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.


  1. dirt on 12.14.2010

    Saliva …

    Pretentious-ness …

    Always a sal­able item in the realm of tribishness.


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