The Ancient Persuasion Tactic Behind
“But Wait, There’s More!”

image of a sign saying confidence

You’re watching late night TV when you encounter the inevitable infomercial. The pitchman is asking you how much you’d be willing to pay for the super-new-thingamabob, and then it comes…

But wait, there’s more!

Then you discover you’re getting not one, not two, but three super-new-thingamabobs for only $19.95, plus a mechanized back scratcher and a wearable blanket that also makes great fries.

This technique keeps getting used because it keeps working.

But the marketing gurus of Ginsu and Veg-O-Matic didn’t come up with this technique. Nope, it’s been around way before Ronco made a fortune with late night ads for amazing kitchen products you just couldn’t live without.

This technique has worked for over two thousand years. All you need to do is apply it in a context-appropriate way for your audience.

Pump Up the Volume

But wait, there’s more! is the application of a rhetorical tactic in the amplification family of techniques developed by the ancient Greeks and Romans. Amplification makes your argument or offer more enticing by progressively “turning up the volume” as you proceed with the case you’re making.

The official name for this old-school persuasion technique is dirimens copulatio (and yes, this will be on the test). But you don’t have to be a high-hype informercial type to put it to use.

In fact, you can use it in a couple different ways without sounding like the ShamWow guy. Let’s take a look, shall we?

Two Non-Cheesy Ways to Use Dirimens Copulatio

The easiest way to think about this technique is that you’re presenting an assertion followed by an even greater reason or benefit, as in “Not only this, but also….” That’s the classic “But wait, there’s more” application.

So, whether you’re selling your ideas in a blog post or creating a sales page, you want to progressively amplify your case until it becomes irresistible. Rather than leading with your best argument or benefit, you want to hook people in and then continue building momentum with bigger and better points or benefits until it becomes a no-brainer to see things your way.

In a sales context, a few ways to do this are:

  • providing ridiculous amounts of value for the price
  • building up an amazing array of benefits before revealing you’re offering a free trial
  • standing behind your offer with a rock-solid, risk-removing, unlimited money-back guarantee.

Another common application of dirimens copulatio is where you balance one statement with a contrary, qualifying statement. This in effect enhances the power of the initial statement (and your credibility) because you’re making it clear that your assertion or offer doesn’t apply to everyone.

And that’s key — by strategically qualifying your argument (as opposed to timid qualification), you’re appealing on a stronger level with the people you’re trying to convince. Reaching consensus with your intended audience is what persuasion is really about.

Here’s an example from the “Join” tab of the Third Tribe website:

And finally, the simplest point of all: Not everything is free, nor should it be. Premium education, advice, and connections that lead to great businesses are valuable. If you don’t see it that way, that’s okay… but you likely won’t fit in here.

The people who agree with that assertion are the people we’re trying to reach with Third Tribe. And those people are likely nodding their heads and thinking they might be in the right place with other like-minded people.

What About You?

I made a bit of fun of those late night offers at the beginning of this article. But for the intended audiences, a whole lot of value was provided to a whole lot of folks thanks to the ability to sell directly to the right people.

That’s what you’re doing with online marketing. And my guess is plenty of you have been using this type of amplification technique without needing to know it was invented by old guys in funny robes.

How do you slip your own version of “But wait, there’s more!” under the radar to make your offers and arguments irresistible? Let us know in the comments.

About the Author: Brian Clark is founder of Copyblogger and wants you to know that Thesis + Scribe = SEO Made Simple. Get more from Brian on Twitter.

Want to learn more persuasion techniques? Sign up for the Copyblogger newsletter. It’s free, and it’s the smartest way to get the very best advice about how to effectively market online.

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Comments

  1. I have started using this in my copy too ! I leave a bit of news for the next post, and tell them there is more coming soon ! it works :D

  2. Hey Chrome, thanks for the comment. I think that technique is more of a “cliffhanger” ending than a use of dirimens copulatio. But cliffhangers can be very effective to keep people engaged from post to post (I’ve been known to use those myself :) )

  3. I’ve never bought into this tactic but I guess it works, given that it’s been used almost as long as there’s been advertising. To me, it devalues the product and makes me think, well, then, one isn’t really NOT worth the incredible value of $19.95 because I know someone wants to make a profit, and if they’re giving two away with every one purchased, then each one is really only worth about $7.

