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July 9, 2007

Staff Picks: The "Dominant Selling Idea" - Why Johnny Can't Brand

By: 800-CEO-READ @ 1:00 PM – Filed under: Big Ideas & New Perspectives

Last Friday we put a new excerpt up on the Excerpts Blog: the introduction to Why Johnny Can't Brand: Rediscovering the Lost Art of the Big Idea. You can read the entire introduction over there, but I wanted to share another interesting section I found while paging through the book:
The Five Rules of One 1. The "One Item of 'Carry-On-'" Rule When seeking to differentiate your brand, no matter how much information you offer, when you've finished pitching:
People only remember one thing.
So when you feel that irresistible, amateur force moving to list every product feature in every brand message--get over it. It's not that we don't have the brain capacity, it's that we also have a brain reflex that synthesizes details, images, and feelings on any subject into single thought packages for easy storage and retrieval from our mental "overhead bin." You can give people long lists of features and benefits. But when they walk away, their minds morph it down to that one piece of mental "carry-on." A key corollary is that this salient idea, once carried aboard, preempts all others and will stubbornly remain in place, virtually forever, until a more compelling idea physically dislodges it. A reporter once asked a woman what a senate candidate had said in a campaign speech. The candidate spoke passionately for nearly an hour covering every point on his platform. "What did he say?" the man asked. She replied, "He was against taxes." Here's another classic. The O.J. Simpson prosecution spent nine months and millions of dollars laying out a case that was so scientifically detailed, so obsessively logical that no rational group of people could possibly fail to convict on the weight of the evidence. Except the jury. For them, it all became a blur, erased by "the one thing to remember" defense lawyer Johnny Cochran shrewdly suggested on day 1: You can retain ten thousand bits of evidence, or save the trouble and just retain this: O.J. was framed by racist cops. Cochran even provided a famous tag line to make it even more convenient: "If the glove doesn't fit, you must acquit." The jury "carried on" the one item it chose to remember, and left ten thousand valuable bits of information at the curb with the skycap, minus a tip.
In the introduction to Why Johnny Can't Brand, authors Bill Schley and Carl Nichols, Jr. explain that because only one thing about your product or service will stick with consumers, it has to be a Big thing. They call it the "Dominant Selling Idea" (DSI), and the second half of the book is dedicated to what they deem DSI University. You'll go through a step-by-step, 40-day process of figuring out the "one" most important selling idea, and then putting that idea to work for your company. And, as the author told me, "this stuff applies to anyone who wants to communicate--not just businesses."