Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th edition

It’s with great pleasure and a little pride that we announce Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th EDITION.

Reading Virtual Minds V1: Science and History, 4th edThat “4th EDITION” part is important. We know lots of people are waiting for Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation and it’s next in the queue.

But until then…

Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th EDITION is about 100 pages longer than the previous editions and about 10$US cheaper. Why? Because Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation is next in the queue.

Some Notes About This Book

I’m actually writing Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation right now. In the process of doing that, we realized we needed to add an index to this book. We also wanted to make a full color ebook version available to NextStage Members (it’s a download on the Member welcome page. And if you’re not already a member, what are you waiting for?)

In the process of making a full color version, we realized we’d misplaced some of the original slides and, of course, the charting software had changed since we originally published this volume (same information, different charting system). Also Susan and Jennifer “The Editress” Day wanted the images standardized as much as possible.

We included an Appendix B – Proofs (starting on page 187) for the curious and updated Appendix C – Further Readings (starting on page 236). We migrated a blog used for reference purposes so there may be more or less reference sources and modified some sections with more recent information.

So this edition has a few more pages and a few different pages. It may have an extra quote or two floating around.

You also need to know that Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History is a “Let’s explore the possibilities” book, not a “How to do it” book. As such, it deals with how NextStage did it (not to mention things that happened along the way). It does not explain how you can do it. This book’s purpose is to open a new territory to you and give you some basic tools for exploration.

There are no magic bullets, quick fixes, simple demonstrations, et cetera, that will turn you into jedis, gurus, kings, queens, samurai, rock stars, mavens, heroes, thought leaders, so on and so forth.

How to Do It starts with Volume II: Experience and Expectation and continues through future volumes in this series. We’ve included a Volume II: Experience and Expectation preview with a How to Do It example on page 302 so you can take a peek if that’s your interest.

That noted, I’m quite sure that you won’t get the full benefit of future volumes without reading this one because unless you’ve read this one you won’t understand the territory you’re exploring in those future volumes.

Reading Virtual Minds V1: Science and History, 4th edThat’s Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History, 4th EDITION. It’s so good and so good for you! Buy a copy or two today!


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NextStage gets a nod from Dell’s Annette Priest at eMetrics DC Summit

[Note: this post is from Oct ’07. We’re backfilling again for Joseph’s references in Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation]

It’s so nice when one’s work get’s noticed, in this case by Dell’s Usability Research Manager, Annette Priest. First and so there’s no confusion, Dell is neither a NextStage nor my personal client. Ms. Priest’s nod was a recognition that more and more companies need to start utilizing the kind of research that NextStage is known for – understanding the hearts and minds of consumers through a variety of disciplines.

My thanks to Ms. Priest for the kind words and to Jim Sterne for putting the venue together.


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Canoeing with Stephane (Sentiment Analysis, Anyone? (Part 2))

The iMedia Brand Summit has kept me a little busy, and I do keep my promises.

One of the folks I asked about Sentiment Analysis prior to writing Sentiment Analysis, Anyone? (Part 1) was Stephane Hamel. I asked Stephane for a site I could analyze without my knowing anything about their strategy, demographics and such. Stephane suggested canoe.ca since it’s a well known Canadian site that receives lots of traffic and has lots of diversified content.

Canoe French homepage

The Canoe.ca site has an English and a French version so we analyzed the homepages of both versions to demonstrate the differences in cultural cuing. This image is the Canoe French homepage. Below is the English homepage. The information I’m sharing comes out of our tools, specifically the one I described in Sentiment Analysis, Anyone? (Part 1).

Canoe English homepage

This image is the Canoe English homepage. I’ll share at this point that the tool I’m using reads whatever digital information you give it exactly like a human of the intended culture would read it, provide it material in French and it thinks in French, provide it material in Gaelic and it thinks in Gaelic (we get a lot of calls for that, you betcha. The first language our technology understood was Gaelic because if you can do Gaelic you can do anything. Now we’re teaching it Etruscan because you never know when you might want to sell sandals to a dead gladiator). What makes the tool different from the standard human is its ability to report on what will or would happen in the reader’s mind at the non-conscious and conscious levels. Most people don’t have that kind of training, our technology (Evolution Technology or “ET”) does.

Age Appeal

Both homepages are designed for (not necessarily intended for. We’re not talking about who the desired audience is, we’re talking about who this material is going to work best with) relatively tight demographics. The French homepage will appeal to about 71% of the 25-34yo native French speakers who see it, the English homepage will appeal to about 60% of the 35-44yo native English speakers who see it.

<ET Tool Training Alert>
When I originally presented this analysis to Stephane for comment I thought that a possible reason for the different age appeal targeting was that the canoe.ca site was a Quebec specific site, hence English might be a second language — meaning learned via education or life experience — for Canoe visitors (ET will interpret higher levels of education and life experience as “more mature” hence add a few years to its age appeal estimates).

Stephane explained that canoe.ca was created in Toronto then moved into Quebec, and that the English site is still done in Toronto and the French site in Quebec.

In any case, what’s most interesting is the relative spikyness of the Appeal charts. This material — regardless of the intended audience or its origins– is designed to best appeal to a limited age demographic.

<Stephaneism>
Stephane noted:

Another thing… your classifications aren’t equal… why 15-19 (5 years), 35-44 (10 years), 55-59 (5 years)… Does each of the graph age ranges have the same “population size”?
The age groupings are based on neurology more than much else. The five year groups occur when the brain starts to change, the ten year groups are when the brain is relatively stable neurologically.
Usually, I think each segment should be the same range (number of years). If population is different sizes for different ranges it usually mean the number of classes should be reviewed. Am I wrong?

