A view from Dave Trott: The death of reason
A view from Dave Trott

The death of reason

Joy Mangano was a single mother of three, living in Long Island.

As a hobby, she liked to invent things. 

Not in a sophisticated, scientific way, just in a common-sense "I’ve-had-a-better-idea" kind of way.

In 1990, Joy invented a new kind of mop.

It solved all the problems she had with the traditional mop.

Around that time, a cable TV channel, QVC, had launched.  

It was the first channel to do nothing but show, and sell, goods.

QVC had a formula: famous people would hold up products (usually clothes or jewellery) and gush about them.

People watching would then, hopefully, phone in to order.

Joy persuaded QVC to put her mop on the channel.

QVC had never done a household product before but, in its usual format, it had a famous person hold it up and talk about it.

Joy’s mop was a complete failure.

So much so that QVC refused to advertise it any more.

But Joy persuaded them to give her a chance to sell it herself.

She came on TV and talked about her life as a housewife.

She explained why she’d invented the mop.

She said she’d cut herself trying to squeeze an old-fashioned mop by hand when mopping up a broken glass of juice.

She demonstrated that, with her mop, you squeezed it without ever touching the mop head itself.

So you wouldn’t even get your hands wet, let alone cut them.

No other mop could say that.

She said it was made from 300 feet of continuous cotton, so it was tougher and able to soak up much more liquid.

No other mop could say that.

She asked if the viewers were going to mop the bathroom and around the toilet, then use the same mop on the kitchen floor where the children played.

She said that was unhygienic.

But with her mop, you could take the head off and pop it in the washing machine, so it was always hygienic.

No other mop could say that.

As she talked, the phones began ringing.

Twenty minutes later, QVC had sold all 18,000 mops.

The fastest it’d ever sold anything.

Simply because Joy gave ordinary people lots of reasons to buy.

Instead of patronising them by assuming they weren’t interested in reasons.

Instead of assuming their brains could only handle emotion.

Joy Mangano became the most successful sales purveyor on Home Shopping Network.

When she appears, she sells $1m of goods per hour.

She now controls a $3bn business empire.

Because, instead of patronising people by assuming their brains can only handle emotion, Joy gives them reasons.

She explains the reasons why one product is better than another.

And people buy those reasons, so they buy the products.

Reasons are very unfashionable in advertising nowadays.

Every piece of communication is about nothing but emotions.

So none of it is convincing.

It all looks the same, it’s repetitive and dull, and ad-blocking has become a real problem.

As Bob Levenson said: "Intelligent people ignore advertising when advertising ignores intelligent people."

Dave Trott is the author of Creative Mischief, Predatory Thinking and One Plus One Equals Three.