Connect the Dots
I’ve noticed that people who are smart and know what they are talking about are usually the worst explainers.
This is due to a condition called “the curse of knowledge.” When speaking about a subject we know intimately, we assume our audience has a higher level of familiarity with our subject matter than they actually possess. Consequently, we believe they are “connecting the dots” when in fact they are barely following what we are saying.
I’m talking to you about making better sales presentations.
I’m talking to you about writing more effective radio ads.
To become more persuasive, all you have to do is add the words “which means…” to every statement of fact you make. You can do this out loud or in your mind. Either way, you will be prompted to connect the dots and people will love you for it.
Gen Z was born between 1995 and 2015.
[which means they are between 3 and 23 years old.
which means the youngest “millennial” is currently 24 and growing older every day.
which means the future will be firmly in the hands of Gen Z in about 25 years.]
77% of Gen Z prefer reading printed books and 59% don’t trust Facebook.1
[which means our current obsession with the internet may turn out to be a fad.]
34% of Gen Z said they were permanently leaving social media, and 64% are taking a break because “the platforms make them feel anxious or depressed.”1
[which means social media may continue to loosen its grip on our attention.
which means there is still hope for the return of face-to-face social interaction.
which means Gen Z is reflecting the values of their grandparents who grew up in the 60’s and 70’s.
which means the pendulum of society is swinging precisely as it has for the past 3,000 years.]
Now let’s read those 3 statements of fact without the subsequent, “which means.”
Gen Z was born between 1995 and 2015.
77% of Gen Z prefer reading printed books and 59% don’t trust Facebook.
34% of Gen Z said they were permanently leaving social media, and 64% are taking a break because “the platforms make them feel anxious or depressed.”
Did you notice how those statements of fact seem distant and flat when no interpretation is offered?
Connect the dots.
Watch people sit up and pay attention.
But be careful that you don’t get too clever.
Would you like to see some “too clever” ad copy?
Here’s the first one:
“A car is a car. It won’t make you handsome or prettier or younger. And if it improves your standing with the neighbors, then you live among snobs. A car is steel, electronics, rubber, plastic and glass. A machine. And in the end, may the best machine win… Subaru. What to drive.”
Here’s the second one:
“Making a sports car, it seems mandatory to mention how fast it can go. Instead, why not mention the things you shouldn’t mention about a sports car: a strong weld, over 24 safety features, all-wheel drive, engineering that endures. Still, if it’s speed you want, we promise, with the Subaru SVX you’ll easily be able to go as fast as the law allows… Subaru. What to drive.”
Here’s the incredibly clever third one:
MAN 1: A luxury car says a lot about its owner.
WOMAN 1: Mine says I’m witty beyond belief.
MAN 2: Mine says I’m more Europeanish.
MAN 3: Mine says I’m the product of superior genes.
WOMAN 2: I’m so successful I can go into debt.
MAN 4: I’m much more handsome
MAN 5: cosmopolitan
WOMAN 3: another pathetic sheep following the herd
MAN 6: I’m irresistible
WOMAN 4: powerful
MAN 7: stylish
MAN 8: sexy
WOMAN 3: dynamic.
NARRATOR: The Subaru SVX. All it says it that you bought a great car and you can still pay your mortgage.
I’m sorry. Did you think that was a recent ad campaign?
Although those incredibly clever ads won numerous awards in 1992, the financial result was disastrous. The ad agency was fired and the Subaru executives who approved those ads lost their jobs.
If you want to understand selling, understand this: it’s not enough to explain that your competitor is an idiot and that everything they’re doing is stupid. You’ve got to give people a warm glow that comes from believing that you can make tomorrow better than yesterday, you can make “next time” turn out differently than “last time.” You’ve got to give people hope.
That’s what Subaru forgot.
Roy H. Williams
1“Survey shows digital-native Gen Z prefers in-person interaction with brands” at