The advantages and drawbacks of promises

(December 16, 2019)

Occasionally, I work the odd shift at a cafe. And during spring, an Italian woman often strolls in with a cart-full of strawberries freshly picked from her hobby farm outside the city. And she sells the juicy morsels by walking up and down High streets in various suburbs, like the one this cafe is on.

I always buy a punnet because a) the strawberries are delicious, and b) I want to support the tiny producers.  But once, at the end of the season, she said in broken English, “Last week. No more strawberries after this visit.”

So I bought two punnets.

But she returned the next week with another cart-full. “Okay, this is definitely the last week of the season,” she said. I believed her and bought another punnet.

Astoundingly, she returned the following week, remarking the same promise. This time, I didn’t buy anything from her. And when she returned again the following week, I said, “bullshit, I’ll see you next week.”

Copywriters and marketers who only care about conversion rates will tell you, ‘create urgency.’ If you have a special offer, put a time limit on it or state there are only limited numbers.

Of course, folk create urgency because it’s effective, especially to passing consumers who value a good deal and who, in the busyness of day-to-day, need a flame up the backside to take action.

But you can’t apply the same technique over and over and over and over and over again. You can’t send out an email that says at the bottom: “There’s only limited stock, so get in quick” And then drop say that same sentence (or a rewording) in every email. People catch on. Customers think, I don’t believe you anymore. And also, I don’t appreciate you playing me like I’m a damn fool.

Lesson: Not only does the technique stop working but you lose the trust of your loyal customers.

You have to always ask yourself, what’s the long-term cost of prioritising sales over developing the long-term trust and loyalty of your true fans?

Your brand can be summed up by the promises you make and keep. So if you say something, you better mean it.  

Brew Copy, a storytelling studio that helps you build your brand—with words. Contact me at Stay in touch on Instagram. Or on Linkedin.