The Power of the Foregone Conclusion

I’m sure you’ve seen the Miller Lite beer commercials over the years.

From retired boxers to women in bikinis, wrestling in a fountain. And we join the situation in the middle of an escalating argument. What are they fighting about? You know it, I know it, everybody knows it: “TASTE’S GREAT!” … “LESS FILLING!”

On the one side, a dedicated Miller Lite drinker loves the beer’s taste while he claims it goes down easy without filling up.

In one recent, much-forwarded version on YouTube, the Miller Lite fans doing the fighting are wet women in tight shirts rolling in water fountains. You might think it’s only the latter detail that kept this age-old ad slogan afloat. But is it possible that’s not the only reason? Absolutely.

See, what every version of those commercials does is more than just keep us entertained while they flash images of the beer label. In each, the prospective customer is offered a choice.

And here’s the key – it’s NOT a choice about whether or not the beer is good.

Rather, the commercial assumes the beer has more than one virtue, and asks you to think instead about WHY it’s good. The door to deciding whether or not to buy the beer at all is already closed.

This is a classic way to coax a customer – or anybody – to move toward a desirable decision.

For instance, I’m sure you’ve seen the same technique work with children  …

“Hey, Junior,” you say while trying to peel your 5-year-old’s eyes from the television at bedtime, “Do you want to brush your teeth with the striped toothpaste or the blue stuff?”

No option there for Junior to opt out of brushing his teeth entirely. “The blue stuff,” he shouts. And minutes later, Junior is tucked into bed, teeth brushed, staring at the ceiling and wondering what happened.

You can use the same technique in direct-response copy.

Especially in the sales close, where getting your prospect to commit to a decision is key. For instance, imagine a sales letter that says in the close …

You might choose a one-year trial supply of Sludge-O-Matic water filters, yours to try at no risk. For a full 12 months.

Or you might lean toward my “Discounted Lifetime Offer” … which will have you guzzling crystal-clear water from now until judgment day.

Really, it’s your choice. Either way, you win. Just let me know soon what you decide …

This is called a “foregone conclusion” close. It’s assumed, in the copy above, that the customer has already decided to buy the filters. And now the only decision to make is whether to get it for one year or a lifetime.

Clever, eh?

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Published: September 22, 2008

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