Well, first, taking your own photos can be hard, especially if you have a lot of SKUs.
But beyond that, I truly believe that most e-commerce biz owners and marketing managers don’t realize the amount of questions that photos answer. They just don’t get how many possible concerns and potential objections can be addressed and overcome through the right photo.
With that in mind, I wrote a guest post on Doctor Ralph F. Wilson’s Web Marketing Today blog on nothing but the persuasive uses of product photos and product videos.
Maybe you have a relevant, credible message, but it just doesn’t have that, for lack of a better term, magnetic ability to move readers to decision. Well, here’s one way to add that:
Present the mind with a compelling mental image, and the emotions conjured by that image will persist in the mind like the bright dots you continue seeing well after the flash from flash photography.
It doesn’t matter if you look away from the camera and shield your eyes from future flashes, you’ll still see the dots. And in the case of mental images, your readers will continue projecting the emotional atmosphere of the image onto succeeding topics of conversation.
And what makes a mental image “compelling”?
Compelling mental images are emotional, non-nuanced and require no analysis to take in.
Deep down, where it counts, in the emotion-driven unconscious, we are all still operating at the level of foolish children responding to bright shining objects. Make your image in tune with this bright shining object mentality and then borrow that “halo” for whatever product or service you’re hoping to sell.
“I have a friend in New York who has a 30-year-old Bentley, aluminum-bodied, quite fast, and quite beautiful. People driving Mercedes, BMWs, Jaguars, look over their shoulders in despair as he passes by. Where did I go wrong, their faces say.
The thing about his Bentley is that the oil-filler cap, which is springloaded for quick opening, is identical to, and unchanged from, the oil-filter caps on Bentleys made fifty years ago. In other words, get it right, then don’t mess with it. Go on to something else.
This is by way of introducing the best umbrella in the world. How can I be so sure of that? Because the Queen of England and the Prince of Wales buy their umbrella from the same source: Swaine Adeney Brigg Limited, makers of hunting crops, canes, and umbrellas since 1750.
The royal family, I think, can afford a very good umbrella. They can also afford to not get stuck with an experimental model, a provisional model, a see-how-it-goes model of umbrella (or anything else).
The Swaine Adeney Brigg umbrella is made from one piece of wood. It’s solid and thick exactly where other umbrellas snap and fall apart. The runners, caps, and ferrules are made of solid brass; the hand spring and top spring are nickel silver. The cover is cut, sewn, and tied painstakingly to each rib. The shape (open) is domed (more room to get under it).
How long will the best umbrella last? I don’t know. My Bentley friend told me about a man who bought a Bentley even older than his. It had 250,000 miles on it when he bought it. He’s already driven it now an additional 127,000 miles.
The Swaine Adeney Brigg Umbrella (No. 1957). Black, of course. Cherry handle; with the Warrant of the Prince of Wales engraved on the plated gold collar.”
OK, so we’ve got all the wonderful associations of Bentley, British, and Royalty baked into this copy. All wonderful stuff when you’re appealing to the aspirational shopper. But the most powerful image in the copy is this:
“People driving Mercedes, BMWs, Jaguars, look over their shoulders in despair as he passes by. Where did I go wrong, their faces say.”
The core emotion presented is: “I’m the object of envy even amongst my peer group (aka, upper-class owners of luxury cars).” And it’s neatly tied to, the only slightly more nuanced thought of “…because I own something awesome that they don’t have.”
A four year old with a brand new bicycle can experience and understand the emotional and social dynamics involved in those images — images and emotions that color everything that follows. From “something awesome (that’s a preferred choice of British aristocracy)” to “mechanical simplicity and brilliance that works” to Swaine Adeney Brigg Umbrellas. The logical chain of reasoning within the copy is almost laughable, but it’s irrelevant: the emotional and thematic associations are what matter, and they are powered by that one, very simple image of envy over a coveted symbol of aristocracy.
So while everyone wants to rave about J. Peterman’s magnificent prose style and sophisticated cultural allusions, these aren’t the elements that sell; they’re simply the adult clothing used to disguise the far more child-like emotional images that do.
What about you? Are you presenting your audience with a compelling mental image?
Or are you skipping all that to get into technical details, features, or garden-variety benefits?
P.P.S. This technique works even better when you have some logical fig leaves to offer your readers. The Swaine Adeney Brigg Umbrella IS a premium quality, highly-covetable object, after all.
Turns out I missed my blog’s one year anniversary, which took place on October 7th. Doh!
Oh well, since I also missed the chance to post these thoughts pre-Thanksgiving, I thought I’d share this as a way of saying thanks to all of you, my readers and subscribers.
Anyone familiar with Joseph Campbell and The Hero’s Journey, or even with Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheet from Save The Cat, knows that stories revolve around a very predictable set of structural elements:
- The hero almost always starts out with some fear, block, wound, or limitation to be overcome or transcended as a result of the journey taken, usually expressed in a stasis = death moment
- The hero typically resists the “call to adventure” before being somewhat forced to “cross the threshold,”
- There’s an “all is lost moment”
- and in any story not a tragedy, there’s also the happy ending
What you don’t likely think about is that we all go through this cycle multiple times in our lives. Heck, if “mythic” structure applies to freakin’ TV commercials, don’t you think it can apply to your work-a-day world? Well, it can and it does. And that realization has really been a portal to sincere gratitude for me.
See, instead of expressing gratitude in general for everything good in my life, I take a trip back, 5 years ago, 10 years, ago or even earlier. I mentally go back to the last time I faced a stasis = death moment in my life, or the last time life pushed me past the threshold by kicking me squarely in the nuts. I recall all those unpleasant feelings and what my life was like in that moment, and from that act of remembrance, all of the many blessings that have come into my life since then fall into sharp relief. I get to see the happy endings to a lot of cycles, and the gratitude that comes from that lasts far longer than a strained attempt to be thankful in general. Highly recommended.
A year ago I was leaving my old blogging home at Future Now and starting up an unknown blog in the already overcrowded field of copywriting and marketing. And while the ending hasn’t yet been written, the journey has been a blast. Thank you for being part of it.
““Know something, sugar? Stories only happen to people who can tell them.” — Alan Gurganus