23 Jan

Plausible Vs Possible

A quick post to launch you all into the weekend…

If I told you that Nike had sacked off their agency – Wieden & Kennedy – and given their entire multi-million pound account to little old me, what would you think?
Would you believe me?

What if I told you that, overnight, I swam the English Channel, then was sat in my seat by 9am, working away on client briefs?
Again, would you believe me?

If your answer to ‘what would you think?’ was ‘what a load of b*ll*cks’, or something similar, why is that?
If your answer – in the case of each event – to ‘would you believe me?’ was ‘no’, why is that? All you know is what I’ve told you – nothing more.

Here’s the reason for your cynicism: in each case, what I’ve told you is entirely possible – Nike could’ve lost their marbles and given their entire account to a single, freelance copywriter, and sacked off their world-renowned creative advertising agency, who’ve been working on the brand for over 30 years.
At the point at which I tell you that Nike have given me their account, how can you prove otherwise?
Similarly, I may well have had it in me to swim the English Channel overnight, then quickly dry myself off before sitting down to do a day’s work.

In each case, it’s possible that these things have happened…. but it’s not plausible.
In the case of Nike – unless someone in marketing had eaten a funny mushroom omelette for lunch – why would they entrust their entire advertising account to a single copywriter (with no art director, no account handlers, no planners etc) over their world famous, multinational, award-winning agency?
In the case of swimming the English Channel overnight, then cracking on with a full day’s work: really? Even professional athletes wouldn’t do that. In any case, if you met me in person you’d know that I’d probably sink within the first 50 metres.

In both cases, it’s entirely implausible that these things have happened: you’ll know that I’m talking rubbish as soon as I’ve spoken, even if you can’t immediately prove it.
As a consequence, you won’t believe me and you’ll dismiss me as being a bit silly.

Unfortunately, some copy suffers from not-quite-plausible syndrome.
Direct mail is a big culprit in some respects. However, the worst offenders are sales copy pages (whether letters, landing pages, or attachments to emails).
I’ll often see messages like ‘increase your profits by 4000% in just one month, with this proven formula’ or ‘you could make £10,000 in just two weeks, with little or no effort’ or ‘we guarantee to quadruple your income’.

All of these promises are possible, but they’re so ridiculously far-fetched (beyond doing something unethical) that they don’t seem plausible.
I certainly never believe the ‘with little or no effort’ line. I’ve yet to meet someone who’s achieved success – monetary or otherwise – without working their socks off.

These promises just come across as waffle or, for me, hollow – I just skip over those words.

Another one I’ve heard, at a business meeting, is; ‘I’ll get this training programme out to one billion people in the next five years’.
One billion people? That’s one seventh of the world’s population.
It’s possible – if you never sleep, keep hopping from country to country, and sell 548,000 courses per day – but it’s entirely implausible.

So, when you’re writing your sales or marketing copy (or someone else is), or even when you’re speaking to people in day-to-day life, have a think: is what you’re saying plausible, or will it sound like nonsense to the person you’re saying it to?


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