Dessert Theory


I was dining at a restaurant in Austin tonight when my server asked if I’d like any dessert. As I politely declined, I noticed another server walking by with a cherry key-lime pie….my favorite. As you can imagine, I was much more interested in dessert at that point. As the couple beside me licked their lips, I saw the delight in their eyes as they systematically devoured the helpless pastry. My reaction at that point is what most people would call remorse. Although I passed on dessert tonight, a lesson in persuasion popped in my head.

I call it Dessert Theory.

Let’s say you have a dessert menu in your hands. You’re not sure whether you want dessert or not, but the descriptions of the desserts sound so good. Part of you wants to see how good those desserts really are, but part of you also knows that those descriptions are meant to sound good. Next, the waiter passes by your table with a dessert tray. You can see the desserts you’ve been reading about first hand in person. You can see exactly what you will get if you’ll only take the step. You’re now at the edge of your seat as you’ve heard about how great this dessert is and now you’ve seen it first hand. But you still don’t budge (or do you?). Last you see the couple next to you enjoying the same dessert you’ve been eying from the start. You see that they ARE enjoying the decision they’ve just made. You take the plunge. There’s no turning back. You are confident that you’ve made the right decision. You’ve been persuaded, and boy you love it.

So what’s the lesson you can take away here?

Dessert theory should teach you several things. First, the more senses you elicit in someone, the better the response will be. What was more persuasive; reading the description of the dessert or watching and smelling the dessert in action? The more evidence you have, the more persuasive you will be. When possible don’t provide descriptions, show prototypes or examples. In my seminar with John Daly, we learned that some of the world’s greatest products (Post-Its, Palm Pilots, etc) needed prototypes in order to be adopted within their own companies.

Second, people fundamentally want what other people have. It happens at the dinner table and it happens in business. What Dell or HP has gets adopted by the rest of the market. Why? Persuasion is easy when you have examples.

Do you want your ideas to really move? Take the bite.


3 thoughts on “Dessert Theory

  1. Adam – I never thought about marketing in that way. Being an entrepreneur, I’ve taken postcards and flyers I’ve already done, but apparently I need to also take newsletters and other marketing collateral when prospecting!

    Doing most of my work online, I don’t really have that much to show folks. But I guess I need to have something more than just my business card!

    Great post!

    Mark Kerrigan


  2. Mark,

    Word of Mouth is the most powerful type of marketing–that is, hearing or seeing someone enjoying a product or service is always more powerful than a seller trying to market to you.

    I guess that’s how they got the saying, “the grass is always greener!”


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