Just as the U.S. Congress was looking to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Jimmy Kimmel's newborn son had to have open heart surgery. The experience made him wonder what happens to children whose parents can't afford major surgeries like he could.

Kimmel made a heartfelt speech on his show and then invited Louisiana senator Bill Cassidy on air to talk more about the issue. On live TV, Cassidy promised Kimmel that the ACA repeal and replacement would pass what he called, "the Kimmel test," where no family would be denied medical care because they couldn't afford it.

Now, only a few months later, Cassidy has sponsored and is pushing for a vote on a healthcare bill that will do the opposite of what he promised Kimmel live on air. Instead of getting mad, Kimmel made one of the best appeals to his audience that you will ever see.

This appeal is powerful because it solves one of the biggest marketing struggles businesses have today: getting prospects from "passively watching" to "taking action."

Kimmel wants his audience to take action--and fast. By doing these 5 things, he manages to successfully get viewers from "passively interested" to urgently calling their representatives. If you want to turn your customer's passive interest into action (specifically, sales), you can copy these 5 persuasive marketing techniques and use them in your business.

1. Speak in plain English so regular people can understand you

We all want our customers to think we're smart. Actually, we want them to think we're the best, the experts, that no one else knows more than us. But what that often looks like IRL is you talking over your customer's head, using useless jargon he could care less about.

This is especially true when it comes to healthcare. No one watches TV and thinks, "Oh yes! They're talking about the confusing specifics of healthcare! Let me tune in."

That's why Kimmel takes a different approach. He knows he'll lose the crowd if he starts going into the details. Instead, he addresses the crowd in plain English and opens with a story to set the scene and get your attention.

This is particularly valuable to his audience since most of them (myself included) are pretending they understand this topic, but really don't. Here's how he explains the healthcare issue in plain English (minute 0:37 - 1:03):

"[Cassidy] said he would only support a healthcare bill that made sure a child like mine would get the health coverage he needs no matter how much money his parents make."

There are no technical details here, just a story.

Then, he takes one specific technical term, "insurance caps," and explains it in plain English.

"These insurance companies they want 'caps' to limit how much they can pay out. For instance, if your son has to have three open heart surgeries - it can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars apiece if he hits his lifetime cap of, let's say, a million dollars. The rest of his life he's on his own."

That was so easy to understand, even I feel like a healthcare expert now.

Instead of trying to dazzle you with confusing technical details, he makes healthcare palatable for normal people. He's now won your trust and appreciation since no one wants to admit out loud they don't understand this stuff.

Emotionally, you're tracking with him.

That's why you should be speaking to your customers in plain English. They will trust you more, like you more, and understand your offer better (making them more apt to take action).

2. Use the "identifiable victim effect" to reduce viewer apathy

The Identifiable Victim Effect proves that people aren't moved by numbers, we're moved by people.

If I told you 4 billion people a day are starving, you'd think, "that is terrible," and you'd move on with your day. You wouldn't feel anything. Alternately, if I told you the story of Sasha, the little girl who has to choose between feeding her mom or feeding her son, you'd feel something. You're more likely to give me money to help Sasha then 4 billion faceless people.

Our brain is like a human-story-detector. We start to feel something when we think of a specific person (an "identifiable victim"). And when you want people to take action, you need them to feel. This is also why the Peter Singer's Trolley Problem is so illustrative. Specificity is an extremely powerful tool for getting people to feel.

Kimmel uses the identifiable victim effect to his advantage 3 different times in this video. First, the story about his son. Off the bat, you feel for him as a dad and as a human. He has more credibility now because he's not just a "bleeding heart," he's gone through this personally.

Second, with the example explaining insurance caps. Caps are not something people want to learn about. He took them from "amorphous concept" to "real thing that affects people" by using a specific example of a person.

The example paints a picture in your mind--and now you can't stop thinking about that kid.

The third is his personal beef with Cassidy. Instead of doing what most activists do--make blanket statements about why politicians are liars and big government is bad--Kimmel tells you a personal story of how he was lied to on national television.

Now he's involved you as the viewer: You want to know how this story is going to end!!

That never happens with numbers: it happens with stories of specific people.

3. Disarm people and keep their attention by using humor

Humor is an instant de-escalator. It disarms people. It's a hard thing to pull off since most of us (myself included) are not funny. Kimmel, however, is a comedian who is able to use this to his advantage.

Copy Chief founder Kevin Rogers also advocates this technique for your marketing. He even uses it himself when he presents publicly. His jokes break through the monotony of a presentation and get you excited about the topic. You stay engaged because you're laughing.

Here are some of the places Kimmel uses humor to keep you paying attention or break the tension:

  • "They want us to treat [the bill] like an iTunes service agreement" (in that, you don't read it) - 4:03
  • "So "yep" is Washington for "no," I guess?" - min 4:26
  • "This is not my area of expertise. My area of expertise is eating pizza" - min 4:31 - 4:33
  • "And before you post a nasty Facebook message that says I'm politicizing my son's health problems, I want you to know - I am politicizing my son's health problems." - min 4:39 - 4:49

4. Amplify negative emotions to provoke action

People HATE using fear, scarcity, or anything negative in their marketing. Especially good people. We're "better than that," (or so we tell ourselves).

However, negatively charged emotions can be powerful motivators for action. And guilt is one of the best motivators of all. (Exhibit A: your mom-- at least, definitely my mom.) Watch how Kimmel uses guilt to make you feel something and want to take a side.

This is minute 3:33 - 3:58:

"Healthcare is complicated. It's boring, I don't want to talk about it."

He relates to you. You feel this way too. Remember, he's talking in plain English (see #1).

"The details are confusing and that's what these guys are relying on--they're counting on you to be so overwhelmed with all the information you just trust them to take care of you."

He exposes what's "really" going on, making you feel duped and prepping you for the real zinger. I call this going tribal (when you set up an "us vs them" dynamic). Here's where he really shoves the knife in your heart:

"But they're not taking care of you, they're taking care of the people who give them money like insurance companies. And we're all just looking at our Instagram accounts liking things, while they're voting on things like whether people can afford to keep their children alive or not."

Do you feel guilty? I feel guilty. I was 100% on Instagram.

5. Make your Call-to-Action (CTA) unambiguous and unmissable

You know this is crucial. I know this. But for some reason, no one does this well.

Kimmel couldn't be clearer:

"If this bill isn't good enough for you, call your congressperson. That's the number" - (min. 5:50 - 5:55).

Now this CTA is interesting because he pulls you into it personally. He spends 5 minutes making the case for why this bill isn't good enough. And then goes in for the right hook, "If this bill isn't good enough for you..." If you've watched the monologue, at this point you're shaking your head in agreement (which is a sales technique).

Behind Kimmel, you see a giant "202-224-3121" (the phone number you should call). It is unmissable because Kimmel knows what all great persuaders know: if you don't tell people exactly what to do and make it easy to do it, they won't do it.

Then, in one of the greatest call-outs of all time, Kimmel takes it up a notch by combining his CTA with guilt:

"You cant just click like on this video." (min 6:00)


What this means for you

No matter what you think about healthcare, you watch this and you feel something. Which is the first goal of any effective marketing campaign.

Kimmel then takes what you feel and turns it into motivation for action using guilt, a clear call to action, personal stories, and (the final nail in the coffin), urgency.

That's the second goal of an effective marketing campaign: action.

The directness and clarity of the appeal is what makes this video such a spectacular marketing example.

"You have to do this. Tell them this bill doesn't pass your test."

If more good people could sell like this, you'd never have a problem cutting through the clutter.