Effective Advertising and the Law of Exclusion

Your business is defined principally by what-you-sell or what-you-do. Are these the only things you talk about in your advertising?

May I suggest that you are also defined by what you won’t do or sell, by what you exclude.

The principle of exclusion conveys that you’ve drawn a line in the sand, and you stand on just one side of it. You don’t try to straddle both sides. You’re not all things to all people.

The contrast sets you apart. It helps consumers to understand with greater clarity what your business or brand is all about. Those who identify with you are more likely to do business with you.

Here’s a great example:

Carl owns a repair shop called Imported Car Service (ICS). He specializes in servicing, maintaining, and repairing imported cars. Over the years, Carl has recorded dozens of radio commercials, most of which have been written to provide his customers with valuable tips and tricks to add to their driving pleasure and to help reduce their cost of ownership.

But this spot does something else. It tells owners of domestic brands that ICS isn’t interested in working on those particular vehicles, because all of their time, effort, and infrastructure is poured into serving the needs of import car owners. Telling you what they won’t do makes their advertising more credible and effective, as Carl himself will tell you.


We’ve had a lot of dark skies and rain in recent weeks. When there’s a sliver of clear sky in the west at sunset, the rays of the setting sun seem to intensify, casting a fiery glow on objects underneath the canopy of dark clouds. This view of the WSU skyline caught my attention on just such an evening. If the light had been evenly distributed overhead the scene wouldn’t have been as interesting. But set against a backdrop of darkness (the exclusion of light), it really pops.

Just like your advertising, right?

For those who read to the end, a gift.

About Rod Schwartz

Rod Schwartz backed into a lifelong career in radio advertising in 1973 in Springfield, Illinois. He joined the Pullman (Wash.) Radio Group in 1979, where he worked until his retirement at the end of 2022. Since 1991, Rod and his family have operated Grace Broadcast Sales (GraceBroadcast.com), providing short-form syndicated radio features to radio and TV stations across the U.S. and Canada. Rod also operates an independent advertising, marketing, and communications consultancy for small business owners and professionals, FirstStrikeAdvertising.com. An avid photographer, Rod shares some of his favorite images of the Palouse at PalousePics.com and on his Viewbug gallery.
This entry was posted in Advertising (General), Branding, Business, Communication, Copy, Copywriting, Demonstration (demo) tapes, Positioning and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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