Marketing Innovation: The Extreme Consequence Tool

The LAB: Innovating a Membership Club with S.I.T. (April 2012)
April 30, 2012
The Curse of Innovation
May 14, 2012

Marketing Innovation: The Extreme Consequence Tool

Commercials that show the benefits of using the product are likely to be ignored because consumers expect it. The message becomes cliche. If the advertiser shows how the consumer is transformed by using the product, consumers become skeptical. Telling viewers they will become young and adventurous by drinking a soft drink lacks credibility. It is wishful thinking, but unrealistic. The ad is tossed aside. But show these same product benefits in an extreme, unrealistic way and the advertisement is likely to be more memorable. The message sinks in. That is the goal of the Extreme Consequence Tool. This tool creates ads that show the absurd result of using the product. Over exaggeration of the promise is viewed as clever and credible versus traditional exaggeration.

Commercials that show the benefits of using the product are likely to be ignored because consumers expect it.  The message becomes cliche.  If the advertiser shows how the consumer is transformed by using the product, consumers become skeptical.  Telling viewers they will become young and adventurous by drinking a soft drink lacks credibility.  It is wishful thinking, but unrealistic.  The ad is tossed aside.

But show these same product benefits in an extreme, unrealistic way and the advertisement is likely to be more memorable.  The message sinks in.  That is the goal of the Extreme Consequence Tool.  This tool creates ads that show the absurd result of using the product.  Over exaggeration of the promise is viewed as clever and credible versus traditional exaggeration.

The tool is one of eight patterns embedded in most innovative commercials.  Jacob Goldenberg and his colleagues describe these simple, well-defined design structures in their book, “Cracking the Ad Code,” and provide a step-by-step approach to using them.  The tools are:
1. Unification
2. Activation
3. Metaphor
4. Subtraction
   5. Extreme Consequence
6. Absurd Alternative
7. Inversion
8. Extreme Effort

Here is an example from Mercedes Benz.

The Extreme Consequence tool is particularly useful when applied to a secondary, minor benefit of the product.  Viewers already know what the core benefit is, so when they see a secondary benefit conveyed in an exaggerated, extreme way, they are amused.  They accept the core promise, and they see the secondary benefit in an new, positive light.  The ad stands out.

To use the tool:

1. Choose an outstanding positive attribute or characteristic of the brand, product or service.

2. Formulate the benefits coming from the positive attributes of the product

3. Think of scenarios where the benefit leads to a negative, problematic, or unexpected result.  Try to make sure the situation is really absurd.

This Wunderbra print ad is a classic, and it demonstrates the Extreme Consequence tool very well.  Here, we see the secondary benefit stand out, in an extreme way:

Wonderbra