nike-free-2Most e-commerce site’s sim­ply don’t pro­vide nearly enough pho­tos, of nearly enough res­o­lu­tion and qual­ity that prospec­tive cus­tomers want.  The reason?

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.

Go check it out.

bentley-series-1-sDoes your copy lack a cer­tain emo­tional resonance?

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.

Here’s a rather art­ful exam­ple taken from J. Peter­man:

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.”

img10052880632OK, 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.S. As you may have guessed, the men­tal image doesn’t have to be directly, log­i­cally related to your prod­uct or ser­vice. It’s the emo­tional asso­ci­a­tions that count.

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.



by Jeff

anniversaryTurns 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.

- Jeff

“Know some­thing, sugar? Sto­ries only hap­pen to peo­ple who can tell them.” — Alan Gurganus