Today, I spoke to Sally Hogshead, who is a speaker, author, and brand innovation consultant. This is a follow-up to my previous interview with Sally back in January 2009. Her latest book is called FASCINATE: Your 7 Triggers of Persuasion and Captivation. In this interview, Sally talks about her new book, analyzes my triggers of fascination, and then finishes by applying the ideas in her book to personal branding.

How did you come up with the idea behind FASCINATE, and what is an F Score Test?

Our attention spans used to be about 20 minutes long. But now, thanks to this crazy-distracted-overcaffeinated-wired world we’re all in, the average attention span has become slightly shorter. How much shorter? Nine seconds. That’s about the time it took you to read so far. (But stick with me!) Nine seconds is the attention span as a goldfish.

In this nine second world, we need to rethink our personal brands—how we attract business, how we close sales, how we write resumes, how we build loyalty. Is your personal brand persuasive enough to keep customers from swimming away to your competition on the other side of the goldfish bowl?

I wrote FASCINATE to explore and explain how persuasion works in this environment. Why are we so strongly influenced by certain people and companies, but not by others? Why do we vote for certain people, and promote certain employees, and forget others (or worse, ignore them entirely)? I spent three years studying  neurobiology, psychology, anthropology and a bunch of other “-ologies.” Along the way, I learned some pretty surprising truths about why we pay attention to certain type of messages, companies, and people.

The F Score personality test reveals exactly which triggers you’re already using to persuade and captivate. Whether you realize it or not, whether you intend to or not, you’re using fascination triggers to influence people around you.

It might seem like only a rare few possess the ability to magnetically attract attention. But in fact, anyone activate these instinctive triggers, and captivate beyond the nine-second mark.

What are the 7 fascination triggers?


Here are the 7 universal triggers: Power, Trust, Mystique, Vice, Alarm, Lust, and Prestige. By activating the right combination of triggers, anyone can become more fascinating. Once you learn the how the brain respond to these seven triggers, you can more clearly define and hone your own brand.

The 7 triggers steer our decision-making every day: from the magazines you read, to the career you choose; from the company you join, to the person you marry. Whether you realize it or not, you’re already using the seven triggers. The question is, are you using the right triggers, in the right way, to get your desired result? That’s what the F Score will show you.

I took the test and it says that my primary fascination is PRESTIGE. Do you think this is accurate? What does it mean for my personal brand?

Well, I happen to know you personally, so I have an advantage in applying this trigger to you… and yes, absolutely, you’re a Prestige connoisseur!

People with this primary trigger tend to be sophisticated and discerning in their tastes, goal-oriented at work, and motivated to achieve at the highest levels. They’re not necessarily focused on overt displays of wealth, but on respect. Respect can come through many forms: earning an MBA diploma, or driving a specialized Toyota Prius, or winning at the latest version of Guitar Hero.

Prestigious corporate brands (such as Porsche and Cartier) are more valuable, and so are prestigious personal brands (such as yours).

Brands that apply the Prestige trigger can charge higher prices; those with the Power trigger can command greater control.

My secondary trigger is POWER. What does this combination mean?

Personalities that use the Power trigger are quite comfortable in positions of authority. They dislike blindly following orders, and define the rules on their terms. In terms of your own brand, Dan, this is reflected in how your messages carry great influence and weight. You’re a leader, no question.

The combination of Prestige + Power is coveted for its ability to earn respect, while still commanding control.

Dan, you use your triggers to teach us how to create greater value in our personal brands, and accumulate more control over where, when, and how we work.

My dormant trigger is TRUST. What does this say about my personality and how I do business?

A “dormant” trigger is the one that you’re least likely to use to sway opinion. Now, Dan, I happen to know that you’re an extremely trustworthy person, so this isn’t to say you’re not trusted. Rather, that you’re not predictable or redundant.

People who score low on the Trust trigger dislike being a slave to the rules. They tend to be entrepreneurial, passionate, and intuitive. They’re not stuck to one plan, and can see many possibilities for success. (Oh, and Trust is also my dormant trigger.)

How can I leverage these triggers to be more successful in business and in life?

Prestige has an element of scarcity and exclusivity, yet by increasing its use, you’ll gain even bigger audiences. Hone your Power trigger for even greater respect. And selectively apply the Trust trigger for more loyal advocates.

What other triggers am I missing?

Every trigger offers a different type of response. Lust trigger, for instance, invites people closer. It evokes warmth and emotion.

Want to make others curious? Mystique creates intrigue. It attracts others through unanswered questions.

Alarm adds a sense of urgency. It’s a red hot button, threatening with negative consequences. The Alarm trigger persuades us to do things we might otherwise dislike: going on a diet, working through the weekend, or paying taxes.

Vice tempts to tweak the traditional norms, or even rebel against authority. All forms of creativity and innovation come from Vice.

Can you apply this methodology to a celebrity, a company, and a product brand?

Let’s use Prestige, since that’s your own primary trigger.

Prestige is often expressed through emblems. These emblems can be expensive or humble, but all share some degree of exclusivity. Bake-off champions show off blue ribbons. Mary Kay’s top employees drive pink Cadillacs. Children collect autographs from Mickey and Minnie at Disney. Girl Scouts wear merit badges on uniforms. Proud fathers of newborns have hospital bands. Scholars frame Phi Beta Kappa keys. These badges incentivize people to stay a step ahead of everyone else within a group

By developing symbols of value, groups can strengthen participation and commitment. Prestigious groups monitor access to remain sought-after, rare, and valuable. Insider brands usually control how many people get access to the brand; otherwise, over-saturation cheapens status and destroys value. Otherwise, subculture brands head directly to the strip mall.

I’ll apply this to a clothing brand— one that I’m guessing you don’t have in your closet… Ed Hardy. (You know, like those glam-rock shirts with glittering rhinestones and iconic tattoo skulls, tigers, and red rose designs.)

In 2004, the Ed Hardy tattoo inspired brand launched onto the edgy rock scene. It was ultra-hip. But by 2009, line extension included (get ready): Ed Hardy–branded drinking water, candy,vodka and wine, coffee beans, disposable dinnerware, Koozies, Band-Aids, air fresheners, hand sanitizers, Smart Cars, hookahs, as well as a skull-adorned collection of diapers, sippy cups, and pacifiers.

Yeah, um, sorry, the brand is dead. Gone. Say buh-bye.

The lesson? If your brand relies on Prestige to fascinate, then don’t show up in the strip mall. (Yet somehow, I think the Dan Schawbel brand will be sticking closer to the Armani boutiques.)


Sally Hogshead is a speaker, author, and brand innovation consultant, helping companies develop messages that persuade and captivate. Clients past and present include Nike, MINI Cooper, Aflac, Cole Haan, Target, Coca-Cola and Godiva. Sally’s work and insights have been profiled by The New York Times, NBC, ABC, CBS and MSNBC. She’s been described by the press as “intrepid” and an “advertising mastermind.” Reality TV show Making It Big named her “Advertising’s Icon” who has “changed the face of North American advertising.” In 2009, she was interviewed twice on NBC’s Today Show. A sought-after speaker, Sally leads keynotes for companies such as Starbucks and Microsoft, as well as innovation sessions around the world. She is the author of RADICAL CAREERING: 100 Truths to Jumpstart Your Job, Your Career, and Your Life, and her latest book called FASCINATE: Your 7 Triggers of Persuasion and Captivation.