How to make your audience dread life without you

Chief Creative Officer

“I can’t believe you took it on your way out.”

I was trying to make a statement, Mona.”

“You know, he had to go to Woolworths this morning to get a new one.”

“In a towel?”

“No, I think he put clothes on first.” 

“Because that’s how it played out in my head. Him shopping in a towel.”

“You know, you really need to grow up, Matty.”

“I plan to, Mona. Just not today.”

* * *

Besides my wife, I’ve only ever lived with one other person. 

It was miserable.

I’d love to blame the tension on our shabby living conditions. But when your apartment sits above a French bakery in a wealthy Philadelphia suburb, your idea of discomfort is having to sit for an oil painting.

So, after months of my roommate ignoring completely reasonable requests like facing all the spice labels forward, I moved out.

fled would be more accurate. 

Decamped without notice while the rest of the neighborhood slept.

To punctuate my escape, I did what any other 19-year-old turd who hates confrontation would do.

I took the shower curtain.

Not just the decorative one that goes on the outside. The whole rig.

Here’s why that was worse than anything I could have done to his toothbrush …

I knew it was the one thing he couldn’t live without. 

You see, we had one of those freestanding clawfoot tubs—the kind where the curtain wraps all the way around. 

And my roommate wasn’t a bath guy. 

So, without that shower curtain, I knew his morning routine would be wet ‘n’ wild.

(Sayonara, security deposit.)

You might call it a juvenile prank.

But if you look closer, I created desire for something by having someone imagine their life without it.


Have you ever thought about what your customers’ lives would be like without your product or service?

Madness, right?

That was the approach that kicked off the original got milk? campaign. 

Or, if you’re lactose intolerant, check out how FedEx showed the ominous (but hilarious) downside of using another carrier in this Super Bowl spot.

“But, Matt, those commercials are so over-the-top. We don’t think like that.”

Well, maybe you should.

Dramatizing an outcome can make your message more memorable. 

You think we’d be talking about those ads if the milk people squawked about how they build strong bones? Or if FedEx blathered on about how reliable they are?

Life without you shouldn’t be just a minor inconvenience. 

It should be as close to catastrophic as you can make it. 

Start exploring your customers’ soulless existence without you by asking questions like …

  • Will it make a task infinitely more tedious?
  • Will it cause them to disappoint others?
  • Will it disrupt their family life?
  • Will it make them less confident?
  • Will it deprive them of happiness?
  • Will it create safety risks?
  • Will it make them less interesting to their friends?
  • Will it cause fear, pain, or frustration?
  • Will it damage their credibility or reputation?

And the one that has all the shareholders soiling their pinstripes …


Those are just the first ten that came to mind. 

Give it a shot and see where it takes you.

If you can create a void for your customer that only you can fill, you might just be onto something.

. . .

. . .

OK, that’s enough scrolling for today. Hit the showers.

Here’s a song to play you out >>> 

See you next time. – Matt

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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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