Article: Spot The Five Lightbulbs in the Wild

Once you see The Five Lightbulbs, you can’t unsee them. It’s fun how after teaching the framework, people will write me and say, “I’m seeing the Lightbulbs everywhere now!”

But it’s not surprising considering the nature of the 5L. They’re not made up. They actually exist. Not in a scientific way, but in the sense that they’re part of the human experience. It’s kinda like friendship. You can’t prove it, but you know it’s real.

The 5L reveals a human pattern. And because that pattern is universal, it’s normal to start seeing the pattern everywhere. It’s not one person’s unique experience.

Spot the Lightbulb

Ready for a game?

I’ll post a picture; you tell me which of the five Lightbulbs it shows. This is one of the fastest ways to learn the framework, plus it’ll give you new ideas for your messaging.


  1. I’ll post a picture of a piece of marketing.
  2. Look inside the red circle. Identify the Lightbulb within that red circle.
  3. Only name one Lightbulb.

I’ll put the answer below the picture, so don’t scroll down too far or you’ll see the answer.

Okay, here is the first one:

And the Lightbulb is…. Lightbulb #1!

Yes, this headline, “I was tired of feeling awkward”, from Ramit Sethi’s online course on confidence is a classic Lightbulb #1 headline. This customer quote was clearly spoken from a place that the customer didn’t wish to be anymore. We call that place, of course, their Status Quo. Or Lightbulb #1.

Did you guess correctly? If not, try this next one:

And the Lightbulb is… Lightbulb #3!

This is a Facebook ad from a workout supplement company, Onnit. They decided to make the focus of this ad their LB3, which is their supplement formula.

This is an interesting one because it shows you the universality of Lightbulb #3. It shows up in different ways across different types of products. In the supplement industry, it shows up as a special ingredient or formula.

The giveaway for this ad is both the registered trademark and the word “formula.” When you see a trademark, it’s usually referring to LB3. This makes sense. Lightbulb #3 is your differentiator, and the word “formula” is a classic LB3 word.

Notice how this ad also gives you the benefits of the LB3, and then ends with LB4 in the call-to-action.

Good ad.

Now on to our next one. Ready?

And the Lightbulb is… Lightbulb #5!

This block of copy comes from an online course on knitting. Notice the phrase, “What awaits you.” Sure sounds like the other side of the bridge in the messaging framework, doesn’t it?

Yes, this copy paints a picture of what life is like on the other side of the bridge, the place where your customer wants to arrive. You can see how this copy gives people good reasons why they should buy, something you may now realize is omitted from most copywriting.

Okay, two more examples. Here’s the next one. Try to guess the Lightbulb…

And the Lightbulb is… Lightbulb #2!

The keyword here is “alternative.” In your head, you should be picturing the alternative bridges the bear could cross in the 5L framework.

The company, Podia, is taking a direct shot at its main competitor, Gumroad, which is a much bigger company. It’s a good headline. A headline doesn’t always need to be creative. Sometimes it just needs to be simple and effective.

Podia must know their ideal customers are using Gumroad. This example also goes to show you there is no single answer to the question, “What Lightbulb should I put in my headline?” Podia clearly knows its customers, so it knows which Lightbulb to use. You should follow the same approach.

Ready for the last one? Here we go…

And the Lightbulb is… Lightbulb #4.

Actually, this ad bugs me. You see, this screenshot is from my inbox. Clear is a program for airline travelers that helps you skip the security line, kinda like TSA pre-check. I’m a customer and love Clear. That’s why it kills me to see such subpar marketing.

I mean, they’re dealing with customers, remember? And airline travel means there is a ton of opportunity for good marketing. They could tell a story about a grandfather trying to go visit his grandson. Or about how cool you feel when the Clear agent escorts you past all the waiting travelers to the front of the security line (I always walk a little taller).

But noooo, all Clear does in their emails is use Lightbulb #4. Hey, Clear, if anyone is listening, your loyal customer Billy is available for hire and would love to help!

Okay, that’s it for our game of Spot the Lightbulb. How did you do? Send us a message and tell us. It’s always a joy to hear from you.

Now, a warning: You’ll start seeing the Five Lightbulbs everywhere. They’ll pop right out of web pages, emails, magazines, and even movies. Once you see them, you can’t go back.

But that’s a good thing. You’ve seen a hidden structure behind marketing messaging. It’s kinda like the Matrix. You’re able to see those 1’s and 0’s and finally make sense of them.

My advice is to start collecting your favorite examples of Lightbulbs you find in the wild. Happy hunting!