Excellent catch. The age breakdowns are based more on the most recent and most well documented neurology studies than anything else. As such, they can fluctuate from time to time. ET’s basis for understanding and decision making is neuroscientific, not marketing demographics per se. Originally we tailored the age breakdowns to match the US Census bureau’s breakdown and do our best to match those the best we can.

That offered, if you can define the age breakdowns of greatest interest to you (maybe 15-24, 25-39, 40-54, 55-74, … work best for you) we can tell ET and have the results appropriate to your needs.

</Stephaneism>

</ET Tool Training Alert>

Clarity/Understandability

Readers of Sentiment Analysis, Anyone? (Part 1) or Websites: You’ve Only Got 3 Seconds will remember that there are three “age” levels designers really need to be concerned with; Appeal, Clarity and Actionability. The brain-mind system doesn’t “think” in terms of a chronologic age, it “thinks” using one subsystem to determine “Is this going to be important?” (that’s Appeal), another subsystem to determine “Do I understand why this is important?” (that’s Clarity, Cognition, Understandability, call it what you will, god knows we have) and yet another subsystem to determine “Shall I do something about this?” (that’s Actionability).

The chart above shows that both English and French homepages will be best understood by a broad demographic, yes (the curve doesn’t spike), as well as a large population (its position on the chart).

<ET Tool Training Alert>
There is a possible problem when the Appeal and Clarity charts are taken together. The ideal is that Clarity peak at an age demographic just shy of the Appeal peak. This is necessary because humans, once you’ve got their attention, want to quickly determine if something is important or not. This desire to quickly understand something’s importance means less neural activity is required and ET reads that as a slight drop in neurologic age requirements.

However, the Clarity here is above the Appeal of both English and French audiences, meaning both audiences will need to work (as in “think about”) what’s on each page in order to understand its importance to them. If these pages truly are designed for the Appeal spikes, then they will not be easily understood by those age groups, hence Actionability (click through, conversion, whatever) will be lower than it could be.

On the other hand, if the target audience is 35-59yo, this Clarity is fine. Now the problem is that the age group will not find the homepages appealing enough to devote time or energy to them (except possibly some percentage of native English speakers), meaning “your conversions/clickthroughs/… would be higher with a judicious redesign”.
</ET Tool Training Alert>

Actionability (conversions, clickthroughs, …)

Both sites are designed to be actionable by 35-44yo. This is great for the French site (and assuming it is correctly designed for its intended audience) and not so good for the English site. Actionability needs to be a tad more than the Appeal because action requires effort and ET reports this as an increase in neurologic activity, hence a shift to a more mature age group.

<ET Tool Training Alert>
The good news for the French site is that the Actionability spike is pretty much as the same height as the Appeal spike and it’s in the correct demographic. This means every native French speaker who comes to the French homepage will act on it.

Unfortunately, the Clarity value is way off from where it should be. Native French speaking visitors may find the site appealing and be able to act upon it but they will not understand what it is they should do, hence numbers could be higher with some redesigns.

The English Actionability is acceptable and is also quite the spike. It almost matches the Appeal spike, but the page also suffers from the Clarity issue.

</ET Tool Training Alert>

Gender

Both sites favor a male audience design wise and in roughly equal measure.

Rich Personae, {C,B/e,M} Matrix

Often this is where real cultural design differences make themselves known. The English site is designed for an A9 Rich Persona (I’ve written about Rich Persona on this blog and in iMediaConnection), the French site for a V16 Rich Persona.

The A9 Rich Persona has the following attributes when it encounters web based information:

  • These people focus on the negative, they make decisions based on what might go wrong
  • They are motivated to take action when things are phrased in the negative
  • They often need to confirm their beliefs with visual information
  • They’re motivated by avoiding trouble and are strongly influenced by the possibilities of difficulties down the road

The V16 attributes are:

  • These people need to have information presented to them in pictures, charts or graphs
  • They finalize their decisions by using internal dialog
  • They need information framed in a positive manner before they can accept it
  • They have no sense of time or process

So we immediately see that the French homepage is designed for happier people than the English page.

<ET Tool Training Alert>
The fact that the two sites target completely different personality types can be a plus or a minus based on how much of the Canoe visitor populations match these psychological profiles. What is most important is that what is essentially the same design will target very different psychologies based on the native language of the visitor.

Which personality profile is better? Couldn’t tell you without knowing more about the goals for the site.

</ET Tool Training Alert>

10 Must Messages

10%20must%20messages%200906081039-small.jpg

The basis for communication and relationship are what NextStage calls “The 10 Must Messages”, meaning unless your site is communicating this messages well your site won’t work at all.

<Aside>
Interestingly enough, during the iMedia Brand Summit Master’s Class I taught earlier this week I asked all the attendees what the basic function of a website was. There were lots of answers and none of them were the most important one; to establish a relationship between the visitor and the brand. Regardless of intent, a relationship is being established and the success of that relationship is going to be based on how well the site communicates these messages to the visitors.
</Aside>

What we see here is something I mentioned in Sentiment Analysis, Anyone? (Part 1), that Canadian based companies tend to shout “We’re a Leader”. The fact that the two lines have roughly the same shape is to be expected (my guess is the same design group handled both homepages or a single template was used for both). Again we see some cultural based differences in the strength of the messaging.

