The Personal MBA

Master the Art of Business

A world-class business education in a single volume. Learn the universal principles behind every successful business, then use these ideas to make more money, get more done, and have more fun in your life and work.

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What Is 'Association'?

The human mind stores information contextually. Because the brain looks for patterns, your mind effortlessly forms Associations, even between things that aren't logically connected.

Presenting positive associations in your offer can influence what people think about it.

Cultivate the right associations and your customers will want what you have even more.

Josh Kaufman Explains 'Association'

Who cares what golf clubs Tiger Woods uses? Who cares what shoes Michael Jordan wears? Who cares what purse Paris Hilton is carrying? Your mind cares.

Remember, your brain is taking in information all the time, and is using it to create patterns that describe how the world works. Rationally, these things may not matter-you probably know that using the same golf clubs Tiger Woods uses won't magically correct your atrocious slice.

When it comes time to buy golf clubs, however, your mind will be drawn to the clubs that make you feel good, and more likely than not, you'll find the clubs Tiger uses quite appealing.

The human mind stores information contextually, including cues like Environment and Correlation. Because the brain is a Pattern Matching machine, it's constantly trying to figure out what's associated with what.

As a result, your mind effortlessly forms Associations-even between things that aren't logically connected.

For decades, the Coca-Cola Company has been associating Coke with a single emotion: happiness. Do a quick search for Coke commercials on YouTube: you won't find any images of layoffs or funerals.

What you will find is a litany of happy moments: Adrian Brody cruising in his car, animated parades of whimsical creatures as a bottle of Coke exits a vending machine, and Charlie Brown winning the race for a runaway Coke bottle balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving parade.

Even holidays aren't immune: the company largely invented the modern image of Santa Claus, who just so happened to be holding a bottle of Coke.

It's possible to influence behavior by using associative cues, even associations that make no logical sense. Coca-Cola's advertisements don't convince soda consumers that Coke is better in some functional respect ("Now with 37% more sugar!"), but they do make people feel good whenever they think about Coke. When a customer is standing in the supermarket deciding what soft drink to buy, those feelings make a big difference in each customer's final choice.

Consider beer commercials, which usually feature attractive women and confident men.

Your rational mind knows that drinking a certain type of beer won't make you more attractive or confident, but Correlation is powerful-your brain will make the Association anyway.

As a result, beer ads influence behavior, even though no one takes the images they contain seriously.

Presenting your prospects with positive associations can influence how they think about what you offer. Celebrity endorsements work because they tie into strong associations people already have with the endorsers, associations that rub off on the product or service being endorsed.

Everyone knows James Bond is a fictional character, but when Daniel Craig is featured wearing a tuxedo in a watch advertisement, the "sophisticated international spy" association is automatically transferred to the timepiece.

Cultivate the right associations, and potential customers will want what you have even more.

Questions About 'Association'


"In general, we are least aware of what our minds do best."

Marvin Minsky, cognitive scientist and artificial intelligence researcher at MIT


From Chapter 6:

The Human Mind


https://personalmba.com/association/



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The Personal MBA

Master the Art of Business

A world-class business education in a single volume. Learn the universal principles behind every successful business, then use these ideas to make more money, get more done, and have more fun in your life and work.

Buy the book:


About Josh Kaufman

Josh Kaufman is an acclaimed business, learning, and skill acquisition expert. He is the author of two international bestsellers: The Personal MBA and The First 20 Hours. Josh's research and writing have helped millions of people worldwide learn the fundamentals of modern business.

More about Josh Kaufman →