    Of course, most of the buying public doesn’t think to begin with, which explains why one, they buy into such offers; and two, are as vulnerable to scams and crap products as they are.

    And why Billy Mays made so damn much money he could buy the cocaine that killed him.

  4. Who knew this goes back to the ancient Greeks and Romans? That certainly correlates with this post – What the Ancient Greeks Knew About Marketinghttp://bit.ly/a3zab4

    The term “dirimens copulatio” is also very interesting since, if you add an n to the last word, you’re basically revealing what the marketer is trying to do.

  5. Jules, my guess is you’ve bought into this tactic hundreds of times, but just not the way it’s used in infomercials. It’s used in political speeches, church sermons, novels, films, and perhaps by some of your savvy friends when they’re trying to convince you of something. ;)

  6. @Randy, you think? Is it the giving more value that you object to, or just the way it’s revealed?

    @Jules, I wonder if you might also be objecting to the failure to provide another copywriting cornerstone — a reason why they can offer the valuable product for less money. It might be that if they gave a plausible reason (for example, they have less overhead because they don’t operate a physical store), you would find it less irritating.

  7. I think one of the great things about the tactic is that by now everyone knows it’s a tactic and it still works.

    Of course, it’s not really the tactic so much as it is the value that’s given that works. If the “But wait there’s more” is bunch of crap, most folks are going to see right through it and move on.

  8. I love the Non-Cheesy applications! Thanks for the tips.

  9. Hm, I wonder about the root of ‘copulatio’ too. Is it about adding something to something? [/classicalnerdery]

    I probably do use this technique, but without being very aware of it. Interesting reason to NOT lead with your biggest benefit. Making a note of that one.

    @commenters: Why so literal?

  10. I always get sucked into the whole “but wait, there’s more” thing! As long as it’s not used in a slimy way (like instead of giving you just one of these thingamabobs, we’re throwing in 14 of them!) then I totally love it.

    It’s just building the case for why I should be buying it.

  11. Brian shares my love of finding non-slimy/non-cheezy ways to use selling techniques.

    @Nathalie, I agree. More goodies for me? Not a problem. :) And when the product is information/education, we can afford to be generous and really create ridiculous value for the buyer.

    @Willie, I like your classicalnerdery speculation.

  12. @Willie, copulatio is “coupling”, “joining”, “association”, or “combination”. (For what it’s worth, the sexual sense only dates back to the 15th century, although the non-sexual sense seems to have died out in the 19th.) Dirimens, if you’re curious, means “severing” or “separating”; it’s a participle from dirimo.

    It’s interesting (to me, anyway) that dirimens copulatio has come to mean “not only X, but also Y”; it seems originally to have meant “A figure by which one balances one statement with a contrary, qualifying statement” (http://rhetoric.byu.edu/figures/D/DIRIMENS%20COPULATIO-v.HTM), and its current use seems to be focused on the second statement as an intensifier to the first, not a contrary balance.

    But perhaps I’m overthinking. ;)

  13. Hm, checking to see if remarkable-copulatio.com is available. ;) Could be used for multiple purposes!

  14. @ Sonia – Or you could get all Web 2.0 and go with:

    remarkable.copulat.io

    http://www.nic.io/cgi-bin/whois?query=copulat.io&submit=Go

  15. Would this technique be the same as those posted all over grocery stores? 10 for $10 or Buy one get one free. Too many times I’ve seen ladies buying more stuff than necessary because it’s “on sale”. But seriously, do you even have enough people to eat all of those food you just bought before they go bad?

