How to Sell Broccoli to a Kid

I share a personal story about my nephew Canen's stubborn eating habits and how a simple family visit turned into a lesson on persuasion and change.

Miguel Facussé
April 19, 2024

A silent war was brewing at my sister’s house. Her second child, Canen, a proud and competitive spirit standing at a whopping 3 feet tall and 5 years of age, refused to eat anything other than white rice. I mean it… he wanted rice for breakfast, rice for lunch, and rice for dinner. My sister had made rice a few weeks back, a side dish that trumped every other dish she had ever made. It was deliciously good and she was quite proud to see repeats. Little did she know that this holiest of dinners would lead to complete and blind devotion to the grain. It quickly became his main source of caloric intake.

Every so often, Canen would agree to accompany the rice with some meat, but you’d be amiss if we dared to mix it with anything of extravagance like carrots or broccoli. The mere suggestion of such colorful nutrition led to horrific tantrums that got my sister and her husband seriously preoccupied with this new addiction of his. They had to get him off the rice.

Having been a salesman for most of my life, I’ve come to realize that stubbornness doesn’t always have a logical explanation. Canen lived in a happy home, albeit riddled with the daily struggles of close-quarter living. His older brother, Cruz, was also the eldest son. Cruz was almost twice his age, twice his size, and frequently took advantage of his clear physical advantages to cater to his needs. This showed prominence in the way they handled themselves, from first choice in toys to clear winners in any race. They were deeply competitive, and this was quite the source of frustration for Canen.

I had heard about this issue in the group chats, and when I came over for a weekend visit, I saw it first hand. I studied both subjects carefully, and although Cruz happily ate more balanced meals, he never really thought about it too much, nor did he realize the benefits they might bring long term. He had no reason to dive deeper into the topic of nutrition, nor was I going to try and enforce a healthier diet. Canen, on the other hand, was on his way to a nutrition deficiency. Something had to be done immediately.

I had always played the all-knowing uncle with deep insights on everything from the moon landings to the creative possibilities of their Apple devices. I had established myself as an authoritative guide in their lives, and they respected my opinion. I was their mentor, and proudly so. But any attempt to bring up the health benefits of green foods led to blank stares and low-pitched growling. Why wasn’t this working? Rice barely has any flavor, so that benefit certainly won’t speak to him, at least not in any way he’ll care about.

On our first dinner that weekend, I made my first stab at the sale. The product: mixed vegetables. I went deep into the science of vitamins, minerals, and their roles in the body. I pounded the benefits with all my might, from stronger bones, bigger muscles, and clearer thinking. They were quickly dismissed as I found myself talking to the wall. I had lost the sale.

As the kids got ready for bed, they ran through their usual shenanigans. As the oldest won his usual race to the room, I noticed Canen was sad, frustrated, and deeply conflicted about the results. How was he to ever beat his older brother that kept getting bigger and bigger despite narrowing the gap on the monthly height measurements leaderboard?

I thought to myself: “Eureka.”

The next day, I noticed the same behavior and started planning for my next attempt at the sale. Dinner time came, and as he patiently waited for his rice, I started my pitch.

“Canen, I know how you can beat Cruz.”

His eyes blew wide open.

“How?” he asked loudly, but also discretely so as to not divulge the new secret he was about to discover.

“You know how when you eat rice, you run really slow and you can’t beat Cruz?”

“YES” he rushed to say as he spit grains all over the table.

“When you eat rice, it enters your body and it goes into your belly. You see how it’s very heavy like a rock?” I explained as I proceeded to create rather dramatic demonstrations of rice ingestion and heavy objects.

“Mmmmm yea” he said.

“So when you eat rice, your body gets very heavy and it loses its power.”

I was losing him.

“Well, rice makes it very hard to beat Cruz.”

Got him.

Now he looked at me with deep interest, sitting quietly as everyone else stood in suspense. I had to capitalize on the moment, and as I looked around to find the closest edible vegetable, I found a tray full of avocados and grabbed one with perfect ripeness. He had never eaten an avocado, so I was pushing my luck.

“You see, when you eat SUPER FOODS like avocado, they enter your body and become energy that makes you RUN FASTER THAN CRUZ.”

By now, his legs were swinging wildly.

“All you need to do is eat half of this avocado.”

I cut it in half and added salt so as the decrease the chances of rejection.

“You see this number on the tag? 4032, Made in Mexico. That’s the power level. Cruz is only at 100.”

“HA HA HA” he laughed mockingly as he pointed at Cruz. He knew numbers well.

I received a standing ovation that night. Canen ate the entire avocado and even mixed it in with his chicken. Cruz was barred from having any avocado that night so as to not allow him to attain these super powers.

Canen ran around all night, showing clear demonstrations of his new speed, talking about his new belief system and deep appreciation for the new product he had just purchased. It also helped that Cruz agreed to run a bit slower and play along.

Nonetheless, I decided to push my luck even further.

“You know, Canen, CANDY MAKES YOU SLOWER TOO. That sweet stuff you taste eats your muscles and makes them smaller so you CAN’T RUN FASTER THAN CRUZ.”

“Momma, no more candy; never ever” he shouted.

“Broccoli makes you jump higher than Cruz too” I continued as I doubled down.

“Momma, make me broccoli tomorrow” he added in a demanding voice.

“Holy shit” was uttered numerous times, aimed at me of course. His parents were in complete awe as I hit the mother of all jackpots.

You see, I had found Canen’s villain and biggest source of frustration. My product was the solution to his deepest fears, his source of night sweats, and his daily ego-busting struggles. But why was the biggest benefit for the family not a viable sales proposition? Healthy food suddenly tasted great and vegetables were now present on every meal, but these are benefits everyone clearly took for granted. Your typical brands loves to focus on these and fails to find the language that truly speaks to the reader’s heart.

I'm sharing this story to make you realize something: the power of impactful words is already within you, ready to be unleashed. You just need the right tools and techniques. I've spent years fine-tuning these methods through careful testing and refinement. They've been incredibly effective for me, and I believe they can make a big difference for you too.

When it comes to learning, there's no one right or wrong way, but teaching is different. It's more about finding the best approach. The human brain is incredibly complex, and we might never fully understand it through science alone. However, we all have a natural understanding of how people think and feel. This ‘common sense’ is more than just intuition; it's our shared human experience—our empathy, our connections, and our cautiousness about what we don't know.

Copywriting sits at the intersection of this natural understanding and the structured world of persuasion. Sometimes research points us in one direction, but our instincts suggest another. The best copywriters know when to follow the data and when to trust their instincts. My agency is here to help you develop your ability to choose the right approach at the right time.