<ET Tool Training Alert>
Take each line separately and the values are fair, there’s not a lot of shouting. What is a problem for both sites is the “This Is Important” message’s relative weakness. It is so low compared to most other messages on either site that visitors will feel no sense of urgency, no impulse to act, and in any case nowhere near as strong as it could be. The ideal would be for the “This Is Important” message and the “This Is Important To You” message to be high with the latter just enough higher to have visitors non-consciously recognize the difference.

I tend to liken the difference between these two messages to hearing the newscaster tell you about some news story then call in their talking-head to explain specifically why this news story is important to the viewer. Another way of thinking about their difference is the recognition that something may be important but not relevant to the individual versus important and relevant.

In any case, you can’t convince people that something is both important and relevant unless you first convince them that it’s important, period.

</ET Tool Training Alert>

Suggestions

That brings us to the last thing ET will report on, what to do to change the design for the target audience. I don’t know who the target is so any suggestions would be irrelevant, me thinks.

<Stephaneism>
After reading this analysis, Stephane commented:

I think what’s also interesting is ET gives you the data and the charts, but you still have to know that “Actionability needs to be a tad more than the Appeal because action requires effort”. The next stage of ET (no pun intended!) could involve bringing this “higher intelligence” (your intelligence!) to a rule engine that would gradually integrate this additional knowledge.
Let me take an example… web analytics tools today collect, analyze and provide the data, but they don’t provide any insight. Yet, some rules are readily applicable if we see high traffic from a specific campaign but a lower conversion rate than average: incoming traffic is less qualified, the campaign might need to be realigned. This intelligence could be integrated directly into the tool to raise “alarms” when things like this happen. The system would need to be trained and the architecture should allow to include new rules easily.

This is an excellent thought and yes, we’ve got it covered. People who’ve heard or seen my presentations know that one of ET’s differentiators is its ability to make suggestions. The tool that produces these reports — the one that doesn’t need a tag on a client’s site to generate actionable results — provides suggestions that incorporate “my intelligence” and additional knowledge (the system borrows heavily from knowledge management systems I worked on several years back) into its analysis. If I understand the rules system you’re describing, it’s already in there.

Anyway, we’re currently in the process of looking for alpha clients to help us integrate those rule engines into the product that does these analyses. [[(Already done and in NextStage OnSite, NextStage Experience Optimizer, NextStage Immediate Sentiment and NextStage Veritas Gauge)]]

</Stephaneism>

And there you go, Stephane. Hope it’s useful.


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The Complete “What is an A6 or A11 or V6 or V21, etc. decision style?” Arc (Originally “Do McCain, Biden, Palin and Obama Think the Way We Do? (Part…)”

Note: this content was originally a four part arc.

Do McCain, Biden, Palin and Obama Think the Way We Do? (Part 1)

I suspect this post is going to cover a lot of ground.

It’s going to start with a response to reader Dwight Homer’s question “What is an A6 or A11 or V6 or V21, etc. decision style?” in his Did Americans Always Think This Way? (Responding to WindKiller’s comment on “What McCain said about Obama and Palin to Hillary and Biden”) comment [[(Alas, the post remains but the comment is gone)]]. From there we’re going to analyze some interviews and the debates to get an idea of how the candidates think. This is a follow up to something Tex and WindKiller have been asking about and hinting at in their comments on “Hillary is piloting the space shuttle and Sarah Palin is riding a bicycle” and Designing a Political Language Engine (WindKiller’s PWB comment) and What’s Happening Up North? respectively [[(As before, the posts remain and the comments are no more. From this we learn that nothing lasts forever, what could be found one day is lost on another, and what is remembered depends on what bills are paid…)]].

First, Thanks to all of you for reading and commenting.

Second, and starting with Mr. Homer’s question…

A6, A11 and so on are classifications NextStage uses to designate decision, learning, cognition, etc., styles. They are shorthand notation for some very long and very detailed explanations of what triggers different reactions and responses in different individuals and groups of individuals and why these individuals and groups act and will act. Very briefly, these classifications are shorthand notations for

  • how people think,
  • how they behave,
  • how they demonstrate that behavior and
  • what motivates their behavior.

For example, the A6 definition includes:

  1. are more emotive than most

  2. become emotional during conversations
  3. are more apt to make decisions when there’s some emotional values involved
  4. are more apt to learn something when the lesson appeals to the emotions
  5. tend to focus on what’s in front of them work-wise
  6. tend to live “in the day”
  7. base decisions on positive influences
  8. are good listeners
  9. don’t rely on future rewards much if at all
  10. tend to ignore past successes and failures
  11. make a final decision based on whether or not they can see an immediate advantage to the decision
  12. are swayed when allowed to take part in activities
  13. tend to have a positive outlook on life

An A11 definition includes:

  1. base their decisions on whether or not their recent past contained any negative aspects

  2. learn most readily when the lesson references a recent past, negative event
  3. often experience negative memories which are triggered by some sound (a voice, a word or phrase, music, etc)

  4. often experience visual memories which bring up painful past experiences
  5. tend to be loners or dissociative with others
  6. willingly avoid social situations
  7. base decisions on avoiding pain or discomfort

  8. learn most rapidly when the lesson has a threat (real or imagined) of pain or discomfort
  9. are strongly influenced by references to past failures and associated uncomfortable memories
  10. rarely make references to past, present or future successes

  11. are not influenced by references to past, present or future successes
  12. ignore making decisions or engaging in activities which are guided towards present and future pleasures/successes

  13. ignore advice and/or counsel which directs their attention to present or future pleasure/successes

These notation bear their legacy as most of them are named after different brain regions.

