How to create powerful hooks with Brendan Kane.

Photo by Morning Brew on Unsplash

By Fab Giovanetti

Marketing is a discipline that is strictly linked to currencies. May those be social currency or return on investment (ROI), we are looking for ways to make our content stand out from the crowd and lead to, ultimately, sales.

What if I were to tell you that, right now, there is a much more important currency you should be focusing on? Attention.

A study by Microsoft concluded that the human attention span has dropped to eight seconds — shrinking nearly 25% in just a few years.

Attention is one of the most important currencies in the online world, and for good reason. Boston Digital called us the Impulse Generation. In the Impulse Generation, age is not the principal factor, but our dependency on the web and mobile devices for fast, easy access to information.

This means our brains have been reprogrammed to get answers and get them fast. How can we make a mark in such a world? How can marketers tap into storytelling and stand out from the crowd?

In the past month, I had the pleasure to interview author, marketer, and strategist Brendan Kane for our podcast, and discuss in the depth the principles from his second book, Hook Point: How to Stand Out in a 3-Second World.

Brendan has worked with hundreds of individuals and brands providing business and digital strategy for more than 15 years, including MTV, Taylor Swift, Rhianna, and many others.

As well as show business and entertainment, he has helped a variety of brands and companies, testing and refining the way storytelling can impact individuals online and offline.

The Power of Hooks

When talking about hooks, we are referring to the first three to five seconds that audiences are spending consuming your content. Knowing how to build hooks is the most valuable skillset that you can have. Most people caught up in building followers or sales, which are all important — but if you can’t figure out how to hook people it’s not going to sustain.

In order to start building effective hooks, Kane suggests studying the market. Finding great hooks already out there can help you refine your own strategy and find patterns within the space.

“What is a billboard that makes you stop? A TV ad or a Facebook ad? Taking that sentence or the first three to five seconds and plug in your words or your content.”

Kane recalls how one copywriter he interviewed for the Hook Point book has sold over a billion dollars through copywriting.

He told the story of when he first started out and he was horrible at creating hooks, so the exercise he started doing was to find other people’s hooks and plug his messages, his services, and things of that nature. “It starts training you to think in that capacity”, he added.

Getting someone to look at your content is a challenge. But captivating them enough to stay and give it their full attention? Unheard of.

When thinking about hooks, it’s important not to confuse them with clickbait content or strategies. Kane points out that clickbait is not going to deliver value to your brand, and that’s when powerful hooks can have such a considerable impact.

In constructing a powerful hook that’s effective, there are three core pillars.

The first is the hook itself, which Kane explains to be designed to capture attention such as pattern interruption or subverting expectation by standing out from the crowd.

The second is a story. Kane explains you have to have a compelling story to match the attention that you’re going to grab because if you grab the attention, then you don’t have a powerful story, then it falls apart. And that’s typically where clickbait happens.

And then the third, which is just as important, is authenticity and credibility. Do people believe what you are telling them?

If you can’t capture attention, you’ll never get to the story. If you capture attention with a poor story, you’re going to lose people. And then if you capture attention with a powerful story, but it doesn’t feel authentic, then it falls apart.

With this simple yet powerful system, Kane points out why you need to have these three key pillars playing off of each other in order for that whole model to work into actually maximize the value of attention.

How can we measure hooks through marketing practices? One of the best examples can be outlined through email marketing.

Just to break down those three pillars in terms of an email analogy, grabbing the attention is the subject line and how you measure that is the open rate.

This means shifting the focus of your emails to what matters the most, your headlines. For example with our newsletters and emails that we focus on that (subject line) first, and we’ve taken our email opens from like 8 or 9%, up to like 40 or 50%, and that’s by testing those headlines.

If you don’t get people to open the email, you don’t even get to the content, which means you’re not getting to the second pillar, which is a story. To measure the effectiveness of that story is if you put a link in the email, you can measure with the effectiveness of what that click-through is.

At the same time, trust and credibility can play to the click-through percentage. If you’re trying to drive that click-through into a sale, or to some type of registration that can tell you how effective you are in terms of building that authenticity and building in that credibility.

This is a perfect example of those three pillars put into action by looking at what happens with email marketing.

Now that we understand the principle of powerful hooks, how do we present them in a way that resonates with our audience?

Hacking Communication

Ahead of our interview, I listened to Kane’s first book One Million Followers, in which he challenged himself to build a million followers in 100 countries in 30 days. In the book, he discussed something known as process communication, a communication framework he works with to this date.

The core concept revolves around the idea that people perceive the world in different ways. That means that the way that you express your product or brand or service needs to understand how different people perceive it.

“Do they perceive the world through feelings, emotions, thoughts, logic or opinions? That’s another thing that I think businesses don’t really think about when they’ll create one ad or one way to present their product or brand.”

According to the Process Communication Model, each of us represents a unique combination of six different types of personality, including the thinker, the persister, the harmoniser, the rebel, the imaginer, and the promoter.

How can we apply this knowledge effectively to a business?

The secret of reaching wider audiences lays in testing different messages.

“We did this in the film industry all the time is, you’ll see a movie, which the basic plot is the same, but they’ll do different ways of expressing it. Maybe they have one that talks about the feelings, versus another that is action-packed.”

From that, you’ll measure the response to better understand your audience.

It’s time businesses challenge themselves when designing content, whether it’s organic, or paid or advertising. “Are they expressing how they view the business, the brand, or the service versus how is the audience perceiving it?”

Kane pinpoints this as a shift that can help brands reach their prospective customer base and current audiences alike, and such an important concept he uses it with all of his clients.

From his company’s ad creative or social content to landing pages, but also with private clients in order to understand how they are they perceiving the world.

“We need to contextualise the information we want to present them to help them grow their business so that they can hear what we’re saying.”

In order to deliver powerful hooks and create an effective marketing strategy, we need to truly understand how people perceive the world this way businesses can articulate their values in a way that connects with the larger audience and the different ways people perceive it.

Understanding the basics of powerful communication and combining them with compelling hooks is the first step to revolutionize every single aspect of a business, whether you’re talking about organic social content, paid ads, landing pages, emails, or business development.

“If you look at the holistic picture of your business, maybe you’re amazing at grabbing attention, but you’re not a great storyteller or your stories are falling short. Or maybe you’re great at grabbing attention telling stories, but there’s something often the way that you’re delivering it that’s turning people off.”

Being able to highlight individual weaknesses that lay with any given within this simple three-step process can shift the effectiveness of storytelling within marketing.

As businesses are no longer just fighting against their direct competition, but every piece of content, it’s more important than ever to craft powerful hooks.

In a world that questions the power of stories, being able to grab people’s attention and stand out from the crowd will become more and more an art to be cultivated.