By: Sally Hogshead



The first few pages of “Fascinate” reference Salem Massachusetts, Hitler and sex. Ok, Sally Hogshead, you win, I’m fascinated. And what, exactly does that mean? Well, if you believe what’s in De Fascino, it means that I have “an open covenant with Satan”. Over time, the concept of fascination has become a little less sinister, but not any less powerful.

As Hogshead points out, people are truly looking for two things: to be fascinated, and be fascinating. As a brand, if you can give those two things to people, you will win.

In this book you’ll learn how the seven triggers operate to make this happen:

  • how you can use LUST to create a craving for sensory pleasure
  • how MYSTIQUE lures with unanswered questions;
  • how ALARM threatens with negative consequences;
  • how PRESTIGE earns respect through symbols of achievement;
  • how POWER commands and controls;
  • how VICE tempts with “forbidden fruit”, causing us to rebel against norms;
  • how TRUST comforts us with certainty and reliability.

Not only will you learn what these triggers mean, you’ll get a plan of attack for how to implement them in your business. Are you fascinated? I am, and I hope you’ll join us on this journey.

But first, let’s start with how you know if you are fascinating with The Golden Hallmarks.

The Golden Hallmarks

First of all, how are you supposed to know if you are fascinating or not? Well, Sally’s got the answers. Here are the golden hallmarks of a fascinating message.

Fascinating messages provoke strong and immediate emotional reactions. The best example of that these days is Donald Trump - you either you love him or you hate him. You are not indifferent about him.

Fascinating messages create advocates. NASCAR has advocates. Warren Buffett has advocates. Harley Davidson has advocates. Do you?

Fascinating messages become “cultural shorthand” for a specific set of actions or values. Some brands have a point of view so strong that they become part of a person’s identity. Just like Apple stands for beautiful design.

Fascinating messages incite conversation. Fascinating people and brands get talked about. A lot. As Sally says they earn more attention than they pay for.

Fascinating messages force competitors to realign around it. Zappos.com has done an amazing job of this in the online retail market. When people start copying what you are doing with hopes of riding on your coattails, you know you are fascinating.

And finally,

Fascinating messages trigger social revolutions. John Lennon is a great example of this.

So that's how you know if your fascination attempts are working. Now let’s look at each of the seven fascination triggers you can use to make this happen.

Trigger #1 Lust

If you trigger lust, you will draw others closer and keep them wanting more. Lusting isn’t just about physical attraction, it’s about anything that you crave. So how do you get people to crave YOU?

First of all, inject some feeling into your brand. Contrary to popular belief, human beings do not make decisions based on logic, but emotion.

Secondly, use as many senses as you can. Figure out how to infuse your message with touch, taste, sound, sight and scent.

Lastly, as Sally points out, lust is the promise of desire, not necessarily the fulfilment of it. In fact, as a motivator, desire is more powerful than fulfilment. So get your “tease and flirt” on, and get ready to fascinate.

Trigger #2: Mystique

Is Barack Obama really an American? Does RedBull REALLY contain bull testicles? And eoes Lady Gaga have man parts? We don’t know the answers to these and many other questions, and as it turns out we’ll continue to be fascinated for as long as we don’t have the answers. Why? Because we are hardwired to be intrigued by unanswered questions. If you can trigger mystique people will want to learn more about your message. Score.

Here’s how you crank up the mystique to 11 on the dial…. Withholding information is a great place to start. Remember how the Dukes of Hazard would always end with Bo and Luke Duke stuck in the middle of a car chase? We just HAVE to know how it ends.

Building mythology around a brand is also a great route to take. As Sally points out, maybe the Colonel’s 11 herbs and spices really are more special than what you can get in the supermarket. But maybe not. Which leads to the conclusion that it’s the secret that’s more valuable, not the recipe itself.

Lastly, you can create mystique around your brand by limiting access. A place that does this better than anybody else? The LA restaurant Crustacean. It’s famous for its garlic crab dish. It’s made in a secret kitchen inside the main kitchen, where only the founding family members are allowed to enter. Apparently the dish is incredible. What’s the one thing you CAN’T have at Crustacean? Access to the kitchen.

Trigger #3: Alarm

This is your brain on drugs. Remember that one? That’s the alarm trigger at it’s finest. Or is it? Let’s see…

With alarm, we compel others to behave more urgently. When we do that, they take action in order to avoid negative consequences. OR, sometimes people will actually take steps to find alarm - like that rush of adrenaline you feel when the ground is coming at you at 100 mph when you go skydiving. If you want to get the alarm trigger working for you, here’s what you need to do.

First you need to define the consequences. The more serious the consequences, the more action you’re likely to inspire.

Second, create a deadline for the action. As a race, we humans are not very good at taking action without deadlines. So make one. Like, call in the next twenty minutes for these ultra amazing ginsu knives and we’ll throw in ANOTHER set of knives COMPLETELY FREE!

