MD and I have been traveling all over the place for the past couple of weeks and we have noticed an interesting phenomenon. People everywhere—even many of those who profess to do low-carb—are still in the grip of all the low-fat nonsense. It always amazes me that despite all the information coming to light showing that fat in the diet doesn’t really matter a rat’s derrier as far as cardiovascular health is concerned so many people are making an effort to avoid fat. Even many low-carbers seem to feel the necessity to try to make their low-carb diet a low-fat one as well.
I think I now know why.
I have a good friend named Roy Williams who is an advertising and marketing genius. He has resurrected so many failing businesses and helped so many others reach unimaginable success that he has been deemed the Wizard of Ads.
Roy has written a number of books about his ideas and methods of advertising that are all terrific. I recommend them even if you’re not in the advertising business yourself or even if you have no need for advertising. They are wonderful learning tools about how humans function perceptionally. And they are great reads.
What does all this have to do with low-fat? Below is an excerpt from Roy’s first book, The Wizard of Ads that pretty much sums up why so many people are still in the grip of the low-fat ideology.
The mind of your prospective customer is like a seasoned piece of hardwood. Your message is like a nail. The rhythmic stokes of the hammer represent the number of times your message—your unique selling proposition (USP)—is heard by the prospect.
Sleep is the hammer’s claw. (Sleep: God’s gift to the human race, purging our minds of the noise of the day. Sleep: the eraser of all advertising.)
Your goal is to drive the nail through the board and then clench it on the other side. Messages that are clenched are remembered for a lifetime. Tap, tap goes the hammer. But during the night the claw pulls the nail back out of its little hole! The following day you find nothing more than a faint indentation in the board. The nail is no longer in it. Your message is forgotten.
Using the hole you started the previous day, you position the nail again. Tap, tap goes the hammer. But again falls the veil of darkness, eyes close, and the claw does its work once more. Day after day, this scene is repeated; but ever so slowly, the hole gets deeper.
Driving the nail of your USP into the hardwood of the mind is like climbing a muddy mountain: three steps forward, two steps back, over and over again.
The frustration is simply too much. You believe advertising should pay off immediately! “It must be time to change the USP, because this one doesn’t seem to be working.”
But to change your USP is to start a new nail in a completely different spot on the board. The hole in which you have invested is now wasted. Why do you do this? Do you think there’s a soft spot on the board somewhere? There is not. You can sharpen the nail (with better writing), but there are no soft spots on the board. Stay with the hole you’ve started.
Sharpen the nail.
For the past thirty years the nutritional powers that be have been hammering the low-fat nail into the psyches of all of us. With that much repetition of the same low-fat message it’s easy to see why it has finally gone through the board of the brain of so many and been clenched off on the other side.
In order to pull it out and replace it with the low-carb nail is going to require a whole lot of repetition, so don’t hold out hope for any big changes any time soon.
Our website (along with this blog) is hosted on the server at Roy’s facility in Austin, Texas where I’ve been the last couple of days. I caught up with Roy briefly yesterday, and we talked a little about all of this. He said that things get driven into long-term memory by the combination of salience and repetition. If the salience is high, then not a lot of repetition is needed. If the salience is low, it takes a lot of repetition to get anything to finally embed in long-term memory.
For example, 9/11 had a lot of salience. Even without the constant repetition we all lived through it would still have made it into our long-term memories. The low-fat diet doesn’t particularly have a lot of salience, but it’s been repeated constantly over the past thirty years. As a consequence, it has made its way into the long-term memories of a whole lot of people.
It’s the job of all of us who know from experience the efficacy of the low-carb diet to start our own hammering day after day. I think it’s the only way things are ever going to change.