Every reader who has experienced adolescents will be familiar with teenage hyperbole. This normally involves taking a premise and stretching it to an unimaginable extreme, in the hope that the resulting conclusion will influence the parent. I discovered the syndrome as a perpetrator. 16 years old, I told my father that I had to have a pair of winklepickers because ‘everybody wears nothing else’. My father was unmoved. ‘Look down and learn’ he said, pointing to his own respectable black brogues.
I took the point. Far from achieving my objective of making a statement which was irresistibly persuasive I instead rendered my assertion laughably incorrect, and at the same time cast doubt on any future data I might bring into my argumentation.
So it was with Donald Trump yesterday when he told his supporters after his court appearance that every single pundit and legal analyst had said there is no case against him. Not only is this demonstrably untrue but it has no persuasive value, not even to those who accept everything that Donald Trump says as gospel, because they just don’t care one way or the other. You will no doubt be reminded of his claim that his inauguration in 2017 was attended by the biggest crowd in the history of the event, when it was clearly demonstrable that the crowd at Barack Obama’s inauguration was substantially bigger.
My antennae were sensitized to the phenomenon of hyperbole recently when a colleague who was presenting a marketing report commented on some of the claims made by other players in our sector. ‘Training by the World’s Best Negotiators’. ‘Nobody Does it Better’. ‘The best negotiation training available anywhere’. And so on. I am intrigued to know what prospective clients think about this sort of exaggeration; I have no doubt studies have been done which indicate a positive response sometimes happen, but personally I can never get excited by it. It’s just silly; partly because there is no reliable database on which to make these assertions, and partly because it indicates lazy thinking – just say any old thing that sounds impressive.
My Dad wasn’t persuaded by my hyperbole. I don’t think there are many people who believe Donald Trump – even his supporters know he is often a stranger to the facts, they just don’t care. And here at Scotwork we will continue to strive to make marketing claims which are supported by data and meaningful to our clients.