Interminable Terms and Conditions

I was trying to buy something on iTunes the other day, and it prompted me to agree to Apple’s new “Terms and Conditions.” On my iTouch, the Terms occupied 62 screens of text. So I emailed the Terms to myself and, in the meantime, clicked “I Agree.”

Turns out the Terms are 16,914 words. (Switch, a normal-sized nonfiction book, is about 73,000 words.) Let’s assume that people can read and comprehend the Terms at a speed of 200 wpm. (That’s the lower end of the “reading for comprehension” speed range cited on Wikipedia, which should be a fair estimate given the quality of the prose, which makes an IRS form seem like a bodice-ripper.) At that rate, it would take about 85 minutes just to read the Terms.

These New Terms, by the way, come on the heels of the Old New Terms (from March 31), which were 15,170 words. With quarterly updates of the Terms, the average iTunes customer would need to spend a full work day annually just reading legalese. (That’s an 8-hour shift minus an hour for lunch and another for Facebook.) By way of comparison, you can rent a car or bungee-jump by agreeing to a one-page contract.

There’s no sense in getting riled up about something so small, but it just makes you ponder this fact: Dozens of Apple executives have studied this situation and concluded that this is a perfectly reasonable thing to expect your customers to do (that is, either sign a contract blindly or spend a day annually reading legalese).

It is possible, by the way, to create non-shameful contracts: Check out Dropbox’s latest Terms, which includes lines like this: “The Services provide features that allow you to share your stuff with others or to make it public. There are many things that users may do with that stuff (for example, copy it, modify it, re-share it). Please consider carefully what you choose to share or make public.”

How to get stickier

Communicating with more impact isn’t some kind of mysterious process. It just takes a framework for thinking and a little bit of effort.

I want to share with you some videos that show how quickly the effort can pay off. Backstory: Chip and I partnered with Decker Communications — who’ve taught 100,000+ people over 30 years to communicate better — to create a one-day course around the principles in Made to Stick. We wanted to give people a chance to practice making ideas stick.

Does it work? Check out these two videos on the Decker site. The first is from the beginning of the day at the Decker workshop. It shows an executive giving a pitch for a new product. The second video shows the same pitch at the end of the day. (BTW, I am grateful to the exec, Tamer, for allowing us to post his videos. I’m hoping that other participants will give us permission as well, so we can keep providing these real-world examples.)

What struck me about these videos is that, in both videos, you see an exec who is clearly smart and personable — someone who has no trouble talking spontaneously. But there is a pretty radical difference in the clarity and memorability of the two talks. It just took a little bit of practice.

(Most of the Decker courses are delivered privately to companies & nonprofits — but they’ve actually got two courses scheduled soon that are open to the public: Nov 17 in NYC and Dec 10 in San Fran. Register or see more details here.)

Credit by Sisyphus, III

More on the mystery of why a card issuer might hit the same person 200 times with a mailer, despite the lack of response: I heard from a former executive of a major bank card issuer, who said that, in her experience, no one cares how many times a customer has ignored a mailer. No one thought about it; it isn’t tracked. She framed it as a cost issue — it would be too expensive to scrub the list to eliminate serial non-responders. (She said even trying to remove duplicates within a single list is a big chore.) I understand the logic, but let’s face it, this is big, dumb, spray & pray marketing. (And I think she’d agree with me on that.)

She had another juicy tidbit: Doctors are highly prized marks for credit card companies because they “usually pay — but late — and rarely walk because they don’t have the time to hassle, so therefore are a wonderful opportunity for low risk fees on top of fees, and punitive interest rates.”

She also reports leaving the industry because “it just felt dirty.”

The World of 100

If the world were a village of 100 people, how many of the 100 would be white? How many would speak Spanish? How many would have a college education? Satisfy your curiosity by checking out “The World of 100,” a series of poster-infographics designed by Tony Ng.

It’s kind of amazing how much easier it is to process this info on the scale of 100 than on the scale of 6 billion, even though the proportions are identical. (Thanks to Andrew L for the link.)

Furniture for White People and Black People

This ad for Red House, a furniture store in High Point, NC, pitches racial reconciliation through couches and bedroom sets. The spot’s creators said they were inspired when the Red House staff “pointed out the fact that their employees and customer base were like the ‘Rainbow Coalition,’ and we thought something with a comical racial reconciliation theme would be fun, as well as a conversation starter.”

I suspect there was a lot of controversy about this — you’re walking on thin ice any time you start throwing around sensitive phrases like, ahem, “white people” and “black people.” But I think the spot is clever and clearly tongue-in-cheek. Just goes to show you that an unexpected idea will get noticed — this little homegrown regional TV ad now has a half-million views on Youtube.

(Thanks to Sean for the link.)