Explaining vs engaging

Art of Message

Art of Message – April 21, 2023

Explaining vs engaging

When you first meet someone, it’s important to nail the first impression! I mean, you have to explain your entire personality, good character traits and bad character traits, your entire range of sensibilities, knowledge, experience, socio-economic background, and emotional tendencies—your entire story. You’ve got to nail this on the first try—ideally in so few words they’d make a great headline.

Only then will there be relationship success!!


Ok, sorry for the extended exercise in reductio ad absurdum. I don’t like to indulge in sarcasm too much, but I wanted to drive the point home.

Here’s the point in simple, sincere words—unless you’re selling a pencil, it’s never possible to say it all. But also—you don’t have to, and you don’t want to. Because you will look weird if you try.

Conventional business wisdom, on the other hand, holds that you have to convey everything all at once to get your point across. And the implication is that there’s some magical art to doing this that only marketing and branding strategists (or anyone with a hard-hitting job title) are capable of.

This belief lets groups nitpick messaging—”but it doesn’t say anything about x” or “it doesn’t emphasize our x.” As if it needs to.

The astute premise of The Anatomy of Humbug is that every theory popular in advertising, marketing, and branding – every single one – is unscientific. In other words, when you strip away the humbug, the rational for each theory (USP, Four Ps, Ansoff, SWOT, etc, etc) boils down to “Oh it’s common sense“.

And you know what, this is often true – some great ideas are often based in common sense. But the idea that you have to explain it all on the first try is not one of them. The goal in introducing yourself, your product, or anything else is not to explain – it’s to engage.

The message above comes from…