During one of the boring, unintentionally comical conference calls I had to attend last week, as we discussed marketing efforts, a colleague busted out with, “It’s like ‘sell the hole, not the nail.'”
I could hear the blank stares buzzing through my phone line.
“You know it’s one of those sayings. Like, ‘you don’t sell the sizzle, you sell the steak,'” she explained.
In a way, “sell the hole, not the nail” is like “you don’t sell the sizzle, you sell the steak.” In that they both don’t make any sense.
But the real saying, as folks pointed out, was: “You don’t sell the steak, you sell the sizzle.” But what the saying should be, I think, is that the sizzle sells the steak. Or else the steak salesman does.
I think the really real saying, getting back to nails and holes, and what my coworker may have picked up somewhere and meant to say, must be: “You don’t sell the shovel, you sell the hole.”
This would mean, you don’t sell the product, you sell what you can do with it. Like, hey aren’t holes great? I mean wouldn’t you like to have a hole? Well, buy my shovel and dig your own hole!
But it doesn’t work with the nail/hole metaphor. Hey, wouldn’t you really like a small hole in your wall? Doesn’t your wall need a series of small, deep holes? Well, poke your own holes with my patented nail!
Isn’t it just like marketing to teach people marketing with semi-catchy phrases that have no real meaning? In that spirit, let’s have a marketing-aphorism contest.
It goes like this: “Sell the _____, not the _____. Because/Unless _____.”
Like, “Sell the steak, not the cow. Unless it’s a farmer buying.”
Like that. But funny. Or else just play Mad Libs with the blanks.