Tag Archives: Howard Gossage

It’s not for you.

26 Feb

There’s a certain terror that some marketers have of leaving somebody out. We need to appeal to more people, we need to increase our chances of being liked by somebody, we have to make it widely acceptable. We also think we need to oversimplify everything, and talk to people like they are 5 years old.If we make our advertising or our communications too difficult to process, people won’t process it.

As they say on the Family Feud: “EHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!”

People don’t give a crap about advertising. Or put more elegantly by Howard Gossage:

“The real fact of the matter is that nobody reads ads. People read what interest them, and sometimes it’s an ad.”

So be interesting. Focus your efforts. Talk to people the way they talk to each other. And don’t be afraid to make it a puzzle. People like to be intrigued. They like to solve puzzles. And they like to solve puzzles that maybe everybody else can’t solve. Think about those people you know who like to brag about doing the NY Times crossword in pen. (And think about how much you enjoy poisoning their Earl Gray tea.) So take this for example:



Now, I know what this says, if only because I was born before 1985 and can read an analog clock. But my Fancy Mathy days are too far behind me to remember how to do everything here. But somebody out there who makes binary jokes (“There are 10 types of people in the world: Those who get binary, and those who don’t.”) thinks this is fantastic.

So what do we learn from this: put the effort into find out how people talk. And don’t be afraid of making the message obscure to large groups of people. Google knows this:


Solve the puzzle, find a link to a job site


And as a side note, being obscure to large groups of people can also get them intrigued. “What does it MEAN?” We don’t like unsolved puzzles (ah yes, the Gestalt psychological principle of closure) and might just take the effort to find them. And if you have motivated people to approach your advertising and to find more out about it, you’ve definitely created something interesting.


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