It’s Easy To Promise The Impossible (Lessons from Frankenweenie)

by Nick Gillick

Last updated on December 28th, 2017

The other week I was watching the animated remake of “Frankenweenie”—a favorite film from my childhood—and it got me thinking about a mistake marketers often make.

Before I reveal this marketing mishap, let me share what happened in the film that brought it to mind.

In the film, a young boy’s dog—aptly named Sparky—gets run over by a car while chasing a ball. He then goes on to build a Frankenstein-like contraption and brings Sparky back to life.

After keeping his frankenweenie dog a secret as long as possible, his father finds out and tells the young boy it was a really bad idea. In response, the boy said, “But you said if there was anything that could be done to bring Sparky back that you would do it!”

The boy’s dad looked amazed and said, “I know I did … but, it’s easy to promise the impossible.

Never make an unbelievable promise

The idea that someone could reanimate a pet is pretty unbelievable, right?

Well, the father thought he was making a promise he would never have to deliver on. He meant well but, when you think about it, it’s a hollow promise that really says nothing.

A crucial element in your copy—whether you’re selling a product or a service—is the “big promise” you make to your potential customer.

However, finding a strong promise that will convince potential customers to buy can be a bit tricky.

A big promise must do these things:

  • Connect emotionally with the reader.
  • Promise to fulfill the readers’ desire.
  • Be believable and tangible.
  • Make sense.
  • Relate directly to the product or service.
  • Be the first thing the potential customer reads.
  • Be compelling enough to capture the reader’s attention without being outrageous or unbelievable.

How do you find your “big promise”?

Start by asking these 3 questions:

  1. What problem are you solving for your target market?
  2. What fears, concerns, or desires do they have that you can help with?
  3. What benefits of your product or service will solve their problem or fulfill their desires?

See the common thread? It’s “you” oriented, all about the customer.

Unfortunately, if you don’t have a good answer for these questions, it may be difficult to market your product or service.

Don’t be discouraged, however … This just means you need a value-added benefit that makes what you’re selling more tempting and gives you something extra you can promise.

The challenge is to keep it real

For an example, let’s look at a headline from a real landing page that makes some unbelievable claims. This is for a real estate investing e-book that claims to reveal investment secrets that can make you rich.
In the copy, before the writer even introduces himself, he actually admits that most people will disregard those figures as unbelievable. And it’s true: I find the claim highly improbable. It was likely a “once-in-a-lifetime” occurrence that’s virtually impossible to recreate.

While the marketer isn’t directly promising that a $17,000 investment will become a $4 million dollar payout, he is making a promise.

The question is, what is he promising?

In my opinion he’s not promising anything real. Instead, he’s letting the readers come to their own conclusions. It’s a hollow promise. “Buy this program and you might be able to do this, too.” Yes, the headline is an attention grabber, but without a realistic promise, most people will likely tune out.

Later on, he even admits that his “promise” is pretty unreasonable. This sentence (in the graphic below) was taken directly from the same sales letter—as a sub-headline in bold type!

no faith statement

Some realistic promises he could use in that promotion are:

  • I’ll reveal the closely guarded secrets of successful real estate investors.
  • Use these real estate investment strategies to make big profits.
  • You’ll learn everything you need to know to successfully invest in real estate.

Any of these could have made a great promise—and would have been far more believable. The gigantic, unbelievable claims used in the headline would be better used as proof, not the promise for the product.

A realistic promise builds trust

Here’s another headline that makes a promise.


Okay, so what’s the big promise the marketer is making for his product?

If you said, “You can survive 95% of physical confrontations with my program,” (or something similar) you’re right.

Of course the promise could be worded or understood differently by each person who reads it. But the general idea for the promise should be fairly universal. It’s important to make a big promise that people will instantly understand.

It also helps that the marketer uses some great power words to make his promise more believable. “Simple, Honest and Effective” are emotional trigger words that help people believe the claims made by the promise.

The Big Promise Formula

Finding the best “big promise” for your product or service takes a lot of brainstorming and practice.

Here’s a formula you can use and adapt to help you find your big promise:

(Their Problem) + (Your Product) * (Your Benefit) = Solution

That’s the real key to the big promise …

Find the problem you’re solving and position your product as the best possible solution. Just remember to keep the promise believable for the best results.

When you’re not making the promise believable you may come across as unethical, or that you’re trying to scam the potential customer. But a big promise that is built on the formula above will immediately position you as someone that has a solution to their problems.

The proper promise also builds trust, and very few people will purchase from someone that they don’t trust.

What’s your big promise? Is there anything I missed? Comment below to join the discussion.

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Nick Gillick

Nick Gillick is a copywriter, developer, and marketer working with Christina Gillick at His focus is on developing long-lasting relationships between the consumer and the marketer. Outside of copywriting and marketing his passion is emergency preparedness and you can read more about it on his blog:


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