What Do People Talk About?

Guy Kawasaki wrote a nice post The Nine Best Story Lines for Marketing, about an interesting book called Beyond Buzz: The Next Generation of Word-of-Mouth Marketing. The book outlines 9 major themes of the topics that people talk about, write about, and care about.

  1. Aspirations and beliefs (what we are and what we could be)
  2. David vs. Goliath (fighting the powerful, common enemy)
  3. Avalanche about to roll (excitement about being up with the latest trends)
  4. Contrarian/counterintuitive/challenging assumptions (truth to power)
  5. Anxieties (our rational…and irrational…fears)
  6. Personalities and personal stories (interesting or inspirational people to emulate)
  7. How-to stories and advice (practical advice)
  8. Glitz and glam (promising to be like those who seem to have it all)
  9. Seasonal/event-related (contextually based on what’s happening now)

Guy Kawasaki wrote a nice post The Nine Best Story Lines for Marketing, about an interesting book called Beyond Buzz: The Next Generation of Word-of-Mouth Marketing. The book outlines 9 major themes of the topics that people talk about, write about, and care about.

  1. Aspirations and beliefs (what we are and what we could be)
  2. David vs. Goliath (fighting the powerful, common enemy)
  3. Avalanche about to roll (excitement about being up with the latest trends)
  4. Contrarian/counterintuitive/challenging assumptions (truth to power)
  5. Anxieties (our rational…and irrational…fears)
  6. Personalities and personal stories (interesting or inspirational people to emulate)
  7. How-to stories and advice (practical advice)
  8. Glitz and glam (promising to be like those who seem to have it all)
  9. Seasonal/event-related (contextually based on what’s happening now)

In application interface design, the most important thing on the screen is the words we use. This list is a good starting point for those struggling to find a framework around which to structure their copy. You can use one or two of these to really solidify your point, knowing that the technique is probably something that people care about.

The place where they might show up in app design is on the pages where action is required and it’s not certain that people are convinced yet. On an account signup page, for example, one could add a short description leveraging “How to Stories” to illustrate how others are using your app with success. That might be just what the person needs to convince them that it is really worth it to sign up for an account.

Note that Apple often relies on “David vs. Goliath” (Apple vs. Microsoft) and Contrarian (Think Different) themes to market their products. They are very consistent in this way.

Even so, my gut tells me that several of these are over-used, however. The “Glitz and Glam” and “Avalanche about to roll” are often used in places where they’re not appropriate. Most web applications aren’t about being glitzy or trendy…they’re about getting things done. There may be places to leverage these in app design, but they are few and far between.

Guy has a nice writeup of these ideas. He even references Steve Job’s 2005 Stanford Commencement Address, one of my favorite speeches of all time. Every time I read it I realize that it’s not just another speech…it’s Jobs’ whole life in a nutshell. We would do well to heed his advice…

Published: July 17th, 2007

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