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This post was written by
Scott Schwertly

Scott is the Founder and CEO of Ethos3.

Percentage change in the likelihood a child will eat an apple from the school cafeteria if the apple has an Elmo sticker on it: +68  [Citation: Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics, Ithaca, NY]

The statistic above (derived from Harper’s Magazine’s always-excellent Harper’s Index) tells us that a child is 68% more likely to eat an apple from the cafeteria if it has an Elmo sticker on it. So, what does that mean for your next presentation?

It means don’t overlook the importance of (and potential power in) including pop culture and brand references in your presentation. People– children and adults alike– tend to have strong brand and pop culture affiliations. Think of how divisive the question of PC or Mac can be. Usually, people have an avowed relationship with one or the other, but rarely both. Think of how divisive people’s opinions regarding a celebrity or pop culture icon can be. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t have an opinion about Lance Armstrong’s recent fall from grace.

Pop culture and brand references are also an easy way to connect with your audience during an otherwise intensive presentation. Children are more likely to eat the apple with an Elmo sticker on it because they saw one of their beloved characters essentially endorse it. Likewise, your audience is even likelier to accept and believe what you’re proposing if it’s associated with a beloved pop culture character or if it’s affiliated with a respected brand.

However, it’s important to think carefully about the associations and connotations you’re making by bringing in a brand or pop culture reference. Make sure you’ve properly vetted the idea before including it in your presentation. You certainly don’t want to inadvertently alienate your audience by making a connection they don’t appreciate or by referencing someone or something they don’t respect.

Try to harness the power of including a pop culture or brand reference in your next presentation. Don’t force the connection, but while you’re working on the content portion of your presentation, see what you can do to lighten the mood with a funny pop culture reference, or see how you can connect a beloved brand with your conclusions.

Clearly if 68% of kids are more likely to eat a healthy apple simply because of an Elmo sticker, there is lots of power inherent in the Elmo brand. See how you can mine that observation for your own benefit next time you deliver a presentation.

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