8 Surefire ways to persuade even your biggest skeptics

Chief Creative Officer

If you’ve ever worked in the hospitality industry, you’re probably extra nice to service staff.

I waited tables for 14 years and to borrow a line from comic John Mulaney, “You could pour soup in my lap, and I’ll probably apologize to you.

My aproned brothers and sisters never recognize me as an alum, forever bound by nights, weekends, and holidays spent in subservience.

But what would happen if my cover was blown?

I’d be received in every dining room like a Telecastered Springsteen returning to Asbury Park. My meal would be tweezered onto the plate by a brigade of hysterical chefs, my cocktail chilled by luge-ing down an ice sculpture forged into my bespectacled likeness …

Whoa, how long was I out for?

. . .

Of course, I’d never expect any service professional to respond with more than a few pleasantries—no matter how thick I laid on the kindness.

So, imagine how blindsided I was by this encounter during a recent hotel stay.


The transaction was simple …

I called down for some ice and two glasses because my wife and I pack our own bourbon to enjoy in the room after breakfast dinner.

Within minutes, a young woman arrived, holding our supplies in front of her on a small, rectangular tray—not the big oval kind they leave in the room.

So, I did what any other guest would do to unburden their gracious hostess.

I took the items off the tray.

Big mistake.

Because without hesitation, through a forced smile that failed to mask the disquiet on her face, she said these exact words …

In my country, if the girl is left holding an empty tray, she will never get married.


I didn’t know if that was true, but it didn’t feel like the right time for fact checking.

Instead, I put everything back hoping the spiritual force I had just agitated would forgive us both. Then I grabbed the whole rig and closed the door.

. . .

She could have said anything to sell taking that tray.

“Then you can set your drinks on the bed without spilling.” (comfort)

“Then it’s easier to leave everything outside the room when you’re done.” (convenience)

“I’m sorry, but we have a strict ‘no tray left behind’ policy.” (compliance)

Any of those may have worked.

But she decided to go WAY off script, plumbing the depths of every possible response until she tapped into the emotional core of our shared humanity.

Drew Eric Whitman, author of Ca$hvertising, wrote: “Human beings are biologically programmed with the following eight desires …”

1. Survival, enjoyment of life, life extension
2. Enjoyment of food and beverages
3. Freedom from fear, pain, and danger
4. Physical companionship
5. Comfortable living conditions
6. To be superior, winning, keeping up with the Joneses
7. Care and protection of loved ones
8. Social approval

(h/t to direct response maestro Eddie Shleyner for sharing this in his spectacular newsletter)

None of what Whitman calls “The Life-Force 8” are surface-level benefits. You won’t see them mentioned in a product description. And I’ve yet to find them in a creative brief.

These inborn desires are gold you gotta dig for.

That means thinking through the benefit of the benefit of the benefit (and so on) until you unearth a powerful emotional driver that compels your prospect to act.

Like this.


Product >>> Bathtub refinishing kit

Surface benefit >>> Restores old bathtub fixtures to “like new” condition.

The benefit of that >>> I’ll have a tub that’s attractive and inviting.

The benefit of that >>> I won’t be embarrassed when guests use my bathroom.

The benefit of that >>> My guests will appreciate my clean tub.

The benefit of that >>> People will feel more comfortable in my home.

The benefit of that >>> They’ll want to come back.

Core human desire = Social approval


We make emotional decisions faster than rational ones. That’s why I took that room service tray as quickly as I did.

And it’s why you should always set the hook with feelings.

Of course, it isn’t as simple as popping one of our eight inherent desires into a headline and calling it a day. You still need persuasive language and imagery to take your audience there.

But if you can connect your product to what your customers want at their most primal human level, you go from being valuable …

To being irresistible.

. . .

Anyone else thinking about a bathroom remodel? I’m sure it’s fine.

Here’s a song to play you out >>>

See you next time. – Matt

P.S. It took some digging, but I discovered that the wedding superstition involving the empty tray is associated with Caribbean culture.

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Chief Creative Officer
Matt is a professional storyteller. That used to be a thinly veiled way to say you still lived with your parents. But the truth is stories have existed since the dawn of humanity and they still have the power to move people, even if it’s no longer from the path of a charging mammoth. Throughout his career on both the agency and client sides, Matt’s work has been known to compel audiences to indulge in higher thread counts, abandon Lenten sacrifice, or move to the suburbs. He’ll even conjugate a noun if he has to. The bottom line: Matt is our agency twofer. Strategy and Creative. The Big Idea and Stealth Deployment. He’s a single expense yielding a dual return. And who doesn’t love a bargain?

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