Would a big league glove give you confidence?

September 8th, 2011 18 comments

One of my all-time favorite advertisements was for baseball gloves.

I remember seeing it in the back of comic books, alongside ads for things like sea monkeys, X-ray glassesant farms, and Charles Atlas. (Yes, I’m really that old.)

Would a big league glove give you confidence?It asked you six questions about yourself, and if you answered four or more of them “YES” then you needed to get a Wilson pro model major league glove.

I started searching for the ad on the Internet in 1999 when I wanted to use it to make a point in Don’t Make Me Think, but I couldn’t find a copy until just a few months ago.

The problem turned out to be defective memory. It actually wasn’t in comic books at all, but in Boys’ Life, the Boy Scout magazine. (I was never a scout, but my brother was, and I loved reading Boys’ Life.)

The ad has stuck in my mind all these years because of the last question: Would a big league glove give you confidence? Somehow, this always struck me as advertising at its very best. I don’t think a month ever goes by without me thinking of that phrase in one context or another. (Seriously.)

But now that I look at it as an adult who’s been subjected to a lifetime of advertising, I can see that the whole thing was brilliant.

If you read it, you’ll see that they hook you right away by feeding you two softball (no pun intended) questions that you can answer without a moment’s thought: Do you play ball at least three times a week? and Are you a member of an organized team? It reminds me of one of BJ Fogg’s brilliant points about what it really takes to change a behavior: start with small, dead-easy steps (to paraphrase badly).

Then they appeal to the dreamer in you (what I suppose we’d call aspirational now): Would you like a major league career? Again, who has to think about it? Who wouldn’t like a career in major league baseball–even then, when it paid a tiny fraction of what it does now?

Then the questioners establish their own credibility by acknowledging that this isn’t just going to happen magically: Are you willing to devote long hours of practice to baseball? These are clearly smart, knowledgeable, worldly-wise people. And in return for a career in the majors, even long hours sound like a small price to pay. After all, how long can “long hours” be? I already practice a lot.

Then they turn to practical considerations: Is your old glove worn out or too small? “How do they know these things about me,” you wonder? Of course you need a new glove. How could you possibly hope to get to the majors with that hand-me-down you’re using now? What a ridiculous idea. Buying a new glove clearly isn’t just some frivolous expenditure; it’s an investment in your now-almost-certain future in professional baseball.

And finally, the killer: Would a big league glove give you confidence? In your heart of hearts, it’s suddenly crystal-clear to you: like the Tin Man, all you really need, all that’s actually been standing between you and the seventh game of a World Series, is some confidence.

This is followed by the incredibly understated, casual, there’s-nothing-to-it call to action. Not “Tell your father that you really, really need a new glove,” but Ask your Dad to help you select a Wilson pro model glove [when he takes you on your next heartwarming father-son trip to] your sporting goods store. Of course Dad will help you pick one out. What father wouldn’t?

Notice, not a word anywhere about competitive brands, price, features, or even why a Wilson pro glove is so good.

Sheer genius, in my book.

So, in the same spirit (only without the genius part), here’s my “Should you attend one of Steve Krug’s usability testing workshops?” quiz:

Cartoon of would-be testers
CHECK YOUR

STANDING HERE
  Yes No
Do you currently run usability tests three or more times a year?    
Would you (and your boss) be happy if you could learn how to do testing faster and cheaper and still get the results you need?    
Do your tests often uncover serious problems that don’t get fixed anyway?    
Are you willing to devote one day to learning how to do testing, or improving your existing skills?    
If you don’t do any testing, would you like to?    
Are you hoping to someday have the words “user experience” or “usability” in your job title?    
Would you win more usability-related arguments around the office if you could say things like, “Well, that’s the way Steve Krug told me we should do it”?    
Can you manage to get to Washington DC on Sept. 7,
Seattle on Sept. 27, or London on Oct. 6?
   
Would spending a day with Steve Krug learning
how to do testing give you confidence?
   
If you checked “YES” to three or more questions, then you’re ready for a Steve Krug workshop. Print out the workshop page and leave it on your boss’s desk with a cheerful  note that says something like “I could do this in Seattle on the 27th. Only $495.”

P.S. Early registration for Seattle and London ends tomorrow (Sept. 9th).

