Hold still. I want to plug my objective into your mind.

That isn’t a worthy aspiration, but it seems to be the basis of the popular new “science based” marketing education industry on the internet: peddling “science based” mind-control tactics to the gullible on how to peddle “science based” mind-control instructions to the gullible. Damn! That there science sure has a magical effect on some people’s imaginations.


As early as 1896, experimental psychologists began studying the mental proccesses involved in advertising. The first psychological theory of advertising maintained, in effect, that the consumer was a nonrational, suggestible creature under the hypnotic influence of the advertising copywriter. Walter Dill Scott was the major proponent of this theory, and it was largely through his writings that advertising men learned about the psychology of suggestion. Scott’s theory was consistent with a growing trend in the advertising profession toward viewing consumer behavior as irrational. Scott’s efforts might also be viewed as part of the trend in the advertising profession toward seeking a scientific basis for copywriting theory and practice.

The concept of suggestion in the early history of advertising psychology–David P. Kuna Psychology Instructor. Article first published online: 13 FEB 2006

More than a century later, advertisers and marketers are still waiting for legitimate Science to deliver the key to mind control. In this new century all eyes are on Neuroscience, the new kid on the block that replaced Psychology as the likely source of the secret. The object of finding the secret is to eliminate choice as much as possible from the consumer’s mind and replace it with the will to buy what you’re selling. If ever there was a cynical perversion of the spirit of scientific inquiry, that would be it.

The secret hasn’t been discovered yet, and may never be articulated to satisfaction. The reason is this: brain science is everything a brain can learn about itself by observing itself.

Maybe there is another way to win friends and influence customers.

P.T. Barnum

This guy had been dead nearly a decade when the persuasion industry turned to science to explain how to harness human behavior predictably. Yet, look what the greatest showman on earth accomplished without it.

I think curiosity — his own and the crowd’s — is what made it all work. He came up with the “what if” scenario and throngs of his fans were happy to pay the admission to see what he had done.  His momentum flowed on a current of “what’s next?”

He was selling fun, but he wasn’t focused on furnishing what his public already considered fun or trying to manipulate them into thinking they needed fun or trying to weasel his solution into their pained psyches – he was focused on furnishing original, innovative,  experience to find out if it worked. His fans wanted to know the same thing, so they came out to find out.

Read about Phineas Taylor Barnum to find out how to market real value to customers you like and respect. Then use your imagination to figure out how you can apply it to your own products.


P.T. Barnum was NOT the one who said, "There's a sucker born every minute." He wasn't the sort. Read about the Cardiff Giant to find the real culprit and the effect his thinking had on his success.


Persuasion for Everybody

writingcommons.org is a free and easy collection of articles about the  issues that concern writers in the new media mileu.

If you skip to the  Rhetorical Analysis section, you’ll find the system to follow for choosing words and graphic design that work to persuade the audiences for your business communications.

Be sure to read the section on visual literacy. The new Rhetoric incorporates visual communication formally into the body of knowledge that previously, from Aristotle forward, concentrated exclusively on speech and writing.

I’ve been arguing for (and teaching) visual analysis for nearly thirty years, so I know for a fact that the field of Rhetoric advanced conservatively in an environment of radical change.

Until human nature becomes resistant to persuasion,  the principles (canons) are still the organizing structure to use. However,  you are on your own when it comes to using it to discover what works for  the immediate situation and particular audience you have to work with.  The “Next New Thing” is history by the time Art and Science describe it.