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This is a story about permission.
Its genesis is a study that got a bit of play over the summer, in which researchers studied the eating habits of more than 330,000 people, spanning nine years.
The headline conclusion: Eating chocolate, at least in moderation, results in lower observed rates of coronary artery disease.
Or to put it the way it got played:
EATING CHOCOLATE IS GOOD FOR YOU SAYS SCIENCE!!!
“Our study suggests that chocolate helps keep the heart's blood vessels healthy,” said Dr. Chayakrit Krittanawong of Baylor College of Medicine, lead author of the study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.
Everybody likes to hear this, right? I mean, who doesn't like chocolate?
And it got me thinking about just how many people out there might wind up increasing their chocolate consumption even just a tiny bit, because studies like this give them implied permission to do so.
We've certainly seen this before. All those studies saying red wine is good for your heart, for example.
I found one study out of the Harvard School of Public Health that examined the habits of 21,000 Italians, and concluded that those who drank a glass of wine per day were less likely to spend any time in hospitals than those who did not imbibe at all.
Another study of 15 years of health data on people who lived to be 90, and found that those who were slightly overweight, and who drank alcohol (one to two glasses of wine or beer a day) were 18 percent less likely to have an early death.
“I have no explanation for it,” said neuroscientist Dr. Claudia Kawas of the University of California. “But I do firmly believe that modest drinking improves longevity.”)
Now, obviously there’s a downside. With chocolate, for example, the apparent benefit in combating coronary artery disease and heart attacks has to be balanced against the “calories, sugar, milk, and fat in commercially available products,” as Krittanawong put it.
And when the red wine study came out, lead author Dr. Ken Mukamal of Harvard was adamant: “We are absolutely not saying that any teetotaler should start drinking to improve his/her health.”
But the existence of these kinds of studies and stories give customers permission—or excuses—to buy things that they want to buy anyway: to the tune of a $103 billion annual chocolate industry, and a $167 billion liquor market in the United States alone.
Granted, perhaps you're not in a position to commission a massive study of tens or hundreds of thousands of people to identify a health benefit for whatever you're selling.
It doesn't really matter. The key is simply to come up with ways to add "permission arguments" to the sales pitch you use for your products and services.
They can be simple, like an expensive restaurant that offers to make a donation to a food bank for every takeout order.
Or a landscaping business that emphasizes that you're hiring people who lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Or a clothing website that emphasizes that every product is made in the U.S.A., so you're supporting domestic manufacturers.
Or a consultant teaching online classes, who offers free passes to students for every paid enrollment.
If the unexpected benefit doesn't exist, create it. And give potential customers an unexpected and implied reason to follow through.
Then enjoy a glass of wine or a piece of chocolate to celebrate. You have permission.
7 other things worth your time
Elon Musk says he now has enough SpaceX Internet satellites—700—to do a “public beta” for the northern U.S. and Canada. The timing is still up in the air (sorry) because they have to get into the right positions. (Arstechnica)
The World Bank says the coronavirus has thrown roughly 100 million people around the world into extreme poverty. (WSJ, $)
Walt Disney announced announced a massive reorganization of its media and entertainment business, to focus on developing productions for its streaming and broadcast services. (Techcrunch)
This might be my favorite video ever. Economists Paul Milgrom and Robert Wilson won the Nobel Prize for economics. But Milgron’s phone was off, and so the committee couldn’t reach him. His co-awardee, Wilson, came by to tell him—and the whole thing was captured on Milgrom’s Nest doorbell camera.
A 12-year-old Georgia Tech student shared what it’s like to be attending college when he’s so much younger than his peers. “This is my life. This is how I am. And I've been living this way my whole life.” (CBS News)
A Canadian tourist who “swiped” five items from the ruins of Pompeii in Italy in 2005 sent them back, and including a letter saying she’s only had bad luck since and hopes to break the curse. Speaking of Canada, more than 19,000 people have been turned away at the border since travel between the U.S. and Canada was restricted in March. (CNN, Narcity)
An “accidentally cut cable” caused the entire Virginia voter registration system to crash Tuesday, the last day to register before the election. Meanwhile on the first day of early voting in Georgia, so many showed up that the wait to get to a voting machine was hours-long in many polling places. (The folks in this video say they had to wait 11 hours.) (WUSA9, USA Today, Twitter)
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