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What the Kids Are Learning

Last night my son wanted to read to me a paper he had written for Eleventh Grade Honors English. The paper was a review of an essay they had read. In Ian’s paper he had to show examples of the different styles of persuasion the author had used in his essay.

The more Ian read, the more interested I became. In Eleventh Grade Honors English they teach three different types of persuasive writing:

  • Emotional Connection
  • Empathy
  • Sympathy

It seems that most advertisers have forgotten what they learned in 11th grade.

Listen to the radio today. Tell me how many local businesses try to make an emotional connection with you. Heck, watch TV and tell me how many national retailers are trying to make an emotional connection with you. That first answer is probably zero, and the second answer isn’t much higher.

Instead they try to entertain you and/or give you facts, thinking that will persuade you.

Have you ever heard or seen an advertisement that made you say, “Wow, this company totally gets me!”?

Yet, what would it mean to your business if your advertising connected with people that way? Empathy is the ability to not only understand your customer, but also show that you feel the same way she feels. Do your advertisements show that? If not, they likely aren’t persuasive enough.

Even if all you can do is show that you understand how people feel and can help them get through that feeling (sympathy), you have a chance to move the needle.

Anything short of that and you won’t accomplish what advertising is supposed to do. You won’t persuade anyone. They are teaching this in 11th grade. Maybe we all need a refresher course.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Writing emotional ads that connect is not easy, nor does it feel normal—mainly because it doesn’t sound like everyone else out there. Then again, do you want to sound like everyone else out there? Do you want to persuade? This ad was our sole Christmas ad in 2005 and it lead to our best Christmas season ever. We ran it again in 2007 and smashed all previous records. (Note that it doesn’t give our hours, our location, our services, or anything really pertinent.)

He left Detroit 9am Christmas Eve.  Some store somewhere had to have the one toy his sweet little six-year old wanted.  Six stores…seven hours later, he stood, travel-weary, across the counter from me.  “I suppose you don’t have any Simon games either.”  As I handed over the last of our Simon games he smiled and said, “God Bless You!”  Believe me, He already has.  Merry Christmas from the Toy House in Downtown Jackson. We’re here to make you smile.

Here is another ad that moved the needle …

Squealing rubber, crunching metal, breaking glass. Sheila’s baby daughter, Livvy, was in the back seat. The next day she called to thank me for installing the car seat that saved Livvy’s life. This is Phil Wrzesinski from the Toy House. Since that day my staff and I have installed over two thousand car seats to keep kids like Livvy safe and give parents and grandparents peace of mind. It’s just something we believe in. I guess you can call that the Toy House Way.