Before the break I mentioned that these classifications are shorthand notations for

  • how people think (Cognitive),
  • how they behave (Behavioral),
  • how they demonstrate that behavior (/effective)and
  • what motivates their behavior (Motivational).

A further shorthand notation for these is {C,B/e,M} matrix or {Cognitive, Behavioral/effective, Motivational} matrix (there are some links to richer explanations at the end of this post).

Sometimes similar themes appear in different notations. Let me offer that it’s not that they show up, it’s where they show up. The order in which a item appears is an indication of how great a role that item plays in that individual or group’s learning, decision making, memorization, etc., style.

What goes into a NextStage {C,B/e,M} matrix is both a summation and synthesis of information that’s been in the literature (linguistic, psychology, sociology, anthropology, neuroscience, and lots of subdisciplines) for the past 20-150 years. I believe the term “{C,B/e,M} matrix” originated with NextStage although the much of the science behind it didn’t.

Adjusting the sieve

How many different ways do people think? That depends greatly on how fine a sieve you want in place when you answer (much of this is detailed in Reading Virtual Minds). You can correctly state that most native English speaking countries (with the exception of Australia) promote three different ways of thinking. Do you want to involve southern Europe excluding the eastern Mediterranean? Then you have four. Include northern Europe and you have between five and seven. Go to eastern Asia and you still have five to seven but they’re a completely different five to seven than in Europe as a whole.

What makes this a powerful (to us) concept is that we’ve learned certain types of individuals fit into certain groups extremely well. For example, what makes an individual a good researcher (ahem)? What makes someone an excellent business leader (say C level of a large business)? Are different qualities necessary to be an excellent business leader of a small business? Is one an A32 and another a B17?

Marketing and “Knowing How They Think”

Clients use our designations to better understand how to market to different individuals and groups. For example, people doing extreme sports tend to think in certain ways. These ways of thinking permeate everything in their life, not just extreme sports. Our experience is that most marketers don’t have the tools or background to make use of distinct {C,B/e,M} matrices in their creative, nor do most businesses know how to adjust their marketing material to more precisely target (ie, get a larger portion of a target) audience. To that end, standard lifts using our methodology are documented in our case studies.

You’re Marketing. It’s in Your Blood and Wired into Your Brain

[[(sorry, we didn’t keep an image)]]

I don’t know if anybody’s told you, but marketing appeared long before humans were humans. Ever seen a peacock’s beautiful plumage? That’s marketing. Ever heard a lion roar? That’s marketing. The great ape beating its chest is marketing and we’ve learned from our evolutionary ancestors well. Ever wonder why you’re attracted to some people and not others?

bmw car ad.jpg

Sometimes the marketing is obvious. The woman wearing a revealing clothing (whatever that means. It’s different in every culture) is marketing, the man with the sports car (this is becoming prevalent as western cultural values become more and more ubiquitous) is marketing.

Marketing and advertising is so a part of our neural makeup that we do it without thinking and — more to the point of this discussion — use it without thinking. I could offer that we’re now about to get into something akin to horoscopes (“You get along well with Libras and Virgos”. In truth, some companies use our technology on what I call “matchmaker” sites) except that it’s much more like mRNA and DNA signalling (because that’s what we based this part of Evolution TechnologyTM (ET) on). We demonstrated and published ET’s abiliity to find job candidates that would immediately fit in and perform well in an existing group via these principles at a Boston KM Forum meeting in Aug 06.

What I mean by the above is that someone who’s (for example) an O12 will get along incredibly well with some other Os, some Vs and a few As. Have you ever had the experience of just meeting someone and feeling like you’ve known them all your life? Or maybe you’ve heard someone talking or lecturing and what they said, the things they shared and the pictures they showed gave you the impression they were speaking directly to you at this moment in your life?

Congratulations, your {C,B/e,M} matrix was vibrating at just the right frequency to be in harmony with that other person’s or that speaker’s (and yes, the math behind some of this is based on …oh, let’s face it, I’ve probably already gone too deep for most folks reading this).

So Politicians Can Win Elections by…

The logical outcome of this is that anybody who vibrates at the right frequency or has the {C,B/e,M} mRNA that binds to the largest population will be most trusted, most favored, so on and so forth.

Recent politicians who did this best included Presidents Clinton and Reagan.

My next blog post will investigate the personal communication styles of the 2008 Presidential candidates based on their recent interviews and debates.

Do McCain, Biden, Palin and Obama Think the Way We Do? (Part 2)

I suggested previously that politicians win elections by “vibrating at the right frequency”, ie, having a {C,B/e,M} that is most easily accepted and identified with by the largest percentage of the voting population. The colloquial concept of “vibrating at the right frequency” is well known in marketing and advertising; the use of people in ads and creative that your target audience can identify with. IE, you probably won’t see too many spindly academic types in driving pick-ups in truck commercials. Much more simply; count the number of people wearing eyeglasses driving pick-ups in truck commercials versus the number of people wearing eyeglasses in commercials for upscale cars. Why the difference? Eyeglasses indicate intellectual, managerial and executive capabilities. That’s not the traditional pick-up truck market. Want to hear marketing types going nuts? Listen in on conversations about whether or not actors in SUV commercials should be wearing glasses (see What do kids think about kids in eyeglasses? for more on this).

