Marketing Innovation – The Extreme Effort Tool

Marketing Innovation - The Extreme Effort ToolHow do you create the most innovative TV commercials in the world? By using patterns embedded in other innovative commercials. Professor Jacob Goldenberg and his colleagues discovered that 89% of 200 award winning ads fall into a few simple, well-defined design structures. Their latest book, “Cracking the Ad Code,” defines eight of these structures and provides a step-by-step approach to use them.

Here are the eight tools:

1. Unification
2. Activation
3. Metaphor
4. Subtraction
5. Extreme Consequence
6. Absurd Alternative
7. Inversion
8. Extreme Effort

Consider this example from Dairy Queen:

This commercial was created with the Extreme Effort tool. It works by conveying the attractiveness of the product or service by showing the extreme effort one must go through to use it. There are two versions: 1. what the customer must do to use the product, and 2. what the company must do to provide the product. As with all eight tools, Extreme Effort yields commercials that are highly innovative and memorable. This tool is particularly useful when your brand is well established and the category is well understood. It is an easy way to promote your product or service in a general sense when there is nothing more specific to say.

Try this exercise. Imagine you want to promote your blog site to attract new readers. You want to use the Extreme Effort tool. First, visualize three ways to show how current readers go to extreme efforts to read your blog. You have to portray it in a way that is absurd and so exaggerated that the viewer knows you are being funny. You don’t want them thinking they really have to go to this effort to read it. Otherwise you will scare them off.

Now visualize three ways to show potential readers the extreme effort you go to write and produce your blog, again with the intent of being somewhat silly and exaggerated to make this point in a memorable way: “I want you to read my blog so badly that I go to this effort to bring it to you each week.

To be most effective, select the simplest one to understand. For example, in the Dairy Queen ad, we see the mother on the hood of the car reaching out the Dairy Queen truck. We instantly “get it.” There is nothing more that needs to be said or explained.

Also, look for ways to create fusion between the exaggerated effort and the brand promise. In the Dairy Queen example, the mom and dad are participating in the age-old kids game that their children were playing. Dairy Queen is about having fun. The ad fuses that idea with the parents acting like children and having fun thanks to Dairy Queen. Clever.

Does anyone out there go to extreme effort to read Blogging Innovation?

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Drew BoydDrew Boyd is Visiting Assistant Professor of Marketing and Innovation at the University of Cincinnati and Executive Director of the MS-Marketing program. Follow him at and at

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