When you want to be persuasive, consider if it pays to face up to your flaws squarely up front. This way you gain the trust of your audience, and turn your weakness to your advantage.
The advertising campaign of the Volkswagen Beetle when it was first launched in the US was based on this principle. The Beetle was cheap, reliable and fuel efficient, but good looks was certainly not one of its selling points.
Instead of pushing the merits of its looks, or trying to divert attention to its mechanical merits, the Beetle’s marketeers flaunt its unconventional looks.
The company promoted the Beetle’s unique look with wacky tag lines like:
“It will stay uglier longer”
“Ugly is only skin deep”
Once the customers can get pass its looks, the Beetle’s mechanical and economic virtues sold by themselves. Before long, the Beetle became a much sought after car because of its distinctive look, and remained so till today.
I can think of another example, again from the automotive industry.
The tiny Morris Mini was created at a time when good sized cars with spacious, roomy cabins were the norm.
Instead of competing with the “normal” cars on size, the Mini touted its minuscule size as a virtue.
Like the Beetle, the Mini turned its biggest shortcoming into its selling point, was a sensational success, and remained a trendsetter till this day.
The Beetle and Mini became cultural icons because they dared to celebrate their uniqueness instead of cowering in self doubt.