Persuasion Tip From the Volkswagen Beetle

When the Volkswagen Beetle was introduced to the U.S. market about 50 years ago, the marketers had a problem. How do you get Americans to buy it?  It was a goofy little machine.  Americans were used to driving big luxurious land-yachts.

What the VW marketers did was counterintuitive. They highlighted the car’s faults, pointing out that the Beetle was ugly and small.  It was a stroke of genius.

By coming clean about the car’s weaknesses, VW built credibility for it’s claims about the Beetle’s key strength, reliability. As a result, the car sold like crazy.

The ads for the VW Beetle emphasized both strengths and weaknesses. The car’s advertisments used lines like “Ugly is only skin deep” and “It will stay uglier longer”.  

What does this have to do with persuasion and public speaking?  If you want to sell an idea, be sure to highlight the negatives of your position.  Candor about weaknesses builds a relationship with an audience. It’s that positive relationship that ultimate gets people to buy into your ideas.

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