[Fair warning: I’m going to (briefly) cite a bible verse to make my point. If you’re uncomfortable with that, don’t be too hasty to skip this post, I’d wager that most religion-averse readers will still find this interesting from a purely philosophical and psychological basis.]

I like to say that there are only two kinds of businesses:

  1. Those that sell $5 haircuts, and
  2. Those that fix $5 haircuts.

I only work with the second type of business.

And here’s the rub for owners of those businesses:

The once-burned customer is your best customer.

You don’t need to convince them of anything; they already know, from direct experience, why NOT to get a $5 haircut.

Unfortunately, there’s simply not enough once-burned customers.

Or after they’ve been burned, they’ve spent their wad and can no longer afford you.

Worst of all, you can’t seem to convince everyone else of that once-burned truth.

Somehow, when you try to tell never-burned prospects the truth about your service compared to your competitors, it never works.

The truth, coming from your mouth, sounds self-serving.

Or the truth is too technical for a lay-person to understand.

Or your true claims end up being the same claims that competitors make because low-priced weasels lie.

Or your true claims just sound like advertising cliches that jerk-wad Ad Creatives tell you not to use without ever giving better alternatives.

Somehow, the myth of “just as good but cheaper” persists, despite your truth-telling.

If Telling the Truth Won’t Work, What Will?

If you’re a Christian, then you know that Christ has the answer.

Indeed, Christ IS the answer.

In fact, He directly claimed to be The Truth.

But was that all He claimed to be when he said that?

Did He think the truth — even the “Capital T” Truth — was enough?

Apparently not. For the passage reads: “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life

So I believe the answer to “What do I need to add to the truth in order to be persuasive?” is:

You need to add The Way and The Life

Okay… but what does that mean?

Well, here’s where I leave off from the deeper theological or biblical implications of Christ’s words to explore the more mundane, persuasive, and business aspects.

Hence the use of a little “w,” “l,” and “t” in the following discussion of adding the way and the life to the truth.

Adding “the way” to “the truth”

Think of “the way” (little “t”, little “w”) as both a future hope and a path to get there.

As my advertising mentor says,

“If you give people entertainment, they’ll give you their time. If you give people hope, they’ll give you their money.”

Hope means the promise of a better, brighter tomorrow.

Just realize that making tomorrow brighter than today can very well mean making a newly arisen problem, discomfort, or challenge disappear.

The point is that adding hope to the truth keeps business owners from going negative in their messaging — from focusing too much on attacking the low-priced weasels rather than appealing to customers.

And then there’s the notion of “path” — making it easier for the customer to take the first or next step.

This could take the form of eliminating friction and becoming easier to do business with, say by extending your hours, offering financing, implementing free shipping, or even just making an introductory offer with clear pricing.

Amazon famously boosted sales by eliminating friction with 1-click ordering and Amazon Prime’s free 2-day shipping on most items.

Or, creating a “path” could mean giving people a script to follow when they’re in unfamiliar territory.

An Example of Adding Hope and Action Scripts

Take 1-800-GOT-JUNK?

They were a full-service junk removal company well before they hired Roy and launched their “Just Point” ad campaign.

The simple truth was that 1-800-GOT-JUNK? would do what other junk removal companies wouldn’t: they’d go inside your home to haul junk out from its current location.

But they competed on price against companies that only hauled junk away from the side of the road.

Worse, their pricing was confusing to people, so it was hard for the buyer to say “yes” without knowing an up-front price.

In this situation, a typical business owner would create ads that would say something along the lines of:

“Other companies require you to drag your junk out to the street, but 1-800-GOT-JUNK?…”

In other words, they’d go negative, and the truth would end up sounding self-serving.

Instead of that, Roy H. Williams created the “just point” campaign, wherein he promised listeners and viewers that they could remove junk from their life simply by pointing at it — so long as they called 1-800-GOT-JUNK? first.

Just as importantly, the company streamlined its pricing to include up-front offers for specific items such as dead TVs, coaches, and refrigerators.

This instilled hope, eliminated friction, AND gave customers an action script.

The campaign totally added “the way” to “the truth” about the company. Take a look:



Adding “life” to “the truth”

You breathe life into the truth by dramatizing it.

In other words, just add people to the mix and your results will improve.

Yes, even fictional people.

In fact, you might need to lightly caricature (i.e., fictionalize) real people for best results.

This is why appearing in an ad as the owner doesn’t automatically mean that you’ve added life into your ad.

If you were behaving as an announcer of corporate-sounding ad-speak or puffery, then you effectively relegated yourself to non-person status, and there’s no life in that!

You have to add a real “character” to your ad — one with a distinctive voice and personality.

This is why WoA partners focus so much on Character Diamonds and story and character-driven advertising.

It’s why I personally focus on Genesis Stories that establish your “character’s” ethos.

Because the truth coming from a stranger isn’t the same as the truth coming from someone you know, or feel as if you “know.”

And I’m looking to establish not just ethos, but thumos.

Because we demand more of people who would attempt to tell us what to do — i.e., of people trying to instill hope and offer behavioral scripts.

An Example of Adding the life to the truth

Dunkin’ Donuts was in serious trouble back when they hired Ally & Gargano for a national ad campaign.

This was the early 80s, and both grocery and convenience stores were selling donuts, and Dunkin Donuts’ sales were declining as a result.

Customers didn’t have to go out of their way to buy donuts anymore, so why bother?

Well, the truth was that grocery and convenience store donuts were several days — or even weeks — old, and so weren’t nearly as fresh or tasty as the donuts made by Dunkin’.

But again, simply saying that in an ad would come off as both negative and transparently self-serving.

Instead, Ally & Gargano breathed life into that truth through a character: the “time to make the donuts” guy.


Not only did these ads massively increase sales of Dunkin’s premium-priced donuts, they launched the phrase “time to make the donuts” into the pop-culture lexicon.

What to Expect When You Add the way and the life to your truth

Some of what you’ll experience is what everyone experiences in their first year of (effective) mass media branding.

But for you, as a fixer of $5 haircuts, you can also expect the following:

  • Expect to become locally famous.
  • Expect to build a brand that stands for something near and dear to your heart.
  • Expect to finally be able to charge what you’re worth.
  • Expect to attract customers who already believe you are worth the premium and who appreciate what you bring to the table.
  • Expect to grow past your personal ability to sell via one-to-one conversations.

But also, expect all the new set of challenges that you’ll graduate to as you grow into the empire you’ve always dreamed of building.

Sound like a journey you want to take?

The first next step is to reach out and set up a free 90-Minute zoom meeting with me.