Everything we do is dictated by the “why” behind it.
As in, the only reason why we would change our behavior to get a certain outcome. And the only way to persuade others is to answer the “why” behind what drives them too.
This is a pretty long-held idea in advertising. There’s even the famous book on it, “Reason Why Advertising” by copywriting legend John E. Kennedy.
Adding that insight to your hardwiring, while you’re coming up in the copy world, can be tough. Having a toddler in your life, however, is like a shortcut to the same education.
Take our son. He’s a teenager now, but naturally we’ve got all kinds of memories that still linger, left over from his very early years. See, like most new parents — and don’t tell him I told you this — we were faced with a dilemma.
“The Boy,” as we’ll call him here, was slated to start pre-school. At what age, I don’t quite recall. But long before he would listen to… well… reason.
And by the rules of the school, he had to be, er… let’s just say that, regal as he was, he and a certain porcelain throne had yet to build a natural relationship.
In our son’s preschool, that was grounds for non-admittance. Potty-trained or no place at the table, they commanded. But here was the big problem. We were clueless about how long that would take, it turned out. Naively, we’d passed through the summer thinking it would take, what, maybe a week? He’s a bright boy, after all. Or so we told ourselves.
When the time came, about 11 days before he had to show up for his first day, I did what any modern dad would do. I Googled it. And got gobsmacked why what I’d found. “Don’t rush the kid,”
they said. “This could take a month… two or three months… even half a year.”
I could see my exhausted wife’s world collapse when I told her the news. “He won’t be able to go,” she panicked, “They’re going to turn us away at the door.” And she, like I, had a career to get back to.
Not one to be daunted, I was sure we could beat the odds. First we tried begging. He thought that was alternatingly funny and confusing. Then we tried the “no safety net” technique. This is where you take off the diaper and hope the kid hates making a mess so much, he’ll run for the toilet.
No go on either, and we’d already ticked away two of our 11 days remaining.
Ever trusting of the copywriting toolkit, I decided to try a different tack. I would come up with a more precise, audience-targeted incentive. What did “The Boy” like most? Cartoons, stickers, affection and chocolates. So we’d build our own new program out of that.
First, I drew a chart with a cartoon of the potty in the corner. Then we bought and showed him the stickerbooks with characters he knew from Disney movies. And dangled in front of him his — and our — favorite kind of caramel chocolates. Every “performance,” we told our son, got a reward.
I know, I know… you can’t believe I’m turning this into a copywriting lesson.
But did it work? Like gangbusters.
Just over a week later, we not only had a chart full of stickers, but a fully world-ready kid who (sniffle) was just growing up too dang fast. We successfully shuffled him off to school.
Now, I’m not saying you need to work a stickers-and-chocolate system into your next sales offer. But you get the idea. So often, what’s missing in a sales piece isn’t the right headline, the right catchy phrasing, or the right layout… but a properly tailored incentive to buy.
Get that and everything else should fall in place.
Last modified: September 3, 2018