Try It, You’ll Like It!

“Try it, you’ll like it!”

For children of the ’70’s, this phrase – when said with the right inflection – evokes memories of this Alka-Seltzer commercial, which used the clever hook to persuade viewers to try the product. As I watch it now, I see the obvious psychology at play: acknowledgement that trying new things can sometimes lead to physical pain and mental anxiety, but it can also lead to solutions that make you feel better.

William “Bill” Bernbach (1911-1982) was an advertising executive and the “B” in ad agency giant DDB. His agency wasn’t the creative force behind this commercial, but he is credited with something some of us know instinctively, but that sometimes gets lost in this era of Big data where everyone from venture capitalists and tech startups to pollsters and politicians rely on algorithms to decide why/when/how to create change. Bernbach famously said, “Advertising is fundamentally persuasion and persuasion happens to be not a science, but an art.”

Contrary to some beliefs, persuasion isn’t synonymous with trickery, deceit or bad intentions – although clearly some use it with these goals in mind. If your motives are pure, persuasion is simply a tool for creating change. For example, we may try to persuade those we love to let go of old ways of thinking and self-identifying because we can see (even when they cannot) that it’s in their best interest to do so.

Or, we may try to persuade a friend to share this article (hint hint, nudge nudge) with the hope that it might help others work through their own inner struggles – or perhaps to help them forget, for a few minutes, about their struggles all together.

While you may also reap some benefits from the change you help create, that doesn’t make your intentions any less pure or the positive impact for the other person any less meaningful. Most people want you to succeed. At least that’s what I tell myself every time I get ready for a public speaking engagement or pick up the phone to “cold call” a stranger. If this is true, why do so many people resist when they think they are “being sold to?” It’s because they are resistant to change.

If you put 25 people in a room and asked them how the phrase, “Try it, you’ll like it!” makes them feel, I imagine some would say it makes them feel a lot like that Alka-Seltzer: tingly and bubbling with enthusiasm to try it … whatever “it” is.

Then you’d have another group who would have a more visceral response to the idea that someone has the nerve to not only demand they change, but to also insist they’re going to like it. I could imagine they would say something like, “You can’t tell me what to do. I’ll try it if I want. And if I try it … and that’s a big if … I probably won’t like it. So, trick someone else, because I’m not falling for it.”

Finally, you’d have those who fall somewhere in the middle. Let’s call them the more cautiously optimistic bunch.  These folks like the idea of change, but aren’t so sure they’re ready to embrace it. They are comfortably stuck in their comfort zone.

Reader note: Check out this episode of our podcast to hear Daryl and I talk more about getting out of your comfort zone. I don’t know how well I do persuading him to try some new fitness classes, but I’m committed to practicing the art of persuasion until I get it right.

So, what’s the point of all this talk about change? The point is, it’s tough. There’s no doubt about it. Another famous business executive, former General Electric (GE) Chairman and CEO Jack Welch, wisely advised, “Change before you have to.”

Easier said than done, but sage advice nonetheless. I learned a long time ago that it’s much more fun to be on the right side of change – being the persuader vs. the persuadee. But, that doesn’t stop me from wanting to stay comfortably in my comfort zone. That’s why I like having people around me who will question, challenge and push me to get better. I also like being that person for the people I care about.

So, no matter how you feel about change – whether you embrace it, avoid it like the plague or put up with it because you know it will lead to that tingling, bubbling sensation that ultimately relieves the pain and anxiety it helped to create in the first place; keep in mind that you, too, have the power to persuade. And when approached artfully with the best of intentions, isn’t that a beautiful thing?


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