How many stories can you recall from your childhood that had two competing characters? The Tortoise and the Hare, The Ant and the Grasshopper, Beauty and the Beast.
The Bible is also filled with stories of two–Cain and Abel, Abraham and Lot, Jacob and Esau, The Rich man and Lazarus, Prodigal Son and his brother and the two builders—one built on the sand and the other on the rock.
All these stories are used to teach moral lessons, and since we grew up on these familiar tales, then it is easy for us to be persuaded by using this strategy of comparing two alternative paths—heaven and hell.
One of the most common ways in which this technique is used in marketing is the “before” and “after” picture as for a dieting or skincare product. The results are juxtaposed in a contrasting bid so that the prospect would want to shun the one and be attracted to the other.
But apart from showing the actual picture there are other ways this contrast could be accomplished:
1. You can show the contrast between an old product and a new product. In this way the deficiencies of the old product could stand in deep contrast with the virtues of the new product. All the problems that the old product did not solve is brought to the fore and this helps to elevate the new solution. Even if the “old” product is produced by your company you can show how the updated version responded to the concern of the users of the older version and how the improvements will enhance the life of the customer. Here is an example from an ad for the new LG G4 smartphone:
“In creating the G4, LG designers took inspiration from everywhere to create an ergonomic, gently contoured device crafted from timeless materials. As a result, the smartphone has never looked — or felt — so good.
The 5.5” IPS Quantum display on the new G4 is brighter, more colorful, and has more contrast than ever before. It’s our boldest and most brilliant yet, kind of like the G4 itself.”
2. You can allow the testimonial from a customer to tell the full story. Here the customer can tell what life was like before owning your product and after. Here is an example from an ad for my own copywriting services:
“I was making about 1 sale for every 100 visitors to my website. Considering that I was paying for those visitors using PPC search engines I was losing money because of the small profit margin of my product.
That’s when I hired Ray to rewrite my sales letter. Although I still pay for traffic to my website now my sales are up 10 times! Yes, that’s a 10% conversion rate!!
Ray has literally stuffed money in my pocket and I cannot wait for my website to rank higher in the search engines. With the increase in free traffic my profit will even be more.
I would recommend Ray’s service to anyone who wants to boost their profit from their website.”
3. You can simply ridicule the other product which would imply the contrast without actually saying it. We see a lot big companies using this strategy such as Coke vs. Pepsi, Apple vs. Microsoft and the ongoing battle between the Apple iPhone and Samsung smartphones. The more competitive the market the more we will see this strategy being used.
One of the most famous examples of “the persuasion power of two” that carried an entire sales message was the famous Wall Street Journal two college graduates letter. In this direct marketing letter, the comparison is made between two similar college graduates whose only difference was reading or not reading the Wall Street Journal. Here is an excerpt from that famous piece:
“On a beautiful late spring afternoon, twenty-five years ago, two young men graduated from the same college. They were very much alike, these two young men. Both had been better than average students, both were personable and both – as young college graduates are – were filled with ambitious dreams for the future.
Recently, these men returned to their college for their 25th reunion.
They were very much alike. Both were happily married. Both had three children. And both, it turned out, had gone to work for the same Midwestern manufacturing company, and were still there.
But there was a difference. One of the men was manager of a small department of that company. The other was its president.
What Made The Difference
Have you ever wondered, as I have, what makes this kind of difference in people’s lives? It isn’t always a native intelligence or talent or dedication. It isn’t that one person wants success and the other doesn’t.
The difference lies in what each person knows and how he or she makes use of that knowledge.”
And that is why I am writing to you and to people like you about The Wall Street Journal. For that is the whole purpose of the Journal: To give its readers knowledge – knowledge that they can use in business.
Now in order for this persuasion technique to be most effective the drawback on the dark side must be really painted against the beauty of the bright side. You must really make the wound fresh and bleeding, then apply your solution as the healing balm.