by Jeff

2011-09-30_1132In advertising, it’s not so much what information your words communicate to the prospect, but what experiences they call forth from the prospect. What images and associations do your words bring to life in the imagination?  And how many words does it take to create these images?

Perhaps the most famous example of breathtaking brevity coupled with brilliant imagery is Hemingway’s short, 6-word story:

“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

And while many people have admired that 6-word story since it’s creation, few have gone on to emulate it — until recently! It seems there’s now a series of books featuring 6-word memoirs, starting with memoirs of “Writers Famous and Obscure.”  Here are a few of the memoirs I managed to pick out from reviews (haven’t ordered mine yet):

  • Woman Seeks Men–High Pain Threshold.
  • Study mathematics, marry slut. Sum bad
  • Found true love. Married someone else.
  • My first concert: Zappa. Explains everything.
  • Aging late bloomer yearns for do-over.
  • Girlfriend is pregnant, my husband said.
  • Just in: boyfriend’s gay. Merry Christmas.
  • Let’s just be friends, she said.
  • Afraid of everything. Did it anyway.
  • Still lost on road less traveled.
  • Can’t read all the time. Bummer.
  • I love my lady … and bacon.
  • I wrote it all down somewhere.
  • Atheist alcoholic gets sober through God.
  • Father: ‘Anything but journalism.’ I rebelled. —Malcolm Gladwell
  • The miserable childhood leads to royalties. —Frank McCourt

Even the teen’s get in on the action:

  • Hair’s pink to piss you off.
  • Met online; love before first sight.
  • According to Facebook, we broke up.

So… how do you apply that to your advertising?

Well, you could:

1) Write a 6-Word Story that encapsulates your prospect’s mindset

Think about the kind of precipitating events that cause people to need your product or service. What kind of emotions surround those events?  How would you summarize the bridge from event, to conscious desire for your product, if you had to do it in only 6 words.  (or heck, cheat a little and use 8 words : )

2) write a 6-Word Story describing your advertising challenge

What’s the problem you need to overcome to really bring your audience to action?  Can you summarize it in an evokative 6-word story?

3) Write a 6-word story that conveys your core message.

Can you condense your message into what Chip and Dan Heath would call your “core” message, encapsulated in a power-packed six words?  Does the story merely “tell” the truth, or does it cause the listener to realize the truth?

4) Forget 6-word stories; evoke images and emotion with your copy

As one sales pro has described it to me, selling is nothing more than getting your prospect imaginatively engaged with a vision of future benefit, and emotionally committed to taking action to make that vision a reality.

Now that’s a long way off from “conveying information,” isn’t it?  So why do so many ads merely try to inform?  Or brag?  Or do anything other than imaginatively engage and emotionally commit the audience?

And the key to doing that is to make your message participative and interactive, even if you’re using a so-called “push medium” of radio, television, or print.  You don’t have to limit yourself to 6 words, but you do have to engage the imagination and emotions of your listener.

Want to get better at doing that?  Write yourself some 6-word stories.  Oh, and feel free to post them in the comments, too 🙂

P.S. You can also take a gander at Post Secret for more, truly evokative “short stories” presented in a multi-media format



by Jeff


When writing copy for products and services designed to help someone do X, the best persuasive tactic is to re-sell them on the dream.

In other words, whenever prospects got into X in the first place, they did so because they had bought into a dream. For instance, most people take up blogging because they buy into the dream of blogging: be able to put their “voice” out into the world and finding an appreciative, receptive audience that not only tweats, re-tweats, comments on, and forwards their posts, but also finding financial benefit through that same audience buying their books, come to their conferences, etc.  That’s the dream most people are chasing when they start up a blog.

Needless to say, the reality frequently falls short of the dream.  And the frustration at the gap is where the incentive to buy comes in.

So if you’re selling a service to help people with their blogging, you not only want to sell the prospect on the service, but also re-sell them on the dream.  More specifically, you want to sell them on the ability of your service to help them re-capture the dream.


Because they already bought into the dream once, and they haven’t yet given up on it (they’re still X-ing, aren’t they?), and nothing is easier than selling someone on the dream they’ve already bought into.  Doesn’t matter what the dream was, and it doesn’t matter what industry you’re in; the easiest sale you’ll ever make is selling the prospect on the dream they’ve already dreamt.

Jonathan Morrow’s new product BoostBlogTraffic.com is a perfect example of that. Check out the product announcement over at Copyblogger and see for yourself.  What’s Jonathan doing for the first 2/3rds of the copy?  Invoking the frustrations and dream-reality gap involved in blogging, and then re-selling the blogging dream, baby!

Because Jonathan Morrow knows what he’s doing.

  • So what dream where your prospects chasing whenever they got into your market?
  • Are you minding (and mining) the gap between the dream and the prospect’s current reality?
  • Does your copy re-kindle the dream?

summer-vacation-beach-11Sometime this summer I lost my blogging mojo and decided to take most of July and all of August off.  Very European of me, actually.

But the school year is back in session and so am I, with apologies for my absence during the summer and an amends for anyone interested in my guest-blogging activities while I was away.

You see, I have been writing, just not for my personal blog.  I’ve been scribbling down PPC Ad Writing tips for BoostCTR’s blog (since I’m now managing their writer community) and guest posting my Facebook Ad Writing thoughts over at PPC Hero.

If you’re interested in such things, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite posts here: