Any copywriter worth a darn has heard of WIIFM — What’s In It For Me. Every prospective customer is constantly asking that question and copy that fails to provide a compelling answer, well, fails.
But prospective customers want to know more than just WIIFM, they want to know What’s In It For You (or WIIFY)? In other words, why are you offering me such a good deal? What do you get out of it?
WIIFM grabs attention, but WIIFM without credibility comes off as a scam. You could be literally mailing people $100 bills free of charge and get no conversions, because people can’t possibly see the upside for you. The more the deal sounds too good to be true, the more the copy has to answer WIIFY, typically in the form of “How we can afford to sell at these prices.” And perhaps the greatest example of WIIFY is the legendary “Frustrated Contractor” letter.
Written by John Young for Jim Abrams’ HVAC company, the direct mail sales letter made both of them rich and has since been used by every every single HVAC business in the US and credited with producing $1 billion in HVAC sales. What does it say? Well, you can download a current version of the letter — still in use — here. But the short answer is that it headlines with WIFFM and then immediately switches to WIFFY.
In other words, the letter promises to sell the customer a brand new, high-end furnace and A/C unit for thousands less than normal price — so long as the customer buys in the winter. Why? Because HVAC guys are busy in the summer but unable to keep their employees busy in the winter, creating frustrated businessmen watching their installers get paid to sit around watching day-time TV. Prospects get a great deal (WIIFM) and contractors move some inventory during the slow season while keeping their guys busy (WIIFY).
Variations on the letter will also mention the owner having ordered or been left with too many HVAC systems in inventory and the need to clear them out, etc. But the point is that the letter’s sounds-too-good-to-be-true offer gained credibility in the eyes of the prospect by addressing WIIFY — what was in it for the contractor.
How This Applies to Branding
The problem with WIFFY as it is applied to sales letters and event advertising is that the level of your credibility is often tied to a passing or seasonal dynamic. To use an example from the Robert Collier Letter Book, a clothier was able to offer incredible prices on Madras Shirts because the mill was all-but out of business and sold it’s inventory of shirting fabric at once-in-a-lifetime prices. Obviously, that’s a message you can only get away with saying once, otherwise you look like the cheesey car lot guys who hype inventory clearance sales on a year-round basis.
Branding requires a WIIFY that retains relevance and credibility today, tomorrow, next year, etc. That could be a new technology, a direct to the consumer pricing model, or the like. But that doesn’t do you too much good as a copywriter. Either a client has a legitimate competitive edge — and is likely already advertising it — or not.
So what to do?
Nothing Says Your WIFFY Has to Be Economic
As an example, here’s an ad featured in Roy Williams’ recent Monday Morning Memo:
“When I was seven years old, I held my father’s head in my hands as he took his last breath and died. A thing like that stays with you. It helps you understand that relationships – people – are what life’s all about.You gotta tell’em you love’em. This is J.R. Dunn. So now you know why I became a jeweler. Fine jewelry is one of the ways we tell people we love’em. When I got older and fell head-over-heals for Ann Marie, the love of my life, I didn’t have enough money to buy her an engagement ring. She married me anyway. Go figure. But I can promise you this: If you’re thinking of getting engaged to the love of your life, come to J.R. Dunn Jewelers in Lighthouse Point. No one in Florida, no one in America, is going to give you a better engagement ring for your money than me. One of the great joys of my life is to make it possible for guys to give the woman they love the diamond she deserves. There was nobody there for me when I needed an engagement ring. But I promiseI’ll be there for you.”
Do you think this ad provides the listener with a WIFFY?
Of course it does, but the WIFFY is emotional, not economic. The listener — or this listener, at least — believes that J.R. Dunn will give him a great deal on an engagement ring because there’s an emotional pay-off for Mr. Dunn. And as always, deep emotions are always linked to self-identity, hence the opening story / Mental Image.
So if you want to create credibility, go beyond WIIFM to WIFFY. And if you want that credibility to last beyond a single sales event, try tying your WIFFY to emotion.
* Photo credit to ihasahotdog