<PLUG>
What this dips into and one of the ways NextStage makes use of these {C,B/e,M} matrices is in our Rich PersonaeTM. Rich PersonaeTM take the personae most clients come up with and imbue them with very real, very “mindful” reasons and motivations for their thoughts and deeds. You can find some links to information on NextStage’s Rich PersonaeTM at the end of this post. The most germane for this post might be Romney, Mitt Romney, Governor Romney, Social, Social Networks, Social Media, Video, Multimedia, TV, Advertising.

</PLUG>

Websites, etc., work very hard at vibrating at the desired audience’s frequency. The reason for this is that it creates a trust relationship very rapidly. Politicians want you to trust them, hence analyzing how a political website vibrates is a good indication of who they think their audience is.

Maybe.

Because if you’ve been following along with this series of posts, they websites aren’t doing a very good job of vibrating at the frequency of the largest audience. A strong case could be make that they’re not vibrating at the right frequency of some kind of glommed audience (see What McCain said about Obama and Palin to Hillary and Biden).

So I analyzed the debates

Thinking that the candidates would communicate differently in the debates, we analyzed the videos of the debates. What did we find?

Well, strangely enough (at least to me). Biden, McCain, Obama nor Palin were vibrating to the tune of the largest audience or even the largest audience glom.

In fact, I was shocked to learn that Biden, McCain, Obama, Palin, Lehrer and Ifill were all communicating with an A13 style. They were having a heck of a time being understood and understanding each other but what about the rest of us? I mean, during the exact time periods that the debates were going on, were the majority of people thinking and making decisions in an A13 style? At one point in time 14% of the BizMediaScience audience was A13 (see Do You Know How to Persuade, Influence and Convince Your Visitors? (NextStage Evolution’s Evolution Technology, Web Analytics, Behavioral Analytics and Marketing Analytics Reports for the BizMediaScience Blog) Again).

Right now (as I write this) the A13 personality comprises only 5.21% of BizMediaScience audience. I am reaching a more varied audience though. I was only reaching 12 personality types when I wrote Do You Know How to Persuade, Influence and Convince Your Visitors? (NextStage Evolution’s Evolution Technology, Web Analytics, Behavioral Analytics and Marketing Analytics Reports for the BizMediaScience Blog) Again, now I’m reaching 34!

So what is an A13 Personality?

  1. These people strongly prefer to be taught via negative reinforcement
  2. They make final decisions based on the immediate outcomes, they aren’t persuaded by appeals to long range goals
  3. They look to those emotionally close to them for guidance and leadership
  4. They base their decisions on the negative aspect of arguments

Well, wow. I especially like #2. To heck with long term and down-the-road consequences of our decisions, legislation, et cetera.

How much of the viewing public was vibrating at this frequency during the debates?

You’ll be shocked (at least I was mildly amused) to learn that the personality types prevalent during the first McCain-Obama debate on 25 Sept 08 were the same as in the graph above. However, things changed during the Biden-Palin debate on 2 Oct 08 as shown in the chart below.

What caused this shift in popular thought processes from 25 Sept to 2 Oct 08? This is more than a shift of a few points in the existing personality styles. Old styles are gone, new styles are taking their place, there were 7 and now there are 6. Hmm. The ranks are tightening, me thinks.

McCain-Obama, Biden-Palin US Decision Pattern Differences 080925-1002

The linking element of the decision/personality styles extant on 2 Oct 08 is simple; things are looking bad. Anyone want to take a guess why the nation as a whole would be thinking things aren’t looking too good at this point in time?

Do McCain, Biden, Palin and Obama Think the Way We Do? (Part 3)

Some quick notes before I get into the meat of this post:

This post will be covering

Here we go…

The Palin-Gibson Interviews

Charles Gibson was using an A13 communication style during the 11 Sept 08 interview. You may remember from the above that Biden, McCain, Obama, Palin, Lehrer and Ifill all used A13 methodologies during the debates so perhaps Charles Gibson’s use of A13 had more to do with experience and training than anything else (could it be that A13 is the best communication methodology for people reaching out to a television audience? Food for thought and research, that).

Governor Palin, about a month before the VP debates, was using a K13 communication style. This style’s key elements are:

  • These people prefer to experience things first-hand
  • They base decisions on immediate experience and tend to be negative in nature
  • They tend to ignore positive-based information as either unreal or unsubstantiated
  • They are attracted to and will focus on demonstrations of problems or difficulties

During the 12 Sept 08 interview Charles Gibson switched to an A9 style and Governor Palin went to an A5. The A9 style can be likened to a more conversational, more intimate form of the A13 style. A5 has

  • These people are strongly emotive and can become emotional during conversations
  • They are more apt to make decisions when they’re based on absolutes (right/wrong, good/bad)
  • They tend to have a negative outlook on life and dwell on past failures
  • They are very hands on

Thus in both interviews Governor Palin prefers to do things herself (the “first hand” and “hands on” aspects) although she didn’t demonstrate as strong a in the second interview as she did in the first, and she prefers to see the negatives rather than the positives (again with a slight shift in the second interview).

The “…make decisions when they’re based on absolutes (right/wrong, good/bad)” element is often found in individuals with definite religious beliefs.

