Even Idiots Don’t Like Being Told They’re Idiots.

4 responses.

Even Idiots Don’t Like Being Told They’re Idiots.

Years and years ago I came up with a brilliant idea for attracting new business. In my daily scouring of newspapers, magazines, and other media (thankfully this was before the Internet) I’d look for advertising that I thought was poorly done. I’d rip the offending page out of the newspaper or magazine and slap a bright orange sticker on its face. The sticker said, “You would get better results with a better ad.”

Then I’d shove the marked-up ad in an envelope and send it to the CEO or CMO for whom I thought I could do better work. I’d include a note introducing myself and my agency and telling them what I could do for them.

Consumers don’t like being called idiots.

Shockingly, I didn’t get any responses. And at first I didn’t understand why.

After all, I had taken the time to look at their advertising materials and even offered to help them out. It couldn’t be a matter of money because I hadn’t told them what I would charge for my services. So why weren’t they calling and taking me up on my generous offer?

What I’ve learned through hindsight, maturity, and the experience of getting knocked flat on my ass one time too many is that people don’t like being told they’re idiots.

And that was exactly what I was doing.

Instead of being helpful I was being presumptuous. Instead of being insightful I was being irritating. Instead of being enlightening I was being insulting. And instead of giving my prospects a real reason to contact me and do business with me I was giving them every reason to stay as far away from me as they could.


In my defense, I’m not the only one
who tried to build a business strategy around
telling people they’re idiots.


How many people who are concerned about their weight enjoy shopping in the “portly,” or “husky” department? How many people like asking for a seatbelt extender on an airplane? How many people who are concerned about their age enjoy requesting the senior discount?

How about asking the price of the special on the menu? Why do restaurant owners think it’s okay to post sumptuous specials without a price and then make us shyly ask the waiter how much it costs (or worse yet, simply not order it)?

Who wants to buy a computer from a knowledgeable IT salesperson who makes it clear we don’t know what we’re buying? Who wants to buy a car from a salesperson who asks if we “…need to check with our spouse first?”

What middle-aged person just getting back into a fitness regime wants to walk into a hard body gym?  What father wants to be asked by his child’s preschool teacher if he’s “babysitting today?”

What voters like being told they’re racist, misogynistic, uneducated, deplorable, elitist, close-minded, dishonest, lazy, immoral, unengaged or crooked?

No, few consumers like to be told they’re stupid, over the hill, overweight, clueless, unwelcome, cheap, or uninformed, even if they are. Nobody likes being called an idiot. Instead people want to be treated with respect, compassion, interest, concern, politeness, and graciousness.

Yes, there are nightclubs that fill their tables by making people wait behind the velvet line hoping to get in. And yes, there are upscale boutiques that sell outrageous amounts of clothing at outrageouPeople don't like being called idiotss prices simply by looking down on their customers (Pretty Woman, anyone?) but the Internet is making that reality rarer and rarer. Because in a world where almost anything is instantly available and anyone can comment on anything anytime, consumers have more choices than ever.

And when they have all this choice, you can be sure they’re not going to frequent businesses that make them feel badly about being there. Or worse, make them feel badly about themselves. And you can be damn sure they’re not going to call the ad agency that suggests they’re idiots.


All About Them is the three-word mantra
that can transform your business in the new world.


All About Them is not only the title of my new book, it’s also the three-word mantra that can transform your business in the new world we all find ourselves. By making sure that you’re always looking for ways  to not talk about yourself and your company but to talk about how you make your consumers’ lives better, you can change the relationship you have with them. And that simple shift will generate increased inquiries, increased sales, and increased loyalty.

All About Them is not just a book title. It’s a way of life.

  4 Responses

  1. on December 20, 2016

    I’m right there with ya, Bruce. But, I like the senior discount. Just sayin’.

  2. on March 12, 2017

    Finally, someone is being constructive and is willing to reach out and teach. I have heard from ED PHDs that the teachers union began teaching “self advocacy” starting about mid way through the Gen-Xs. They go on saying that they believe it backfired because it created an overdeveloped sense of entitlement. I think the biggest issue out of this is that they also were taught and assume that they should shake things up and cause change for the sake of change. However, they were not taught to analyze the baseline experience to understand the failed and successful learning curves and often repeat the failed ones. Add to that instant gratification and automation. These kids, I am afraid are going to suffer through many trials and tribs as a result and unnecessarily.

  3. on April 5, 2017

    Bruce darling – This must be going around! I sent an invitation to one of the featured experts in the blockbuster film “The Secret” LAST JUNE!

    Yesterday, I received the following email from her:
    “Thank you for reaching out and contacting me and (her company name.) As our company grows, so does the number of emails I receive. I value your time and interest. With my travel schedule, my responses can be delayed.
    If your inquiry has not been responded to yet, please send us an email to Support@(company name.com) and one of our team members will reach out to you. Or, you may call our office at XXX-XXX-XXXX Monday-Friday, between 9:00am-5:30pm PST.”

    SERIOUSLY? Wow – that’s crazy. We all say we hope we never get “so big” that we don’t care about where we came from or how hard others are working, yet these “stars” seem to have forgotten that they owe a debt to those who admire them and helped make them the stars they are today. If you’re THAT busy, you should be able to hire a secretary or assistant who can handle the HUGE influx of communications. Period!

  4. Shannon
    on April 8, 2017

    I do believe that there needs to be a hard stop so that people can enjoy their own lives. How can a person possibly respond to the thousands of emails from admirers?
    I sat next to a fiction novel writer, can’t remember neither her pen name or real name but, she wrote wildly popular fiction novels and series. En route between Austin and Chicago she showed me her inbox and asked me if I had any clue how to get through her 20k fan mail messages and get her novel to her publisher on time. She can’t. Though I do believe anyone can have a very well worded and polite auto responder which makes someone feel like you really WANT to hear from them, and the mere numbers of emails or correspondence is exciting to you. Although she couldn’t identify every single individual, this woman was clear to me in her conversation that the sheer number of emails was impressive and humbling to her. That can be conveyed in the auto responder.

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