Category Archives: cracking the ad code

Marketing Innovation: The Inversion Technique and How Bad Things Happen

Jacob Goldenberg, in his book, "Cracking the Ad Code," describes eight creative patterns that are embedded in most innovative, award- winning commercials. The tools are:
   1. Unification
   2. Activation
   3. Metaphor
   4. Subtraction
   5. Extreme Consequence
   6. Absurd Alternative
   7. Inversion
   8. Extreme Effort

Out of these eight, the one that gives my students the most trouble is the Inversion tool. It conveys what would happen if you didn’t have the product…in an extreme way. It shows the benefits “lost” by not using the product. It is best used when the brand and its central benefits are well understood by the viewer. The advertiser is showing the viewer what bad things may happen if you don't use their brand. It's clever and memorable.

Here's a great example from the online travel site, Kayak, that is so simple and effective:

To use the Inversion technique, start with the components of the brand promise. Take each one away one at a time and envision in what ways the consumer would be affected...in an extreme way...if it did not have this aspect of the promise. Make sure that the "bad thing" that happens is so far fetched that viewers understand it's a joke. Otherwise, they'll get confused.

As Goldeberg notes, an important tactic of Inversion is to show unlimited generosity, understanding, and empathy for the poor consumer who does not use your product. The idea is to convey your product as having great understanding for your dilemma and generously suggesting assistance.

Here is another great example from Sears Optical:

Now THAT would be bad!