Tell me what to do and I might listen. Show me what to do, and something will click inside my brain. Hey, that's a really good idea, maybe I should try that out.

During Super Bowl LII last night, a company called Wix sparked more interest for me than any of the Coke ads or the series about Tide detergent (still trying to figure that one out). YouTube stars Rhett and Link showed how easy it is to create a site, and they added a few familiar smirks and jabs. Here's the ad during the game:

Surprisingly, many ads these days go for a particular vibe. They use music and color to catch your attention, and that works because we're all busy, bored, and a bit jaded.

Yet, for some reason, the Wix ad jumped out. Why is that?

For one, it was incredibly specific. It's a a web app that lets you drag and drop elements to create a website without the pain. You might think that's a limited audience, but it solves a serious problem--that it is often too hard to create these sites. Rhett and Link are incredibly popular, and they claim to use Wix for their own site. So that adds credibility.

But this is the important part. All of those facts about the site being simple, hiring the YouTube stars, making the ad fun and entertaining with catchy music all pale in comparison to a much more brilliant strategy. They showed how Wix works. They dropped in picture, linked their Instagram photos, clicked a few boxes. Boom.

Many of us are more interested in the how than the why. Give me a few reasons to do something, and it might convince me. But when you jump right into the how, then I can come up with my own list of reasons. That's way more powerful.

So how does this all translate into promoting a brand or a business?

At a college where I do some mentoring, we tend to focus on the why and forget the how. Let's say you want to promote the college and explain why someone should attend. You could do a video that shows a list of reasons. You could fly a drone around campus and say the scenery is spectacular. Or interview a student. But it's easy to forget that, as humans, are brains are wired for learning. (This is all ironic, since I'm using a place of higher education as an example.) We can show or tell. When we show, it resonates much deeper--it clicks. Maybe focusing on one particular course that teaches video production at the college makes way more sense, mimicking what you see in the Wix ad, because then a potential student can imagine what it is like to take that course. A simple ad that shows a series of screens that walks through the application process could be pure gold. In advertising, there's tone and feel, there's attention land grabs, and then there's a good old practical explanation, a demonstration of exactly what to do or how something works.

I love those old "will it blend" spots because they did exactly that. There was action, a demonstration. You watched as something was ground to a pulp. In case you forgot, the company was selling a blender. But they "showed" it off; they skipped the tell.

When we always say "why" and not how, we tend to go generic and simplistic. Take a company that cleans houses. It's a great house-cleaning service, the rates are low. Fine. But if you show someone making a floor spotless and picking up all of the lint on a couch, suddenly you have jumped from simple logical reasoning to a demonstration of power. It's a night and day difference. A customer watching the "why" ad might tune out. This is a good lesson for just about any advertising--skip the tell, show the how.

A "how" ad translates into action--we all want clean floors and furniture. There's a reason the Wix ad is one of the only ones I remember from the Super Bowl, because it painted a picture of a future reality. It's one step closer to signing up to use the service.

Those Tide ads? They were just funny and that's it. 

Published on: Feb 5, 2018