Sometimes it feels like most advertising and advertising advice is aimed at “sexy” products.
Stuff people want to buy and like talking about. Fashion, beer, cars, technology, food, sports equipment, etc.
And that leaves Ugly Duckling Businesses — those selling unsexy stuff people have to buy and never want to talk about — wondering how to brand.One go-to solution is to brand you, the owner. Your industry might not be inherently interesting to customers, but you are. Yes, even if you wouldn’t consider yourself to be “interesting.”There is a catch, though. The catch is vulnerability. You have to come off as real and genuine in your ads, and the key to that is self-disclosure. Disclosure about your human vulnerabilities involving sacrifices, losses, dashed hopes, painful lessons, struggles, embarrassing moments of clarity or disillusionment. And I’m about to show you the best way to pull that off in your advertising.
Self-Disclosure and Origin Stories
I’m a huge proponent of Origin Stories. I’ve never seen them fail to work magic for clients. Also, they tackle the toughest and thorniest problems facing advertisers — especially Ugly Duckling Businesses:
- Getting people to want to listen to your ad
- Getting people to believe in you and your mission, and
- Differentiating and decomodifying your business when it’s impossible to make unique claims.
So, yes, I often feel that Origin Stories are the answer. Heck, I’m even teaching an online course on how to write your origin story.[Fun Fact: readers of this post can get 30% off the course. Note that it can’t combine with alumni discounts. Just use the coupon code: jeffsentme]But back to the relationship between Origin Stories and self-disclosure…In looking at what makes Origin Stories as powerful as they are, a few themes pop-up, and one of them is self-disclosure about vulnerable and deeply meaningful moments. A good origin story will reveal three crucial things about you:
- Who you are as a person
- Your superpowers and how you got them
- What mission you’re on and why your committed to it
Most people focus on superpowers since they believe it’s superpowers that define a superhero and it is business superpowers that’ll convince someone to hire you instead of someone else. But those people are wrong. Superpowers are important, of course. But they’re not what defines a superhero. Supervillains have powers too. Mission defines heroes, not powers. So does that make mission the most important element of an Origin Story?I used to think so. And in many moments I still do. But the best missions are inextricably linked to character. They can’t be separated from who you are as a person. And that makes the “humanity” element of the Origin Story the most important part. This is why commitment to mission almost always comes from a moment of vulnerability rather than a moment of strength. A moment of vulnerability that inevitably defines you as a person as a well as a business owner.
The Psychology of Self-Disclosure and Relationships
The sense of relationship — of shared ties, liking, and trust — is dramatically accelerated by self-disclosure. There are other things you can do to create a sense of relationship, of course. Shared hardships or struggles along with shared accomplishments, come to mind as go-to means of forging stronger, closer relationships. But since you can’t gather up your audience and take a ropes course or hike the Camino de Santiago together, or become war buddies, self-disclosure remains your best bet when it comes to advertising. Instinctively we know that self-disclosure — sharing — creates closeness. But it took science to quantify just how powerful self-disclosure is in relation to other factors such as length of relationship, shared values, etc. Ever heard of **Art Aron and his 36 Questions?**Those 36 Questions have become famous over the last 20 or so years. Arthur Aron is a psychologist at the Interpersonal Relationships Lab at Stony Brook University. And the 36 questions were part of his experiment, titled “The Experimental Generation of Interpersonal Closeness,” first published back in 1997. In the study, college students taking a psychology class volunteered to be paired up with another student and to ask each other 36 intimacy-building questions. The questions were divided into three sections, with each section increasing the amount of self-disclosure required, moving from:
- “For what in your life do you feel most grateful?” to
- “What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?” to
- “When did you last cry in front of another person?” to
- “If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone? Why haven’t you told them yet?”