"Ever tried to cut yer old man's 'froat with a blunt knife?" - the communicators
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“Ever tried to cut yer old man’s ‘froat with a blunt knife?”

I was reminded by Dave Trott on Twitter today that THIS is advertising. We all love a #hashtag but you need salesmanship whatever media channel you’re working in.

Here’s Andrew Rutherford, copywriter, being given a course in persuasive selling from the knife salesman:

He bashed a knife loudly against a tin tray. Bang! Bang! Bang!.. The din cut through the rowdy street market, and heads swivelled towards it.
“Ever tried to cut yer ‘froat with a blunt knife?”, he shouted, sawing at his jugular with mock frustration. An interested crowd started to gather round him.

Hint 1. Get attention. An invisible ad is not an effective ad.

“Better still, ladies. Ever tried to cut yer old man’s ‘froat with a blunt knife?” The laughter attracted more people. What was going on here? This might be fun.


Hint 2. Intrigue your reader. But not irrelevantly. Lead him or her in the right direction.

“I’ll tell you wot is murder ladies. Have you ever tried to cut the rind off a rasher, or fillet a fish or string runner beans with a knife like this?” I started to lose interest, and was about to move off when I noticed that several of the women were nodding in recollection. He’d struck a chord. I stuck around.

Hint 3. Single out your target. Understand their problems, hope and needs. Ignore everyone else.

He scornfully flung aside the knife, and produced his “little miracle” as he called it. It looked just like a knife to me, but apparently it was like no other knife we’d ever seen. He told us it was as sharp after six months of non-stop demonstrations as the day he’d discovered it. “Watch this”, he said.
And for the next few minutes with impressive dexterity, he sliced beans, sharpened a pencil, peeled an avocado, chopped prawn…even shaved a slice from a stone.

Hint 4. Always demonstrate your product’s superiority if you possibly can.

As he worked, he talked. He told us that the metal was discovered through space research, that micro-surgeons used specially fine scalpels made from it, and that this “little miracle” (he wouldn’t call it a knife) was banned from general sale in some countries, because it was “Too easy to cut yer old man’s ‘froat with it”.

Hint 5. Facts are more persuasive than empty claims. (But a little humour can sugar the pill.)

He told us we were lucky to be standing there, because the only other place he knew where we’d find it “was at ‘arrods, where it cost ten quid. No tell a lie, £9.99 – ‘arrods give you back 1p back from a tenner”.

Hint 6. Create a desire – a shortage perhaps.

Hint 7. Give the product credibility (Harrods, in this case).

However, he would save us the inconvenience of going all the way to Harrods. And better still he’d give us more than one penny back. In fact, he’d give us more than one pound back. How much? Five pound? No, he was daft, but it was his nipper’s birthday party, he was in a hurry to get away …so just this once he’d give us eight pounds back from a ten pound note. Just £2 for this “little miracle”, but he only had a few, so……
A sea of hands shot towards him wildly waving banknotes to catch his eye.

Hint 8. Clinch the sale. Make the buyer want to do something, and make him do it.

As I walked away clutching my little miracle I began to sense that I had a lot to learn about persuasive selling, and that any aspiring copywriter could do a lot worse than go into the streets and watch a real pro like this at work.

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