  16. Chris, that’s why I gave a usage example basen on both definitions of dc. I found the split in interpretations interesting as well, but if you think about it, they both stem from “not only this, but also…” It’s just that in the second case, the “also” is contrary or a qualification to amplify the initial instead of a bigger and better assertion.

  17. True enough, Brian. :)

  18. It’s cool you give a nod to the effectiveness of the Shamwow campaign…cheese works. Yes, of course it’s ridiculous, and yes of course it doesn’t rope in everyone on the planet. It’s not intended to do that. No effective marketing message is intended for everyone.

    It always makes me chuckle when people who aren’t in the target market discredit a campaign simply because they aren’t interested in buying it themselves :)

  19. @Tony, ha ha! Nice.

  20. Sonia Simone :

    @Christian, I totally wanted a Shamwow when I saw the ad. In fact, I still do. ;) (Apparently they didn’t create enough urgency to get me to make the click/call, tho.)

  21. The world seems a whole lot quieter without Billy Mays, doesn’t it? But then again, Third Tribe has Naomi. ;)

    Wendy

  22. I really do love the Sham Wow… It is everything they say it is and more… But wait… What I really like is the over dramatic cheesiness of the way the late night infomercial products are presented…

    I highly doubt the Sham Wow would have been as successful as it is if Ben Stein was the spokesman.

    On the other hand, it totally makes sense to incorporate dirimens copulatio into copy… Thanks for the tip…

  23. Hey Brian and Sonia!
    Great post as always. I am a beginner to IM and am starting still playing around with WordPress…huge learning curve on the tech side…but I’m getting there.

    I have been checking out CopyBlogger for a couple of weeks or two now and you guys are great. I got on both newsletters recently (yours to Sonia) and appreciate all the good info.

    Like one of the recent articles said “we all like to buy, but nobody likes to be sold”…or something close to that!

    I think the “Sham Wow” technique works because you get a small bite of buy in and then you can sell the whole hamburger.

  24. If you are constantly saying “but wait, there’s more”, aren’t you building expectations that there will always be more? Is it possible to always deliver on this? Aren’t unrealised expectations the root of customer disenchantment? Maybe this tool does work, but it concerns me that to always apply it means we are setting ourselves up for a fall, at some point, because in reality there’s only so much we can offer and if it’s not value for money, well it won’t continue to sell.

  25. Cherry, you never say “but wait there’s more” (in any form or fashion) unless you’ve actually got something more (either a bigger benefit or a strategic qualification). I wrote the article with that basic assumption in place.

  26. @JuleS
    The “Sham Wow” people didn’t want to sell one towel…they wanted to sell 3 towels.

    As you rightly said, the product had value of about $7 in your mind
    It probably costs 50 cents a towel wholesale.
    They kept out attention and got a little “buy in” with one towel…it had some value.

    We are thinking about if the “Sham Wow” is worth $19.95 because we are “pre-sold” at this point (or turned the channel).

    Then…BUT WAIT!
    If you were sniffing around at the bait…the hook just got set!

  27. @Cherry
    I think this lesson speaks to the customer appreciating a “value added service” …or product.

    You definitely want to employ the “under promise and over deliver” policy if you intend to keep your customer coming back.

    People want to buy, but hate to be sold.

    If you are truthful and employ time tested proven sales techniques, and over deliver on your product’s value (either real or perceived), then you don’t have to “sell” them next time =trust.

    That’s my story…and I’m stickin’ too it! :)

  28. JuleS,

    Look on the bright side. Informercial people determined that $19.95 is the price not to exceed. They’ve used the “but wait, there’s more, here’s another free one” so much people expect this now. So, In essence, the tactic you don’t like get’s the consumers an extra product within this price range if they ever decide to buy. If the product lasts a month, we now have two months worth of product.

  29. @ Sonia: From what I’ve heard in the mens’ room, you are one highly remarkable copulatio.

    Except, ahem, I was never in the mens’ room. Right. Never mind.

  30. Thanks for the article. It’s has explained a few things, not only that it is a technique that works but how to do it effectively.