  1. chel
    September 12th, 2011 at 21:21 | #1

    Have you got any plans for workshops in Australia/NZ?

  2. September 13th, 2011 at 02:55 | #2

    …And what about another one in Copenhagen? It is suuuuch a nice city ;-)…

  3. Steve Krug
    September 13th, 2011 at 15:48 | #3

    I would love to go to both (Copehangen and AU/NZ). Have wanted to for years; just hard to work out for various reasons. (No, not my criminal record.)

    Maybe next year? Maybe?

  4. September 13th, 2011 at 15:57 | #4

    We just had our major UX conference at Tel Aviv, Israel (UXI Live 2011). http://johnnyholland.org/2011/09/09/uxi-live-2011%E2%80%94day-1/. Russ Unger and Whitney Hess gave talks. It was amazing! Next one’s at June. Hope to see you there :-)

  5. Carolyn Snyder
    September 13th, 2011 at 16:22 | #5

    Love this article! A refreshing reminder that this “persuasive” thing we think we invented has been around for a long time.

    What kind of glove did your dad buy you? :-)

  6. Steve Krug
    September 13th, 2011 at 18:02 | #6

    Carolyn Snyder :

    What kind of glove did your dad buy you? :-)

    Ha! Would that life had been quite that Ozzie-and-Harriett-esque. My brother had two (a Rawlings first baseman’s and a Wilson outfielder’s), and we “shared” them. (He was a very good guy.)

  7. chel
    September 13th, 2011 at 21:16 | #7

    @Steve Krug
    2012 would be great! I’ve budgeted for a workshop, and of course your workshop would be my first choice! *hoping persuasive sucking-up will work* ;)

  8. September 18th, 2011 at 18:26 | #8

    The addition of the left border to your “Yes” column is a big improvement. :)

  9. Steve Krug
    September 18th, 2011 at 18:50 | #9

    Ed Mullen :

    The addition of the left border to your “Yes” column is a big improvement. :)

    It’s nice to think we’ve learned something in the last 50 years….

  10. Paul
    September 26th, 2011 at 11:20 | #10

    Steve, you missed the whole point of the genius in the Wilson ad; their ad was purely generic. Wilson wasn’t mentioned in any of the questions. And, as you mentioned, the kids were doing these things anyway. Everyone who is interested in Usability isn’t going to Washington D.C. already.

    Your checklist actually had the opposite effect on me- It was so obviously a ruse, it turned me off. – Also, there were too many questions – AND, IT MADE ME THINK too much!!
    Instead (and this is just off the top of my head, my suggestions need to be refined)

    1. Do you often uncover usability issues?
    2. Would you like to make better design decisions?
    3. Do u ever see a design issue but can’t succinctly articulate the usability flaw?
    4. Would a greater knowledge of usability techniques and vocabulary give u the confidence to better express yourself, and make better design decisions?

    If you checked yes to any of these questions you are ready for a usability seminar.

    And then, mention your seminar and other competitors as well. After all, the sporting goods store will not just have Wilson, but you want them to see the competition and still pick you.

    -Paul

  11. September 26th, 2011 at 19:45 | #11

    @Paul
    I think you missed the part where I said “So, in the same spirit (only without the genius part)…”.

  12. Peggy
    October 18th, 2011 at 09:45 | #12

    I know very little about baseball… but isn’t that the Wilson logo on the little boy’s cap? If so, this ad becomes even more remarkable for its brilliant subtlety.

  13. Alan
    November 1st, 2011 at 20:52 | #13

    Peggy – the image in the article is a cutaway – click on it to see the full ad – it’s not that subtle.
    Steve – Australia seconded – but it’s a big country…..

    Alan in Cairns.

  14. Steve Krug
    January 9th, 2012 at 20:10 | #14

    This is a non-threaded reply.

  15. Alan
    January 9th, 2012 at 20:37 | #15

    @Steve Krug
    Dang – I was looking for something thresded.

  16. scooter
    March 25th, 2012 at 12:49 | #16

    The add works well when directed toward a niche market, but surely good usability design is inclusive (no one gets to escape).

  17. N
    November 11th, 2012 at 15:22 | #17

    @Carolyn Snyder
    C – I like the way you think!
    S – Does either of you still havr the gloves?

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