The Magic of False Logic
by Robert W. Bly
logic, a term coined by my friend, master copywriter Michael Masterson, is copy
that manipulates (but does not lie about or misrepresent), through skillful
writing, existing facts. The objective: to help readers come to conclusions
that those facts, presented without the twists of the copywriter’s pen, might
not otherwise support.
catalog for Harry & David says of its pears, “Not one person in 1,000 has
ever tasted them.” The statistic, as presented by the catalog writer, makes the
product sound rare and exclusive – and that’s how the average reader interprets
it, just as the copywriter intended.
a logician analyzing that statement might say that it simply indicates that the
pears are not very popular – almost no one buys them.
possible to argue that some false logic borders on deception, but the marketer has to make that call for himself.
metals broker advertised “95% of orders shipped from stock” to indicate ready
availability. But he ran his business out of an office and had no warehouse.
How could he claim he shipped from stock?
do ship 95% of orders from stock,” the marketer explains. “But not from our stock – from the metal supplier’s stock. We are just a broker. But we do
not advertise that, since being a broker is perceived as a negative.”
A promotion selling a stock market newsletter
to consumers compares the $99 subscription price with the $2,000 the editor
would charge if he were managing your money for you, based on a 2% fee and a
minimum investment of $100,000.
reader thinks he is getting Mr. Editor to give him $2,000 worth of money
management services for $99, and quickly glosses over the fact that the
newsletter is not precisely the same as a managed account.
similar example is the promotion done by my friend Don Hauptman for American Speaker, a loose-leaf service for
executives on how to give good speeches.
his promotion, he points out that this product can help you with your speeches
all year long (it has periodic supplements) vs. the $5,000 it costs to have a
professional speechwriter write just one speech. But of course, American
Speaker is not actually writing your speech for you.
is an ongoing debate of whether people buy for emotional or logical reasons,
but most successful marketers know that the former is more dominant as a buying
motive than the latter. It is commonly said, “People buy based on emotion, then
rationalize the purchase decision with logic.”
they have made the buying decision based on strong feelings and ingrained
beliefs, they are in essence looking for justification and support for what
they already want to do.
as long as the logical argument seems credible and
sensible, they will accept it. They do not probe into it as scientifically or
deeply as would, say, Ralph Nader or an investigative reporter for Consumer Reports.
critics view direct marketing as a step below general marketing in
respectability, ethics, and honesty. And perhaps they might reason that my
advocating the use of false logic adds fuel to their argument.
in fact, false logic is not just the purview of direct marketers; general
marketers use it routinely, some with great success.
years, McDonald’s advertised “billions sold” to promote their hamburger –
leading customers to the false conclusion that just because something is
popular, it is necessarily good. Publishers use similar logic when they trumpet
a book as “a New
all this unethical? You can draw your own conclusion, but in my opinion, no.
copywriter, like a lawyer, is an advocate for the client (or his employer).
Just as the lawyer uses all the arguments at his disposal to win the case, so
does the copywriter use all the facts at his disposal to win the consumer over
to the product.
we should market no products that are illegal, dangerous, or immoral, though
one man’s Victoria
is another man’s soft porn. But to not use all the tools at our disposal
(including false logic) to persuade the buyer is either incompetence, failure
to discharge fiduciary duties, or both.
About the author:
Robert W. Bly is a freelance copywriter and the author of
more than 50 books including The Complete
Idiot’s Guide to Direct Marketing (Alpha). His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org and
his Web site address is www.bly.com.