The Palin-Couric Interviews

As goes Gibson so goes the Couric. Katy Couric’s communication style on 24 Sept 08 was A13. Unlike Charles Gibson, Ms. Couric stayed with an A13 style for the 25 Sept 08 interview.

Governor Palin’s communication styles for these two interviews was A13 followed by A5, thus Governor Palin once again in the second interview demonstrated a tendency towards absolutist views.

Gender Communications

One thing we learned in our studies of the 2004 election cycle (see NSE Case Study – Using NextStage’s TargetTrack in Political Campaigns, Predicting Election Outcomes Via NextStage’s TargetTrack and Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History Chapter 4 “Anecdotes of Learning: Politics Aren’t HorseRaces Any More”. We also offer our complete 2004, 2008 and 2012 Campaign Analyses for $25kUS each. Contact NextStage if you’re interested) was that communication styles — especially when they’re not capturing a large audience — are sometimes not as important as understandability, gender communications, education level and other demographic factors.

That recognized, Charles Gibson was reaching pretty much an even mix of males and females in the two interviews; 51/49 M/F on 11 Sept 08 and 53/47 M/F on 12 Sept 08. Likewise, Katy Couric reached 52/48 M/F on 24 Sept 08 and 48/52 M/F on 25 Sept 08. I would credit this to their training and experience as reporters and being on the anchor desk.

Governor Palin’s performances were 39/61, 42/58, 49/51 then back to 39/61 on the four days in question. Whatever was going on or being discussed on 11 and 25 Sept 08, Governor Palin intentionally or otherwise wanted to be sure women would take or be on her side.

Me, Politics, Adam Zand’s Really Big Shoe, How Obama’s and McCain’s sites have changed when we weren’t looking

Note: This section had a great deal of front matter dealing with Adam Zand interviewing J for a podcast on politics. We’re cutting that and going straight for the post’s jugular…

And now, How Obama’s and McCain’s sites have changes when we weren’t looking.

The sites, they are a’changin’

The last time I commented on the actual campaign websites was in Designing a Political Language Engine (WindKiller’s PWB comment) and What’s Happening Up North?. What’s happened since then?

Oh…just a little.

Here’s how Senators McCain’s and Obama’s website has changed their communication styles over time:

Date McCain Obama
(splash, main) where appropriate
10 Feb 07 V16 V15
6 Mar 07 K9 V15
22 Mar 07 V16 V15
24 Jun 07 V15 V12, K15
13 Aug 08 V16 K8, K1
25 Aug 08 V15 K8, K1
27 Aug 08 V16 V11, A8
29 Aug 08 (pre Palin announcement) V15 A7, V8
29 Aug 08 (post Palin announcement) V15 A7, V8
2 Sep 08 V15 V16, V8
3 Sep 08 V15 V16, A8
4 Sep 08 K16 K11, A16
10 Sep 08 K16 K11, K8
18 Sep 08 V16 K11, V8
23 Sep 08 V15 K15, K8
28 Oct 08 K15 V15, A8
30 Oct 08 V9 V15, A8

Forget what the Vs and As and Ks mean, just notice how often they’re changing. My guess is they’ll continue to change daily as the election gets closer. Senator McCain’s website’s relative communicative stability over the time period detailed is (I believe) a kind of equation that looks like

Candidate + Audience + Message = 1

What I mean by this is that for the longest time Candidate McCain pretty much gave one message to his audience. There were minor shifts and alterations, and pretty much it was one message. Now things are tighter and Candidate McCain is changing his message and his messaging as the days grow shorter and his campaign works to find the magic bullet that will stop the Obama machine.

Senator Obama’s website comes in two parts, splash and main with splash being variations of the join/learn page shown here [[(sorry, we don’t have a copy of that image)]]. The variations here show something that (I’ve heard) the Obama campaign does very well; respond rapidly to changes in its audience base.

Some readers might take that as “Obama changes his story as it suits him” and that’s not what I’m suggesting. How the message is delivered (the images, words, …) changes as their audience shifts. What the message is stays (I’m guessing) the same.

I will offer that if the site is an echo of the man, then Senator Obama has the ability to rapidly and easily change his approach to problem solving.

Again, I’m neither implying nor stating that Senator Obama changes his opinions on things (he may, I don’t know). I’m suggesting that if (IF!) his site is a product of his beliefs and methods then he has the ability to change how he solves problems when he recognizes that a present strategy isn’t working. The problem doesn’t change nor does the desire to solve it, only the methodology changes. This is what all that {C, B/e, M} stuff was about above and et al.

Links for this post:


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The Complete “Barack Obama, John McCain, Politics, Presidential Election 2008 and Political Websites 19 Aug 08 (080829)” Arc

Note: This was originally a two part arc, now all is here so enjoy and tell your friends.

Barack Obama, John McCain, Politics, Presidential Election 2008 and Political Websites 19 Aug 08 (080829)

This post continues my analysis of 2008 US Presidential election campaign websites. You can find a complete list at Politics. I’m going to start with a historical analysis of the campaign sites and bring things up to date. It’s going to cover several posts, so enjoy the ride. I know I have so far and I’ve only written this one in this particular series.

One of the things I’m always intrigued by is how messaging changes (if indeed it does) as campaigns move on through time, get their rhythm, find their stride, etc. For example, has the messaging changed since our first peek at campaign websites in this election cycle?

It’s not what they say, it’s how they say it
Perhaps you’ve known someone whose positions you agree with even though you don’t like the person, or you like what they have to say and wish they’d use a little more tact in saying it? Politicians (more correctly, political speech writers) spend a great deal of time saying things just the way (they think) you want to hear it.

