Back in my advertising days, it always surprised me just how much easier it was to write a negative ad than a positive one.
i.e. “Use this or else” was a lot easier to frame dramatically than showing a lot of happy product users, smiling away.
Though now, looking back, it’s easy to understand. Negative begets conflict, conflict begets drama, drama begets story, story begets people paying attention, people paying attention begets results.
Whereas there’s no conflict with a bunch of happy, shiny, smiling people on TV, so it’s hard to frame a story around it.
So it’s easy for your commercial to be ignored. Which is what happens to most “happy” commercials.
And I find this a lot in my business, as well.
Accentuating the positive (“We increase employee engagement”) generally gets us a better result than accentuating the negative (“We get your employees to hate their jobs less”), even if the latter is less nebulous a benefit.
This is why so much business speak ends up so airy-fairy and yes, rather meaningless. Because when you sharpen your word choice, you often risk scaring people away.
Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
The cartoon below sums up a paradox I run into, pretty much every day.
So what’s the answer? What’s the sweet spot?
Sorry, there isn’t one. There’s only trial and error. Results may vary.