Act 3 - The Twist
Remember how every new electronic device came with the label “charge before use.”
You don’t see it anymore.
That’s down to Apple.
When the iPod was released, every product carrying batteries had that sticker.
And as former Apple designer Tony Fadell puts it, it spoiled the buying experience:
"I can't believe it! I just spent all this time buying this product, and now I have to charge before use."
Up to that point, every consumer had experienced that pain and every manufacturer had included that sticker, but nobody thought to do anything about it.
We were so used to it we were blind to it.
Until Steve Jobs.
He noticed and didn’t like it. So, he ensured that every iPod was fully charged before it was packed and shipped.
And now, with all that excitement pumping through their veins, the customer could tear open the packaging and start using the product instantly.
It’s those small details that generate so much Apple love.
And this type of observation was a Steve Jobs superpower.
But he wasn’t alone.
All successful comedians, founders, and designers have it too.
They pay attention
“Have you ever had milk the day after the date? Scares the hell out of you, doesn’t it? The spoon is trembling as it comes out of the bowl. ‘It’s after the day! I’m taking a big chance! I smelled it, you smelled it. What is it supposed to smell like? It smelled like milk to me.’ I don’t know how they’re so definite, though. Maybe the cows tip them off when they’re milking them.” - Jerry Seinfeld
What should good milk smell like?
How can they be so sure when it’s gonna go off?
They're questions we've never thought too hard about, but now that Jerry mentions it, we recognise them.
It’s observational humour at its best.
It’s an aha moment - that’s what makes it funny.
And it’s what connects people like Jobs and Seinfeld.
They pay attention to the everyday stuff that we don't, and when they mention it, it resonates.
Because we noticed it, we just weren't paying attention.
But, whilst it’s a trait of all elite creators, it’s not exclusive to them.
You'll be using it in our next section of the story.
Because every good consultant trades in aha moments
In the previous Act, your hero was battling the monster, but like Batman in The Dark Night, they misunderstand that monster, which means they’ve misdiagnosed the problem.
Subsequently, they’re failing, and that failure is painful.
Here’s where the observational stuff comes in.
In Act 3, you’ll share the true root cause of the problem through your diagnosis.
It’ll trigger an aha moment in your audience. Your prospect will think, “Of course, how did I not see this before.”
I call this section The Twist.
And here’s why it’s so important.
If there's no twist, there's no story and no need for you
All stories hinge on moments of unexpected change.
In a story like ours (overcoming the monster), that change happens when all seems lost.
Just when we think the monster will prevail, our hero turns it around.
They finally understand the monster when they are up close and in the clutches of defeat.
And now that they understand the monster, they know what they need to do to defeat it.
It’s a consultant delivering the diagnosis at the opportune moment.
Act 3 - The Twist
Let’s continue with the example in previous emails.
In her TED talk, Zoë Karl-Waithaka is selling the following idea: How marketing could improve the lives of African farmers.
Let’s look at the third section of her presentation. The Twist:
- Farmers are part of the equation. They supply food.
- But obviously, we know the other part of the equation is demand. In other words, in addition to sending seeds and fertilizer, we need to send them advertising geniuses.
- What’s interesting about dairy in the US is that the industry works together to promote milk drinking. They have a little help from the government (milk in schools). You go to school, you taste something, it’s a good price, you keep getting it.
- This creates a whole category of consumers, and it gives farmers a constant market in which to sell what they grow. You can’t create a product if you don’t know there’s gonna be constant demand for it in the market.
(I paraphrased some of the above for brevity).
Here’s the structure of this section:
That's how you build The Twist
You can see the twist happens when Zoe contrasts her hero's misdiagnosis of the problem (supply) with the real root cause of the pain (demand).
She then gives a short example of a company similar to her hero (US dairy) who approached the problem with this new diagnosis and how this helped them achieve the desired outcome (a constant market).
One last thing
Zoë works as a consultant to NGOs, and I guess that one reason for giving this TED talk is to try and win new clients. But you'll notice she hasn't referenced any of her work with NGOs.
She wasn't behind the US Milk marketing campaign, and it doesn't matter because Acts 1 to 3 are solely about persuading the audience of your diagnosis of the problem.
So, it helps if the example here is one that they’re likely to recognise (everyone knows ‘Got milk?’)
Once they accept our diagnosis, we sell them on your ability to deliver the solution.
That's in the next article. Act 4 - The Process.