Before You Sell The Answer, Sell The Need

Submitted by: Dave Trott 02/06/2017

Creating great ad campaigns is an art - especially if they are to be effective across the entire media spectrum. We have teamed up with Dave Trott, one of the greatest creativity gurus, to inspire you...


I learnt one of the most important lessons about advertising from Sesame Street.
In one of the first episodes, a young muppet is innocently walking along, singing to himself.
He walks past a suspicious looking older muppet who has a trench coat with
the collar up, dark glasses, and hat pulled over his eyes.
Older Muppet: “Pssst, hey kid, you wanna buy the number 8?”
(He opens his coat and shows the kid a number 8.)
Younger Muppet: “A number 8?” (The older muppet quickly shuts his coat.)
OM: “Ssssshhhhh!!!!”
YM: “Why would I want to buy a number 8?”
OM: “With this number you’d know all sorts of things Kid.”
YM: “Like what?”
OM: “Well, suppose you wanted to know what came between seven and nine...”
(He opens his jacket and flashes the number.)
OM: “You look at the number.”
YM: “Gosh.”
OM: “Yeah, and suppose you wanted to know what 4 plus 4 was…”
(He flashes the number again.)
OM: “You check out the number.”
YM: “That’s amazing.”
OM: “And if you wanted to know what two multiplied by four was…”
(He quickly opens and closes his coat again.)
OM: “You dig the number.”
YM: “Gosh, I’d like to buy that number 8.”
OM: “Okay, but come round the corner kid, there’s too many people watching here.”
The lesson was, no one wants anything unless they know why they need it.
So before you can sell the answer, you have to sell the need.
Akio Morita, the founder of Sony, knew that.
He got started in electronics at the end of World War Two.
He bought several dozen wire-recorders cheaply from the US military.
But he couldn’t sell them because no one saw any need for a recording device.
So Akio Morita wrote a small booklet about all the things you could do with a wire-recorder.
Then he distributed these to all the schools in the region.
And all the schools bought all his wire recorders.
Because once they knew what they were for, they wanted one.
Steve Jobs knew that too.
At an Apple conference he went on stage and said “I’ve got three
revolutionary products to announce today.
One is an amazing communications device that will change the way we
connect with the world.
One is an amazing graphic interface that will change the entire future of gaming.
One is a computer that will change the way we access all knowledge, information and technology.”
When everyone was on the edge of their seats he took a single object out of
his pocket and held it up.
He said “The truth is it’s one device: the iPhone.”
And, of course, the crowd went wild.
He set up the need, three needs in fact, then provided the answer.
That’s what most people in our business don’t get.
It’s no good providing an answer if you haven’t established a need.

Taken from 'One Plus One Equals Three' 
Written in Dave Trott's distinctive, almost Zen-like style, One Plus On Equals Three is a collection of provocative anecdotes and thought experiments designed to light a fire under your own creative ambitions.