“Absolute WORST Instruction Manual…IN ALL GALAXIES!” — (Marketing Incite #519 Included)

16 July Thurs 2020, 9:12 am — Thomas Lekhanya

Can you imagine someone jumping out of bed to go write manuals?


Neither can I.

Surely that’s why some (I imagine self-hating) guy almost had me tearing my dreads out as I walked up and down trying to something figure out in the manual I was reading.

It did, however, reveal an advertising incite I later saw in an ad written by an advertising legend.

Find out how…

***THE HEAT***

“This is for you,” said my mother.

Prior to the South African level 5 lockdown I moved back to my mom’s to get back on my feet (not because I’m now a loser, oh SHIT am? AM I??? NOOOO!!). I didn’t financially prepare for emergencies (i.e. having six to twelve months of savings) and thus corona humbled me.

“You got another heater?” I responded shaking my head as I picked it up, “and for how much did you get it for?” added the recently-acquired indigenct part of myself.

“Uhhh, four hundred and something,” she reflected.

Since we already had two electrical heaters and one gas on the indigence calculated the opportunity cost of the purchase.

“Yeah I think you wasted your money,” I concluded.

She said my smaller, old heater didn’t look like it worked properly (even though I use it daily with no hassles).

She reasoned that, “at least we’ll have a backup in case one of them breaks, you know,”

Fair point.

I mean…there’s only six weeks left of winter maaa!

(Was that a low key diss to his mother??? Yes it was. She’d laugh too, okay. She’s cool like that!)

Anyway, I wanted to test drive it.

I tore open the box and pulled it out. It was white, rectangular and had three transparent tubes which the picture shows are meant to turn red eventually.

Being a responsible adult I am (sometimes), I read the instruction manual because she’d casually mentioned it used water.

I quickly skimmed it looking for the word “water” to avoid having the dry corporatese hurt my brain…but didn’t find it.

Okay, second try. I read more slowly.

Still nothing.

I was getting twitchy.

Flipped it back to the front page and I tried a third time.




I threw the worthless paper in the box, picked up the heater and noticed near the hole on top writing saying, “DO NOT USE WITHOUT WATER.”

Well thanks bruh, ‘preciate it…

Just uhh, how MUCH water exactly, huh

(And, I just realized now, where was that little jug thing…isn’t it meant to come with one for pouring???)

The heater had open spaces for what I assumed helped ventilation, so I was wary of pouring water inside…

For about ten seconds.

Fuck it.

I grabbed my glass water bottle while still holding the heater and poured.

Twenty seconds later the heater I get I jump up confused and surprised.

I later saw where the water was leaking from.

The heater turned out to have a limiter and a hole that, if surpassed, released a stream of water that made it look like someone hiding inside it was taking a piss.

Again…I ‘preciate it bruh.

Seeing that there were liquids in the machinery, I plugged it in, paused for a moment. And switched it on and it started gurgling from the water heating up.

Didn’t see THAT in the manual.

It at least worked.

With the room still luke warm twenty minutes later I came to the conclusion that the heater’s big size was inversely proportional to the heat it produced.


As you probably saw, the user manual lacked basic instructions and user clarity.

No mention of the where to pour water, how much, what to look for to avoid pouring too much…Nothing.

Clear communication is a conscious skill.

I’ve seen my people stumble with this.

But seeing it in others is easier than in yourself.

In a previous sales job, one of my colleagues was meticulous about removing as much ambiguity as possible when communicating.

On many occasions I told him something I assumed was clear but turned out not to be after he had to ask for more details. He helped reveal blind spots I had.

I guess you can see where I’m leading with this in terms of advertising.

The importance of ensuring the person you’re trying to persuade truly understands what you’re your message and what actions to take.

That’s what I saw the late legendary ad master Gary Halbert do in an ad I studied last night (after my heater ordeal).

Towards the end of the ad, he very detailed EXACTLY what actions the reader must take in the clearest and most straight forward way imaginable.

He even repeats himself.

Anyway, that’s the incite that stuck in my mind.

Can you think back of your own instances of low clarity in an ad?

-Thomas Lekhanya

Edit: Changed the typo in the first sentence.

Copywriter | Internet Advertiser | JHB, South Africa