    I’ve recently asked a few marketing people about this and the consensus was that yes it works but there is a cultural element. Here in NZ the technique works but you have to dial down the ‘cheese’ factor.

    Some thought about where your audience is located and what works in that society might be needed for those trying to reach a global audience.

    Cheers

  31. Loving the conversation here. I think that “But wait” line only works if it’s 2 in the morning and you’re eating Cheetos. It does surprise me that they still use these tactics. I like the idea of cliffhangers in blogs. Don’t know how effective they would be, but it would be an interesting study. I loved the cliffhangers in series growing up. Those were cool, and daring and dangerous. Sort of like the Miss Cleo commercials…

  32. Damn fine piece-o-work Brian.

    I believe I’ll go ahead and steal, er…, use this tactic, as used in the Third Tribe “Join” tab.

    That’s almost exactly the hook I was looking for, as I researched a way to make the prospect feel a wee bit superior to those who don’t take the bait, er…, I mean join ;-)

  33. The Tactic was much in use when you look at Clickbank products, they will give a bonus when you want to get out of the site.

  34. You all made such intelligent comments, I just had to throw in the one in bad taste. See, I think it’s really dangerous to use this wait there’s more method. I mean, just look at what happened to Vince the ShamWow guy (the guy in the photo with the yellow rag, for the two readers who don’t know)…

    http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/years/2009/0327092sham1.html

  35. @Naomi, I am giving you the look. No, not that look, the other one.

  36. @ Sonia:

    Noted.

  37. Seems like the Shamwow guy is inspiration for us all…
    http://www.carriewriterblog.com/2010/01/whats-your-marketing-style-and-can-you.html

  38. Heh, Carrie, nice! (I was going to leave a comment, but couldn’t remember my Google password.)

  39. It’s one of those powerful techniques that draws you in, hook, line and sinker – even when you know you’re being fished. The scarcity ploy always gets me too.

  40. Thanks Brian, Great post. Got more articles on effective persuasive writing?

  41. these tactics are good ..but don’t you think now a days people are more intelligent and they are aware of all this…may be not..

  42. I found a technique that works well when adding value to an e-book or information product:

    Take items that you are already including inside the product and list them as separate entitities in your bullets, such as “you will also get a report that lists the 10 ways to remove belly button lint,” where this was a chapter in your book.

    It breaks down your product into bite-sized pieces that your audience can understand and it really boosts the value without certain parts of your hard-written product getting lost in the shuffle after you spent so much time making it perfect for consumption.

    …but wait there’s even more.

    Anther thing that I like to do in my copy is to include parts of the original product as a free bonus if the product is big enough. It’s just changing the positioning of the product around a little, but if you are having trouble coming up with a bonus, this can be a very useful technique.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  43. Thanks Brian, many of the tactics we should use. “But wait, there’s more” is an interesting one as punctuation was never completed.

  44. I have to disagree with the “but wait, there’s more” naysayers. All good copy is some kind of building on this principle. If we didn’t need this kind of amplification, then our sales letters and emails could just be headlines and calls to action.

    Instead, we have to back our headlines up with more and more reasons to buy… whether it’s details about the product, testimonials, guarantees, bonuses, payment plans… they’re all ways of amplifying and proving the big promise in the headline.

    Thanks for the food for thought, Brian. And to the Copybloggeropolis for the thoughtful conversation here.

  45. Sonia Simone :

    @Sachin, I think every generation has said that about every copywriting technique under the sun. My take: a) human nature doesn’t change all that much, and b) you want to look for non-dopey ways to use the techniques.

  46. Hi Brian,

    This is useful technique and is much used (or abused?) in newsletters where only part of the post is revealed and you have to visit the site to read rest of the story. Not exactly the same as “but wait there is more” tactic, but based on same principles. One thing you have to be careful about when using this marketing strategy is that you give users something really worthwhile. Otherwise, it would be like some of those cheesy B-grade Hollywood thrillers which builds up suspense and then leaves you feeling like a fool.

    Good tip otherwise!

