The peak-end rule

The peak-end rule

This segment from Rocky Balboa is often used as an example for coaching 'motivational' speaking but is also is a great demonstration of what is known as the peak–end rule.

Once you get this it becomes a lot easier to judge your advertising ideas, and many creative directors instinctively understand this while perhaps not knowing the actual science around it.

If you wan't to skip ahead, the main piece kicks in at about 1:20

The rule describes how we (as punters) evaluate experiences (eg advertising) almost entirely on two factors.

How they felt at their peak and how they end.

Surprisingly, duration is not significantly important to the rule, so if it's :15 or even two minutes the key thing is make sure it has an high emotional peak and  some sort of a resolution – it can be a cliff-hanger, a call to action but it needs to end properly.

The psychology says that using this rule means we are addressing what Daniel Kahneman calls the two ''selves".

The 'experiencing self' – this is the part of us that feels things in real-time as it's happening.

And the 'remembering self' – this is the part of us that stores the 'peak' and the 'end' in memory.

The bigger the peak and the better the end then the easier it is for us to recall how we felt.

So in the clip Rocky starts to tell a story, it's almost a 'once upon a time'.

He starts to describe the good times with Rocky Junior, firstly as a baby and then growing up. Then one day something happened…

Just before the peak comes Rocky begins to introduce the insight.

"Let me tell you something you already know" – (that there is the nature of insight – something you already know.

Blam! Here it comes. Wait for it….

"It isn’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much can you take and keep moving forward? That’s how winning is done."

Here's where it really happens – because you feel like it's peaked, you've had a tingle but we're not there yet…

"Now if you know what you’re worth, go out and get what your worth, But you gotta be willing to take the hits. And not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him or her or anybody…


That's the peak, then it ends with something to DO.

"Until you start believing in yourself you ain't gonna have a life… Don't forget to visit your mother."

There you go. The peak-end rule. Because; if people don't feel anything they don't do anything.

Eaon Pritchard is director of insights and innovation at Sputnik Agency

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