Given that a politician changing his or her stance in the middle of an election cycle would definitely make things interesting, I doubt it’ll be done. Intentionally.

What they can do is change how they say it. This happened rarely if ever during the 2004 campaign season…except when the national conventions were being televised. The change in President Bush’s campaign site changed (literally) overnight and didn’t change back until the convention was over. The major change? Everything was geared to getting eyeballs from the computer to the TV.

So let’s take a look at how messaging has changed over time this campaign cycle thus far…

Saturday, 10 Feb 07

[[(sorry, we didn’t keep an image)]]

Senator McCain’s homepage on Saturday, 10 Feb 07 was a study in shades of gray. It was communicating using what we recognize as a V16 style (These people need to have information presented to them in pictures, charts or graphs, they finalize their decisions by using internal dialog, they need information framed in a positive manner before they can accept it and they have no sense of time or process). For those of you following along with Myers-Briggs concepts, NextStage’s V16 covers ISTJ and ISFP personality types.

At that point in time the number of people in the US who would respond positively to V16 messaging was 0.

[[(sorry, we didn’t keep an image)]]

What else was the homepage saying about candidate John McCain?

Depending on who contributed most directly to the look and feel of this page, the strongest message of these was that Senator McCain had a vision for the country, followed by a belief that he was Presidential material and could lead us to a better place.

[[(sorry, we didn’t keep an image)]]

Who was the homepage appealing to gender-wise? It was designed to favor a male audience by a 69/31 ratio.

Tuesday, 6 Mar 07

[[(sorry, we didn’t keep an image)]]

We next visited Senator McCain’s site on Tuesday, 6 Mar 07. A few more colors are being used.

I don’t remember if what he was saying changed. I do know how he was saying it shifted considerably. In one month the messaging went from v16 to K9 (These people prefer to experience something firsthand before making any decisions about it, they are hesitant to attempt anything new, they are convinced by arguments which end with a warning about what might happen, they make decisions which favor avoidance of future problems rather than acceptance of future rewards). Do remember this describes the type of person who’ll be most receptive to what’s on the homepage. There is no attempt here to indicate a candidate’s personal or political beliefs or ideology.

Again, for those keeping track via Myers-Briggs, the site is designed to appeal to ISFP and ESFJ personality types.

[[(sorry, we didn’t keep an image)]]

What about messaging?

Here is an interesting thing. I don’t remember if Senator McCain’s platform changed, his politics changed, his “what he was saying when he said it” changed. What I do know is that his messaging (at least on his website) changed greatly. Before whoever had control of the homepage’s look and feel believed Senator McCain could lead us to a better place, but was he Presidential material? Was he electable?

In one month’s time someone (with their “hands at the wheel” so to speak) decided he definitely was.

And here it’s important to recognize that changes in percentages tell only a part of the story because it’s not only how you say it, it’s how “loudly” you say it.

There is (in the concepts at work here) something equivalent to a very bright light shining in someone’s eyes, shouting in someone’s ears, tapping them repeatedly to get their attention. This bright light/shouting/tapping is very specific to western culture and shows up often in marketing and advertising directed to the western trained mind; confidence is demonstrated by brightness, loudness, action. These things signify boldness, a sense of having nothing to hide.

[[(sorry, we didn’t keep an image)]]

So was the new homepage shining a light, shouting and tapping vigorously? Compared to the 10 Feb 07 site it certainly was. In most cases the intensity of the message doubled or tripled with some messages being fairly “shouted from the rooftops”.

One thing to note is the change in the “I Have a Vision for This Country” message. It’s intensity decreased by more than half. Perhaps those in charge of the website, Senator McCain or his advisors lost their focus or decided having a vision for the country wasn’t as important this time around?

[[(sorry, we didn’t keep an image)]]

Gender-wise, the site changed little if at all; it was 69/31. Now it was 68/32.

Thursday, 22 Mar 07

Just over two weeks later and another major change to the look and feel of the site, yes? Senator McCain is back to being front and center and now he’s in color. He is “in the flesh” as it were, a real person with real possibilities, perhaps?

Gender-wise the numbers had not changed in the two week interval. They remained at M/F 68/32.

[[(sorry, we didn’t keep an image)]]

Messaging-wise, we see a return to the relative values and style (a return to the V16 messaging style) of Saturday, 10 Feb 07. Things like this cause me to wonder, “Wha’ happened?” What caused the change over such a relatively short period of time and what brought things back? Did a new web team come on board and then get released? Did a new marketing or advisory group take the helm only to be cast out a few days later? And why?

[[(sorry, we didn’t keep an image)]]

These types of questions can often be answered when you look at messaging intensity. Here we learn that messaging values have returned to near 10 Feb 07 numbers but that intensities are now weaker than they were before.

Again, I don’t remember what was happening about this point in time. Seeing changes like this my thoughts tend to be

  • Some kind of push was made, some distinct effort, and that the results weren’t those wanted, hence a return to what was working before
  • An announcement was made — think of a new or upgraded product release — and once made things went back to the way they were
  • Somebody did something and got caught

That aside, the brain perceives gestalts non-consciously, determines if anything requires attention and if so promotes it to consciousness so we can focus on it. The gestalt here — whether intentional or otherwise — is that Senator McCain is a quiet, humble sort of fellow, likeable and honest, a “speak softly and carry a big stick” kind of guy.