  47. My version :

    (in french) ” Et ce n’est pas tout ! ” which means : ” And it’s not only this… ” Then I offer something for ” free “.

    ;)

  48. I like your distinction of stack ranking your arguments … it’s important to come across as progressive, otherwise, it’s what we call the “buckshot” approach (that didn’t work, so let’s try this …)

  49. I am a Third Triber and I am learning a lot about what makles content work in thsi market. It is a very different view from what I have been trained into as a professional journalist, that is giving all the hottest information first and then going into some detail, but indeed it is very close to romance writing and it is closer to the emotional response you would expect from people. So it makes definitely sense, and being Italian I can’t argue with the Romans :)

  50. I’d just like it noted that the Shamwow guy is possibly my favorite internet photo meme, with the possible exception of Kanye West telling various people, objects, and meats to “lemme finish.”

  51. Sorry, that’s “Imma let you finish.” I’m a disgrace to these proud memes.

  52. G’day Brian,
    One of the things i most enjoy about Copyblogger is that you respect the best of the past.
    Recently i saw Tony Bennett interviewed on TV by Elvis Costello. Tony said “You have to go back to go forward.”
    He was talking about music. It applies just as much to sales and marketing.
    But wait; there’s more! Nothing is so important as the proper execution of the fundamentals.
    OK; OK” I’ll stop now.
    Best Wishes

    Leon

  53. jodi from new jersey :

    Thank you for all of your interesting advice.I am just about to start a blog. I’m afraid. Maybe this is number 11 for “how to become a better writer”. Write when you’re scared out of your mind. As far as the” wait, there’s more” idea, it makes me think of fashion. A peek of cleavage on a woman is sometimes more alluring than when everything is hanging out.

  54. On the internet, especially for the first time visitors, I wonder whether people will have patience to read through it all and ride the tide of progressive positioning.

    Isn’t it about giving them what they are looking for quickly and easily to “keep” them?

    This will make a nice A/B test to see how it plays out.

    I am definitely intrigued though. I never thought about it before.

    Does anyone have any real web experiences to share on this? I would love to hear more on that.

    -Deven

  55. This makes me think of the Home and Garden show I attended with my wife last weekend. More than once one of the people demoing a product said “I’ll tell you what I’m going to do….” and then tosses in a whole boatload of stuff to make it an unfair offer.

    It cracks me up because it is so cliche, but it’s amazing how well it works.

  56. Doesn’t the ShamWow guy also promote the little chopper thingy? I’ve seen that commercial dozens of times. I don’t recall the name of the little chopper thingy, but I remember how he throws Brand X over his shoulder without looking and it lands right into the sink! Makes me smile every time!

    And again he uses that copulation syndrome. You not only get the LCThingy BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE, you also get the little CHEESE chopper thingy. Talk about cheesy. Man, I need to get out more.

  57. You’re right Brian — I/we “buy into it” in many situations in life!

  58. Mike Botvinik :

    Very interesting approach. There may be more practical ways to use this, however. Dirimens Copulatio is a very fancy name for this, but, we all know this is just a variation on the old bait and switch. Build it up, Build it up til the point where they’re interested but don’t think they can afford it- then you switch and make it so valuable they cant afford NOT to buy it. Classic. Definitely will be using this in my copy this week.

  59. I saw an infomercial once that began trying to sell a knife (supposedly a very high quality one) for $50. Slowly, they started adding on additional knives – 4 steak knives, a paring knife, a cleaver, scissors, etc., until an hour later, it was a 40-something piece set for the same price. I was thinking about it, and suddenly, they said “But wait! If you order now, we’ll DOUBLE YOUR ORDER! That’s right, you’ll get TWO x-number sets of knives for only $49.99!!!!!”
    I totally bought it.

  60. That’s right, that tactic is still used because it still works – there are many tactics like it. I’ve also seen many selling strategies offering with two alternatives: one is a decoy (the lower price) and the other is the real deal (the one higher price but with more value for the price and of course will let you save more money). But that’s marketing -and they still working.