The Five Golden Rules of Bumper Sticker Influence


This is a departure from my site’s usual topic of Ruby and Ruby Accessories, but I’m nothing if not a renaissance man.

At one time or another, we all attempt to influence others via the humble bumper sticker. A younger, more idealistic version of myself even sported “Don’t Mess With Texas” once upon a time. I’m not sure exactly what I was trying to convey, except that I was from Texas and it was important that every Nebraska driver knew that.

This graphic indicates that the driver is from Texas and, while there is no explicit rule about messing with the driver, their home state is clearly off limits.

This graphic indicates that the driver is from Texas and, while there is no explicit rule about messing with the driver, their home state is clearly off limits.

Since the sweet, siren song of bumper sticker activism (ie, something for nothing) will lure us all at some point, it’s important to at least understand the mechanics of bumper sticker influence, and how much influence each individual bumper sticker carries. This science can be boiled down to Five Golden Rules.

Let’s say you have something important to say, and I’m a fellow driver destined to drive behind you at some point. You’ve decided that the best way to change my entire world view is through a bumper sticker. It’s perfect – you drive in front of hundreds of cars every day, and you can champion a noble cause while listening to Kesha on the radio with the windows rolled up tightly. Of course, you don’t like Kesha, but there’s a train-wreck attraction there that others simply won’t understand.* Anyhow, on to the rules:

  1. As a fellow human with a pulse, you begin with a base level of Credibility.
  2. This Credibility Score is automatically cut in half by the mere act of displaying bumper stickers.
  3. The Influence Quotient for each bumper sticker is a share of the remaining Credibility Score, proportional to the surface area of the given bumper sticker. In other words, if you have a small sticker and a large one, the larger sticker gets the lion’s share of the Influence.
  4. If you spell out any message using “coexist” style religious symbols, the value of any adjacent sticker is flipped to negative.
  5. Finally, since you and I don’t know each other, you started this process with a Credibility of zero. Use this as the basis of your calculations.

Assuming a grid pattern in rush hour traffic, there might be as many as eight cars surrounding yours at any given time. Of those eight, 5 are doing the same thing you are. Tick tock, don’t stop.

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