Meredith Carter


The Surprising Benefits of (A Little) Negativity

The late comedian Mitch Hedberg wasn’t a big fan of pastrami sandwiches at New York delis. 


“Too much meat on the sandwich,” he said. “It’s like a cow with a cracker on either side!”


Despite the negative evaluation, indeed in part because of it, an enterprising deli owner could have used the joke to entice new customers.


That’s because in a world of exaggerated claims and non-stop positive testimonials, the following is true: 


Seemingly negative statements stand out, they get noticed and, what’s more, read. 


In cases such as the above, they can also highlight features and benefits that other people don’t just want but crave.


Someone on a carnivore diet might hear about the amount of meat on these sandwiches and think, “Sounds good to me!” Another person on a budget might hear the same thing and think, “All I need is a loaf of bread and I’ve got sandwiches covered for the week!”


In other words, the evaluation of the sandwich by someone else would be forgotten, while the benefits to them of what was highlighted—so much meat—would be noticed, acted upon, remembered.


Some of the most memorable ads actually use the principle that’s at work here. 


They take the attraction generated by focusing on something seemingly negative and then either point out how it’s a positive—or leave that moment of realization for potential customers to get for themselves.


One of my favorite examples of this comes from an ad by Porsche that’s decades old by now. It starts off with a negative, “You may get lost,” and then finishes with the positive, “but not in the crowd.”


Another favorite, also a few decades old, is an advertisement for Wilson’s Extra Choice Dog Food. In big bold letters at the top of the ad it says, “tested on animals.” Then, in a disclaimer at the bottom, the ad notes, “they love it.”


These ads have stood the test of time; people are still talking about them to this day, long after they’ve been paid for many times over. In fact, in sharing them again here, the companies are actually getting even more advertising without having to pay a cent.


What would the equivalent of such ads for your business look like?


If you’re curious, contact us and let’s start brainstorming! Such ads have huge potential and, as part of a larger campaign which focuses on the positives that your business offers, they can, not just improve your brand, but make it legendary.


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