Barack Obama, John McCain, Politics, Presidential Election 2008 and Political Websites, part 2

[[(sorry, we didn’t keep an image)]]

Starting with Senator Obama’s homepage on Saturday, 10 Feb 07…

Saturday, 10 Feb 07

Senator Obama’s campaign website homepage was communicating using a V15 style (Myers-Briggs equivalent is ISFJ). Senator McCain’s site was using a V16 style. What’s the difference?

V15 V16
  • These people make decisions based on what they see, picture and charts are strong influencers
  • They have a poor sense of time or involvement
  • They are more apt to believe and accept negative statements
  • They tend to become confused when time-factors are demonstrated as important to a decision
  • These people need to have information presented to them in pictures, charts or graphs
  • They finalize their decisions by using internal dialog
  • They need information framed in a positive manner before they can accept it
  • They have no sense of time or process

First, there’s several dozen more elements to each communication style, what I’m sharing here are just the tip of the iceberg. That offered, we often tell web clients that all they need concern themselves with is the tip of the iceberg.

What are the substantive differences? Recognizing that they share similarities, the Obama site was going after people who needed some finger-pointing before they were willing to get involved, almost a “Come on, people. Wake up! This isn’t your fault unless you’re not willing to do something about it” whereas the McCain site was communicating “Think about it. Here are some ideas on how to change things”.

Presidential Messaging

[[(sorry, we didn’t keep an image)]]

At this point in time Senator Obama’s strongest messages were that he had a vision for this country and that he could lead us to a better place.

<ASIDE>
Hmmm… you know, it never occurred to me to look for a “My god we’re in one heck of a hole and I don’t know anybody who could get us out of this one” message. Might be a fun exercise in my copious free time to work out the math…I wondered about that because, looking at the strongest messages in this particular homepage, I thought “well, yeah. Of course those will be strong messages. Duh!
</ASIDE>

[[(sorry, we didn’t keep an image)]]

Remember my writing previously that messages are one thing, the strength of the messages is another? Let’s compare the relative intensities with which Senators McCain and Obama were broadcasting their presidential messages.

What we see here is that Senator Obama was (depending on how you want to spin it) either working much harder at getting his message out or he was shouting much louder.

What’s most interesting to me, however, is that both candidates (at this point in time) are pretty much not listening and definitely not listening to “you”, the voting public (or anybody else, evidently). This is interesting to me because not listening to voters’ concerns was one of the most distinct downfalls of the candidates in the 2004 campaign season (as documented in Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History).

[[(sorry, we didn’t keep an image)]]

What about gender?

The Republicans have been calling Senator Obama a celebrity and rock star for quite a while now although I don’t know if they were making their claim at this point in time. Based on what the Republican and McCain sponsored ads are demonstrating, I believe part of the “rock star/celebrity” claim is Senator Obama’s appeal to a female audience.

Though not appealing to a predominantly female audience, back in Feb 07 Senator Obama’s website’s gender appeal numbers were excellent in the sense that he was appealing fairly equally to both men and women. Difficult to do and nicely done.

Tuesday, 6 Mar 07

[[(sorry, we didn’t keep an image)]]

A little less than a month later and the Obama site is still reaching out to a V15 audience. The relative messaging (percentages of total message) didn’t change all that much. He’s still broadcasting the same messages at about the same strengths relative to each other. Nor, for that matter, did his gender appeal change that much. It went all the way from 53/47 to 52/48 M/F, not enough to be concerned about at this level of inspection.

[[(sorry, we didn’t keep an image)]]

The fact that the gender appeal has remained relatively stable for about a month does indicate that there’s more intention (if not method). It’s very impressive if intended and still impressive if it wasn’t as that close a gender appeal is usually difficult to do without lots of work (and training).

Who’s Shouting the Loudest?

[[(sorry, we didn’t keep an image)]]

According to [[(sorry, it’s as gone as the original blog)]] WindKiller’s comment on my previous post, Senator McCain’s homepage at this point in time coincided with his announcement that he was officially running for US President. That is borne out by the numbers in this chart. He’s fairly “shouting at the top of his lungs” (not a judgement, just a comparison) compared to Senator Obama’s homepage, especially the “I Have a Vision for This Country” message.

Again (and I think noteworthy), note that neither candidate is neither listening nor listening to “you”. In fact, it appears their both not listening at about the same level. This is interesting to me from a marketing perspective and especially as I tend to view comparisons like these to analyzing competitive marketing campaigns.

At this point in time it seems that listening to the general public wasn’t something anybody thought worth doing, or at least not worth emphasizing.

So much for “your opinion counts”, huh?

Thursday, 22 Mar 07

A little over two weeks later and so little has changed communications and messaging wise on Senator Obama’s homepage that I am strongly reminded of the 2004 campaign; so little changed day to day that its monotony became mind-numbing (to me, anyway).

The homepage still communicates best to a V15 audience, the gender appeal is still 52/48 and the Presidential Messages numbers have changed so little as to be inconsequential.

[[(sorry, we didn’t keep an image)]]

However, the Obama homepage’s consistency can be a good thing for audiences that like consistency (note that V15‘s aren’t necessarily motivated by consistency. The Obama homepage was being “out shouted” by the McCain homepage briefly and when compared to the McCain homepage for Thursday, 22 Mar 07, the Obama homepage is definitely stating its purposes more clearly to the largest possible audience.


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