Lastly, make sure to focus on the crisis most feared, not the most likely. Remember the Got Milk campaigns? The creators of those campaigns realised that the fear of running out of milk to go with your chocolate chip cookies is greater than the fear of your bones crumbling under your own weight because of osteoporosis. Crazy, but true.

Trigger #4: Prestige

There’s only two things I hate in this world. People who are intolerant of other people’s cultures and the Dutch (that’s a joke from the movie Austin Powers. Why? Because I can.) Speaking of the Dutch, they know a thing or two about prestige, that nasty little trigger of rank and respect that creates envy in others.

In 1636, a single tulip bulb was sold in exchange four fat oxen, twelve fat sheep, four tons of butter, a thousand pounds of cheese, a complete bed, a suit of clothes, a silver cup and large measures of rye, wheat, beer and wine. At the height of the tulip craze, one tulip bulb sold for roughly $25,000. That’s some crazy stuff.

Well, some things never change. Today, just as in 1636, the most prestigious aspect of an asset is the “idea” of it. Like, “did you see how big her rock is”? Or “what area code to you live in?” Or “how many Twitter followers do you have”? Prestige determines the pecking order in life. Do you want your brand to be a signal of prestige? Here’s how.

You can develop emblems. As Sally points out, emblems can be elaborate, expensive or humble, but they all share one thing: a degree of unattainability. Take a tip from the highest performing premium brands and control how many people get access to YOUR brand.

Set a new standard. Grey Goose set a new standard when they doubled the price for vodka. Starbucks set a new standard when they started charging $5 for coffee.

Limit availability. The less there are, the more people want it. But just make sure that you are limiting availability to something that people actually want.

Trigger #5: Power

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of Bill Clinton’s company, you’ll know that he makes you feel like the only person in the world. Under that intoxication you’d probably submit to doing almost anything.

Power is used for good when it motivates others to rise to their best. Power is used for evil when it unjustly intimidates or persecutes. Here’s how to use it to your advantage, and get people to defer to your message, whatever you are up to.

It may seem silly to try and control the “little things” in your environment. However, psychologists suggest that when people give up control of basic elements of a situation, they are much more likely to submit to significant change.

Landmark Education is a self-help/education company that is little known in most circles, but once you have an experience with them you’ll never forget it. They control every single element of their courses, down to measuring the distance between chairs with a blackboard eraser. So what can YOU do to control your environment?

You’ll consider every aspect of how the audience experiences your presentation, including the layout of the room, the schedule, and even the refreshments. You’d ensure there were no distractions, like noise or interruptions. You’d monitor the comfort level and maybe even ask people to turn in their cell phones instead of just asking them to turn them off.

Now the crowd is ready to listen to your message.

Trigger #6: Vice

Vice includes everything we want to do, know we shouldn’t do, but still just might do. Like eating that second piece of chocolate cake for dessert. When we get a little vice mojo working for us, we get people to deviate from their usual code of conduct. Here’s how we do it.

One of the most powerful things you can do is create taboos. And if we are going to do vice, let’s go all the way and learn a thing or two from the person who Sally calls the patron saint of vice - Madonna. The benefit of vice is that it gets people talking. Do you want to get people talking about you?

Here’s a new acronym for you - WWMD. What would Madonna do. Remember, this trigger needs to be used with caution, and I’m not saying you should go out and make a sex tape. But stirring the pot every once in a while will at least prove that you are willing to stand for something.

But I’m a traditional company with conservative values, you might be thinking. Not to worry, we’ve got a special flavour of vice for you.

For instance, what if your were a mattress company and named your pillow-top mattress the “Sunday Morning Sleep-In”? We all know we aren’t supposed to sleep in on Sunday’s because there’s so much work to do around the house. But we still just might do it anyways.

Trigger #7: Trust

Ok, the last trigger is finally here. The granddaddy of all triggers. Trust. It’s how we comfort others, get them to relax, and build stronger relationships with people - even if you are a brand. The first six triggers can be activated almost immediately. But trust must be built over time, and can be destroyed in a second.

Here’s how you do it.

First, you have to become familiar. Scientists have uncovered something called the exposure effect, where the more we are exposed to something or someone, the more we trust it.

McDonald’s has done such an incredible job of this that as soon as you put a McDonald’s logo on something, children instinctively like it. Literally. So remember to be predictable in your message, and keep telling it over and over again.

But if you need to get results on the Trust-o-Meter quickly, fear not. In order to earn trust quickly, you should tap into values that extend over time.

One way to do this is tapping into the music that people have been listening to for a long time. Or you can try smells, like freshly baked chocolate chip cookies like great real estate agents do. In other words, you’ll need to borrow trust from somebody else.


So there you have it - your playbook for becoming more fascinating to your target audience by employing the seven fascination triggers: lust, mystique, alarm, prestige, power, vice and trust.

Just remember to use your newfound superpowers for good.