This newsletter is interesting. It will give you peace.

I appreciate that you have decided to offer me the gift of your time. As a creator I could not exist without generous patrons like you. Every reader and every person who responds to my writing makes my day more fulfilling. Thank you for that.

The Art of the Headline

I usually spend a lot of time coming up with headlines that have a hook. Celebrity ones like last week’s “Zendaya and the talent acquisition process” do pretty well. Takes a while to hit on the right title so it was very relaxing to do the simple headline this time. Let me now come to why I went with this bland, understated opening instead of say, “Oprah Winfrey’s 2 billion dollar use of declarative language”.

Declarative Language for Zen

I have been studying the use of declarative language. When we say do something it is imperative language. If you’re like me, you probably do this a hundred times a day, without even thinking. Simple things like “Sit down”, “Tell me”, “Feed the dog”, “Buy it”. They ensure everyone knows what you want done. Which is great for you. But on the other side the recipient of these messages, feels pressured to do as they are told. There is no need for them to explore alternatives.

Let’s say we were to reword these commands.

Instead of “sit down” if we were to say “there’s a chair” the person can either choose to sit on it or say “I’ve been sitting all day – I’d rather stand”.
“Tell me” could be “I am listening”.
“Feed the dog” could be “The dog looks hungry” – which gives the person agency to decide whether it food is the answer.
“Buy it” can be “This sofa would be a great addition to our balcony”.

The changes are subtle, but they give the listener a greater degree of choice, of agency. They may still do what you want, but they are now doing it of their own free will.

I’ve been reading about declarative language in the context of self-learning. It allows employees and students more freedom to teach themselves.

Getting a buy vs pushing a sale

Paul Writer, my agency, was part of the launch campaign for Bhartiya City, a 125-acre development on the then-outskirts of Bangalore. Before we announced that flats were available for sale, there was a lot of prep – the access road was beautiful and there was a massive experience center where you could walk around life-size fully furnished mock flats. In a big departure from the usual real estate sales process in India, there were “buy windows” ie you could only buy apartments during a couple of weeks in a quarter. The apartments weren’t on sale all the time. This changed the language from push to pull. Customers were pursuing the sales team to accept their deposit cheques when the sales window was closed! Instead of screaming “buy now” all the time, our communication could focus on the experience that Bhartiya City was working to provide.

Apple Vision Pro

I don’t know about it because I saw an ad for the product. I know it because the stories are everywhere – how this device is going to change how we experience video and the real world. And how it costs $3500. Apple has declared that this product will change AR. And that it’s price tag is this. It is an invitation to partake of this experience rather than buy the device.

You might say that Apple can do this because it is super expensive. Maybe.

Back to the ice cream man

As a child when I heard the bell of the ice-cream man in Delhi or later the bells of the van in Sydney, I would want to rush out and buy one. This was not fancy ice cream. There was no need for the person to shout that I should buy it – announcing their presence was enough. Same with the fruit seller or fishmonger for my parents. How can we create that same sense of anticipation for our product? Through a great experience. And declarative story telling.

For some of us the launch of a new book by a John Grisham or Dan Ariely may trigger that same sense of anticipation. Others can hear the ice cream bell tinkle in a new Netflix series. Or a new flavour of Lays. Launch of a new hotel or flight destination could do it for others. Maybe Louis Vuitton’s new bumbag does it for you. Whatever it is, these brands do the hard work of building an experience that you crave, where the very notification of its existence brings you a tingle of anticipation. And possibly acquisition.

What does Declarative Marketing look like?

There’s a quick 101 here. A table that I extracted from that article gives you an idea of how it looks in marketing terms.

Imperative Marketing Statements
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Declarative Counterparts
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Why I do what I do

Like Alice I go down rabbitholes like declarative language. Writing this newsletter helps me to fructify my thinking. I see you as my fellow rabbitholers.

The more rabbitholers there are the more fun it is. I’d love more subscribers.

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