Planting Seeds of Doubt

by Lou

Directly bashing competitors in your ads is considered a no-no. Doing so makes you and your offer look desperate, having the opposite effect of what you intended. (Just look at what happened with the recent Moveon.org full page ad against General Petraeus.) But there are ways to indirectly, almost subliminally put down competitors.

This pattern needs careful consideration and comparison of your offer and that of your competitors. The first thing you need to do is make a list of all your competitors’ negatives and faults. Also take a look at their claims, and especially how they are separating themselves from the competition. This particular pattern is especially effective when attacking your competitor’s USP (Unique Selling Proposition). Pay attention to the advice they are giving. Make a note of that as well.

Next, think of the negative consequences of the list. How can these consequences affect your prospects?

Now link a colorful comparison with one of the strongest negative consequences.

The Pattern:

(ACTION PROSPECT IS THINKING OF DOING) is about as useful/effective/smart as (SOMETHING SUPERSTITIOUS, USELESS, OLD-FASHIONED, or DANGEROUS).

So it comes out like this:

“The methods available now are about as useful as consulting a carnival psychic.”

“Using a swipe file to write your ads these days is about as old-fashioned as calling your refrigerator an ‘ice-box’.”

Here are some examples using food:

  • “Counting calories is about as effective as using a laxative after every meal.”
  • “Relying on those big-box chain stores for your groceries is about as smart as eating at Makku Donarudo seven days a week.”
  • “Getting your pizza delivered in 30 minutes is about as tasty as eating road kill.”

This pattern also works extremely well in changing the minds of the ‘do-it-yourselfer’:

  • RESUMÉ (CV) WRITING SERVICE: “Writing your own resumé is like cutting your own hair.”
  • ADVERTISING COPYWRITER: “Creating your own ad copy is as risky as peeing on a State Trooper’s boots.”
  • HOUSE PAINTER: “Painting your house yourself is about as healthy as putting your mouth over a chemical factory’s smoke stack and inhaling.”

If you’d like (or you feel it’s necessary), you can then explain or give a reason why you are saying that. For example,

“Creating your own ad copy is as risky as peeing on a State Trooper’s boots. You might make a certain claim about your product and then face all sorts of legal issues – from being sued to getting thrown in jail for fraud!”


These patterns will start planting seeds of doubt in prospects’ minds and that their previous plans (i.e., not buying from you) might not be such a good idea.

People familiar with the NLP Sleight of Mouth patterns will recognize this pattern as a combination of Chunking Sideways (Analogies and Similes) and Changing Frame Size.


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