Climax last, not first

Philip Morgan

POV is a hastily-made lasagna.

 • • • 

Q: Which brand has more customer loyalty, Apple or Dell?

A: Dell.

This data point comes from some research presented in the book "How Brands Grow".

I love it because it's surprisingly -- almost shockingly -- counterintuitive.

Points of view are almost always a layer cake. Or a hastily made lasagna. :) They tend to have 3 layers:

  1. Headline version
  2. Paragraph-length version
  3. All the rest of the detail, including any necessary caveats

Additionally, they will have an uninterrupted throughline of truth running from the headline to the "rest of the detail" layer.

Today let's explore the layered structure.

There's an important caveat in the research from "How Brands Grow": the way they measure customer loyalty is asking owners of each brand whether they previously owned a computer from the same brand. So they asked Apple owners if they previously owned an Apple computer and Dell owners if they previously owned a Dell.

It's backwards-facing rather than future-facing in its measurement vector. Yes, that's more reliable (it's looking at actual behavior rather than intent) but also could miss a tidal wave sea change phenomena in the making, like a tidal wave rise in the brand loyalty that Apple computers engender.

If you took a DiSC work personality assessment, I bet money that most of y'alls profile will be defined by a strong degree of Dominance and Conscientiousness characteristics. Maybe not in that order, but those two will be the dominant two characteristics.

That's why it kills you to leave caveats out of the headline. It does me too. :) That conscientiousness quality pipes up up with all kinds of objections to having a true-but-incomplete statement because conscientiousness:

  • is motivated by opportunities to gain knowledge, show their expertise, and produce quality work
  • prioritizes ensuring accuracy, maintaining stability, and challenging assumptions
  • is described as careful, cautious, systematic, diplomatic, accurate and tactful
  • may be limited by being overcritical, overanalyzing and isolating themselves
  • may fear criticism and being wrong
  • values quality and accuracy


Here's the problem, fellow CD or DC DiSC types: headlines have to be headlines.

That means they gotta be short. Full sentences not welcome. (See what I did there?)

If this study from "How Brands Grow" is reliable, then it's true to say Dell customers are more loyal than Apple customers. It's just not complete.

The role of the next layer of the POV layer cake is to either provide more detail, or further engage those who find the headline level of your POV interesting.

With the Dell/Apple thing, it might go like this:

Headline: Apple customers are more visible, but Dell customers are more loyal

Next layer: Branding agencies like to point to Apple as a poster child brand with extremely loyal and passionate customers. But when you bother to actually measure brand loyalty, much less "exciting" brands like Dell come out on top by significant margins. This teaches us that there is more to the issue of brand loyalty than we might think, and there are hidden profits lurking in the bushes of a brand strategy that reaches less engaged customers.

My example headline here was a complete sentence, but there are variations I could have tried that would have been shorter and punchier. But the main point is obvious: I'm not caveating or trying to tell the whole story in the headline. That's not it's job. It's job is to sell the next layer.

In this case, the third layer is the one where we'd give all the detail. It's the layer where the measurement methodology would be detailed. It's the layer where we'd fully outline our argument about there being "more to the issue of brand loyalty than we might think" and describe how exactly there are "hidden profits lurking in the bushes of a brand strategy that reaches less engaged customers".

If you're proposing a talk at an event, the headline and next layer of your POV are the talk title and abstract/overview. The underlying detail gets reduced to a list of bullet points in your poposal, and gets fully explored in your talk (to the extent the talk format and time allocation permits).

If you're writing an article for a publication, the headline is the... headline or title of the article. The next layer of your POV is an executive summary or intro paragraph/sction, and the underlying detail is the body of the article.

If someone sticks with you while you present all 3 layers of the POV layer cake, your DiSC Conscientiousness gets satisfied. You get to be complete and correct.

If you try to load all the detail and caveats in the headline to avoid the possibility of someone seeing only the headline and saying "that claim is ridiculous and I reject it because it is not fully supported and I hereby withdraw my attention from this fool's argument", you fail twice:

  1. You fail to present your argument to as many people as you otherwise would have the opportunity to.
  2. You fail to excite anybody. There's a reason movies have the climax at the end instead of the beginning. :)

If you're looking for a place to explore and refine your points of view to make them more compelling, this online POV Workshop I'm running in March/April is a good place to do that. Sign up here: /pmc-csw-point-of-view