In 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