacrifice and complex scientific disputes, according to extensive polling and focus group sessions conducted by ecoAmerica, a nonprofit environmental marketing and messaging firm in Washington.

Instead of grim warnings about global warming, the firm advises, talk about “our deteriorating atmosphere.” Drop discussions of carbon dioxide and bring up “moving away from the dirty fuels of the past.” Don’t confuse people with cap and trade; use terms like “cap and cash back” or “pollution reduction refund.”

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Henry: High earner, not rich yet – [Blogging this purely for the acronym]
    "HENRYs, an acronym we'll use to describe people whose financial situation can be summed up by the phrase "high earners, not rich yet." (I coined the term for a Fortune story in 2003 on the alternative minimum tax, or AMT, the bane of the HENRYs.) Put simply, the HENRYs are the bulwark of the professional and entrepreneurial class that drives the economy. Look in the mirror, Fortune reader, and you'll probably see a HENRY."
  • INFLUENCE AT WORK – Proven Science for Business Success – Robert Cialdini's business site for his work on persuasion
  • Robert Cialdini designs program where utility customers get smileys or frownies on their bill in comparison with neighbors – Last April, it began sending out statements to 35,000 randomly selected customers, rating them on their energy use compared with that of neighbors in 100 homes of similar size that used the same heating fuel. The customers were also compared with the 20 neighbors who were especially efficient in saving energy.
  • Coca-Cola Deleting ‘Classic’ From Coke Label – The Coca-Cola Company is dropping the “Classic” from its red labels in some Southeast regions, and the word will be gone from all of its packaging by the summer, the company said Friday. The font size of the “Classic” has been shrinking in the last decade, and the company removed it from labels in Canada in 2007.

    The language on the side of the label where it now says “Coke original formula” will change to say “Coke Classic original formula.” “Every place else in the world it is called Coca-Cola, except for in North America."

Out of the box? There is no box. Really.


Software advertised on the web is often showed in some version of what it might look like on the shelf. Even if there is no box; the software is ordered online and downloaded. There’s no physical tangible artifact. No box, no printed manual, no shrink-wrap, no CD. But the box denotes “I’m for sale” and persists as a representation of the purchase.

Note that some of the above may be actually available in boxes, but I suspect most of them are not. Indeed, some of the box images are incredibly simplistic, iconic rather than representative of what you might see in a store. Maybe someone read these Photoshop tips for creating an image of a product box.


In the Hong Kong Art Museum store, we found a bunch of cute products with this funny character Matchman. I was trying to figure out which trinket to buy and bring back as an odd cultural souvenir until I stumbled across some pencil cases or stationery with what seemed to be serious religious overtones. I looked further and realize that it was a sneaky Jesus-pushing character, designed to appeal to “the kids” (and naive foreigners, I guess). I hate seeing that stuff sneaking past us, doesn’t speak well to the mission, if it’s about tricking you!

Shades of Veggie Tales!


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