Imagine overhearing two people argue about pineapple pizza in the middle of a Walmart.
Person 1: “I hate pineapple pizza, it’s gross.”
Person 2: “Oh, so you’re saying you hate toppings on your pizza?”
Person 1: “No, I just said—”
Person 2: “Hey, Joe, did you hear that? This guy hates pizza toppings!”
Person 2’s argument is riddled with the false dilemma fallacy, which is when someone limits the number of options they present.
The false dilemma is one example of “X and Y” principles, in which people often only consider two options out of many.
Here are three more:
1. Denying the antecedent. People assume that if X -> Y, then they can’t have Y without first doing X. Yes, it’s a fallacy, but it’s damn effective in marketing if you use it well.
2. Affirming the consequent. People often assume there is only one explanation for an outcome.
For example, if you tell somebody that 90% of productive teams use Slack, they will likely assume that Slack is the reason why these teams are productive. You can use this all the time in your copy.
3. Circular logic. This is when you derive your conclusion from a premise based on your conclusion.
For example, if you’re selling a cleaning product, circular logic would be saying something like, “our counter cleaning spray is great because it’s designed specifically to clean your counter”.
People often believe this sort of logic.
If these are logical fallacies, does that mean they’re bad? From a marketer’s perspective, no.
If you want to convince people to buy things, you need to understand how people think—and most of us think in fallacies like the ones above.