If there’s one messaging mistake I see more than any other, it’s the one you can see at work in this What’s Missing From this Message Video. What is it? Skipping the steps necessary for people to agree with what you say.
You can’t just state your case, you have to make your case — and make it in a way people will agree with it. As mathematician Blaise Pascal once said, “The art of persuading is as much that of agreeing as that of convincing.” If people don’t agree, they won’t act, at least not long-term.
But back to the video. I’ll just quote the script from the commercial I use as my example :
ACTOR GUY: “This guy’s my best friend [dog licks actor’s face].” <ohhhh! cute dog!>
SAME ACTOR GUY: “I’d like to find that in a partner, too.” <Er… you want to find a face-licking dog-like partner?>
SAME ACTOR GUY: “That’s why I trust eHarmony.” <Wait… what?”>
Did you spot what’s missing? He jumped straight from what he wanted to eHarmony as the solution… without ANY context about why eHarmony is trustable to find face-licking dog-like partners.
I had a former boss who used to say that, “a claim without evidence is just an assertion,” and “assertion” is really just a fancy way of saying an opinion. But opinions alone aren’t enough to get people to agree, or act, especially if people don’t already have that same opinion in the first place.
Maybe it gets better as the commercial goes on…?
ANNOUNCER: “No one can connect you with high-quality singles like eHarmony.” <Again, I want to know WHY. WHY can eHarmony do that in a way some other dating app or site can’t?>
ANNOUNCER: “That’s why every 14 minutes, someone finds love on eHarmony. Start free today.” <UGH. THAT’S NOT A WHY. Why does the connection lead to love? And what happened to the dog guy?>
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “begging the question.” This commercial is literally an example of what that phrase actually means (quoting Wikipedia here): “begging the question is an informal fallacy that occurs when an argument’s premises assume the truth of the conclusion, instead of supporting it.” Essentially, the message of the actor guy is:
“I trust eHarmony because eHarmony is a site I trust.”
And eHarmony’s support of that statement suffers from the same problem: “People connect on eHarmony because we connect people.”
Do you see how that’s missing any actual support? It might feel right in the moment, as might one of your messages that suffers the same problem. But when people really start to think about it, when their rationalizing brain takes over, the argument can’t stand up. Remember, people have to understand — and agree — before they’ll act. And that requires giving people the information they need to do both.
For some reason eHarmony has since pulled these ads, even off of YouTube. One can only hope it’s for the sheer illogic of them. To keep that from happening to your message, check them for this eHarmony-like circular reasoning. Better yet, have someone else check them — gaps in your reasoning are often hard to spot by yourself.
If the argument can’t stand, the action won’t start. Don’t let that happen to your message. It’s too important for the world not to hear.You can't just state your case, you have to make your case —and make it in a way people will agree with it. Click To Tweet
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The other day I was watching TV with my two young sons, and one of them after seeing an ad turned to me and said, “Something’s missing from this message.” And I said, “Time to make a video.” The other day I was watching TV with my two young sons, who are 10 and 12 and we saw this ad from eharmony, the online dating site. I don’t want to say anything else, I just want you to watch it with me for a moment, so shall we?
This guy’s my best friend, I’d like to find that in a partner too, that’s why I trust eharmony.
No one can connect you with high quality singles like eharmony.
So it was at that point that my older son turns to me and goes, “Wait, what?” It’s like, I don’t trust eharmony after that. So let’s back up and look at exactly what’s missing from this message, because it only took a couple seconds. All right, so let’s try this again.
This guy’s my best friend. I’d like to find that in a partner too, that’s why I trust eharmony.
Okay. So that guy’s his best friend, the dog that is, he wants to find a new best friend or another best friend, or a non-dog, best friend and so, that’s why he trusts eharmony. Now my son turns to me and goes, “Why would I trust the harmony for that?” And that’s exactly what’s missing from this message. And in fact, I see this a lot when I’m working with companies and individuals that sometimes we get so convinced that our answer is the right answer that we go from problem to solution without any kind of explanation. And even when the spot is short, I mean this whole thing, if I were to play it all the way through is 15 seconds, you still have to give people something in the middle that says, “Oh, well, that’s why.” So for instance, he says, “Okay, here’s my best friend, I want to find a best friend,” eharmony does X, whatever it is, some differentiator of eharmony, that’s why I trust the eharmony, that would help.
I mean, it’s really well documented that people’s brains need the answer to a because, this is really well covered and described in a book by a good friend of mine named Tim David, the book is called Magic Words, but people’s brains need a why you can’t just say, “Hey, I want this and this is the answer.” You want to know why that’s the answer. So when you’re looking at your own message, make sure that you’ve got something in between, problem and solution isn’t enough. Yes, you need to give people the problem that you solve for them, and you need to give them a solution, but they also have to hear something that connects the two, something that he answers that question why? Why because. Now I’m going to play this one more time and I’m going to show you that eharmony almost does this, but I think there’s a solution that’s probably sitting right in front of them, so let’s play this one more time.
This guy’s my best friend, I’d like to find that in a partner too …
That’s the problem that he has and that eharmony is saying they’re going to solve.
… that’s why I trust eharmony.
That’s the solution that eharmony wants you hear but again, we’re missing that piece, so just something in between. We need to hear something about why he trusts eharmony that’s an actual why. So again, is it how many people are on the platform or something else? Now, eharmony tries to fill this in next, watch.
No one can connect you with high quality singles like eharmony.
Okay, but that’s an assertion. Nobody can connect you with high quality singles like eharmony, why not? What does eharmony do that’s different? They don’t tell us that. Again, this is a classic example of a company leading with the message and forgetting that not everybody’s going to agree with it right when they hear it. So I’m sure there is a great reason why eharmony is the way or the reason, but we need to hear that in order to agree and in order to act
That’s why every 14 minutes someone finds love on eharmony. Start free today.
So they keep using this word why, I do not think it means what they think it means. So nobody can connect you with more singles than eharmony and that’s why people are connected every 14 seconds. So I get that there’s a volume play here and because maybe there’s more singles that’s why they can connect, but you see, we still need that connective tissue. So I think we’ve covered this plenty for 15 seconds of ad, but keep your ears open when you’re watching and listening to messages out there in the world, when you’re reading them, when you’re seeing them and frankly, listen to the young folks in your life who sometimes have a higher awareness level of what is or isn’t working.
It certainly was the case with my sons. And when it comes to your message, yes, make sure that you’re presenting both a problem and solution, but make sure you’re answering that important question why, not just from features and benefits, but a real deep reason about why your solution is the solution to that problem. That’s what was missing from this message. How can you make your message stronger? Well, send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org to see it on a future episode right here. Thanks so much for watching this week, I’m Tamsen Webster.
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