The Grand Illusion of Advertising

You own a business.
You sell a product or a service.
Your growth is limited by one of two things:

  1. The right people haven’t heard about you. Because if they had, they would surely be buying from you.
  2. The right people have heard about you. They just didn’t care.

The grand illusion of advertising – perpetuated by every seller of ads – is that your problem is #1: the right people haven’t heard about you.

But the painful truth is probably that the right people heard but didn’t care.

Your mind recoils from that a little, doesn’t it?

Don’t let it. Good news is on the way.

Your problem is that you’ve been trying to find a date for your sister by telling your friends,

She’s really pretty in the face.”

That qualifier, “in the face,” is a deal-killer. The only way to make it worse would be to add,

and she’s got a really good personality.”

Yes, men appreciate pretty faces and good personalities. That’s not the point. The point is that you qualified your recommendation in a way that made it seem like you were hiding something.

Are you selling at “competitive” prices? Is your location “convenient” and do you have “an impressive selection?” Do you talk about how your “friendly” and “expert” sales associates really “care about finding the right solution?”

Dude, your sister is never getting a date until you modify what you’re saying about her. There is no recommendation quite so damaging as faint praise.

“Too good to be true” is another language of Ad-Speak that’s exactly the opposite of faint praise:

My sister is drop-dead gorgeous and a lot of fun but no one wants to take her out.”

Here’s how that sounds in business: “Highest quality at the lowest prices.”
“We absolutely MUST sell 400 Toyotas this weekend!” “Prices too low to advertise.”

Most ads are ignored because every customer has a mental filter that evaluates and dismisses both of these languages of Ad-Speak with a single question: “What are they not telling me?”

Everyone hears what you’re not saying.

My sister moved to town last week. She’s the new director of the animal shelter. Here’s a picture I took of her when we had dinner last night. It would be good if she had someone besides her brother to show her the city. Are you up for it?”

Great ads close the loopholes.

Loophole #1: Is she attractive? “Here’s a picture I took of her last night.”
Loophole #2: Is she intelligent? “She’s the new director of the animal shelter.”
Loophole #3: Why does she not have a boyfriend? “She moved to town last week.”

Sure, I’d love to show your sister the city. See if you can get her on the phone right now and introduce her to me.”

You’ve been reaching the right people all along and it was the same sister in all 3 ads. But you’ve been talking Ad-Speak.

Come to Wizard Academy. We’ll make sure you never use Ad-Speak again.

Your sister is going to be so happy.

Roy H. Williams