News that a conviction of George Davis has, after 36 years, been finally overturned highlights the power of a meme.
The case brings back memories of my youth and London’s East End – where Mr. Davis also lived.
Luckily for George, he had a remarkable wife in Rose, who campaigned, pleading his innocence. George Davis was a known face to the police and word on the street was that the case was a fit up. (George did later get caught red handed for another bank job – where he was guilty! I remember a mate telling me at the time that the gang were seen ahead of their raid stocking up at the Woolworths in Poplar.)
Thanks to Rose’s unstinting efforts the campaign gained celebrity attention: The Who’s Roger Daltrey sported a ‘George Davis is Innocent’ T-shirt and playwright Barry Keefe (who later went on to script the film ‘Long Good Friday’) did a fantastic piece of agitprop drama which I saw at the old Half Moon Theatre.
One inspired act, however was a spontaneous one; while daubing bridges and walls across the East End with the words ‘George Davis is Innocent’ someone impetuously added ‘OK!’ to the end of the slogan.
Little, do I suspect they realise that they had added a brilliant ingredient for their meme.
A meme is a body of in formation that is able to replicate itself. So you know the words to the song ‘Happy Birthday’ without attending the ‘Happy Birthday’ training course.
As communicators it seems to make sense to me, that if you can make your message meme-friendly and able to replicate itself, in a world of even more competing messages, and fewer resources, if you can make your word of mouth more powerful and cultivate and cook a good meme – you are on to a winner.
By adding ‘OK!’ at the end of their slogan, the campaigners had created what I call a ‘dissonance anchor’.
What I mean by this, is that your brain has a predilection to ignore most of the information that passes its way; it does not want to use valuable resource to absorb, process and archive the Tsunami of data it receives every day.
So, if you want something to be remembered you need the equivalent of a hook, – or anchor – that catches in people’s minds, that refuses to be easily passed through.
If the campaigners had just daubed: ‘George Davis is Innocent’, on receiving this information your brain would either instantly agree, or agree that it is a statement you do not have to take note of, or dismiss as wrong.
By implanting the ‘OK! in the statement, and ultimately, in your mind,’ it provides a bit of brainfood that cannot easily pass Yes/No divert filter to deflect it from your brain cells having to think about it: what is meant by ‘OK!’, is it really true/or not true, black or white, certain or uncertain?
Using this tactic creates dissonance in your message, anxiety that the brain cannot instantly process.
Remembering this part of my personal folklore I now use ‘OK!’ on my business card.
Previously I had printed ‘Someone to challenge, inspire and extend you thinking and doing.’ Reflecting that I was missing a trick, my card now has the statement: ‘Someone to challenge, inspire and extend you thinking and doing. OK!’
I hope in all the news coverage that the efforts of a truly remarkable woman Rose Davis are not forgotten.
And when it comes to your own communications you need to ask yourself, in what ways can you make your messages more ‘sticky’, more meme-friendly. OK!