I recently came across this fas­ci­nat­ing post about Apple Mar­ket­ing prin­ci­ples, as artic­u­lated by Apple circa 1977.  Here they are:


Now, as a mar­keter, the Empa­thy and Focus parts are sec­ond nature — at least in terms of under­stand­ing.  Putting them into prac­tice every day is harder stuff, but any copy­writer that doesn’t under­stand the impor­tance of empathiz­ing with the prospec­tive cus­tomer and focus­ing in on their pri­mary buy­ing moti­va­tions and con­cerns isn’t a copy­writer at all.

It’s the last ele­ment most mar­keters and copy­writ­ers screw up or over­look: the impor­tance of Imputed Qual­ity.  Not nuts and bolts, specification-driven build qual­ity or value for the dol­lar qual­ity.  But qual­ity cues that tap into buy­ers’ pre-existing men­tal imprint of lux­ury and vir­tu­ous man­u­fac­ture.  The telling detail that says everything.

Want to see an exam­ple of imputed qual­ity used in copy?  Here ya go:


Notice that the actual build qual­ity is detailed by the bul­let points of the body copy, while the imputed qual­ity — the telling detail — is given pride of place within the head­line of the ad itself.*

Of course, this sort of qual­ity cue or imputed qual­ity fac­tor has to be already exist­ing or freshly baked into the prod­uct or ser­vice itself before it can be adver­tised, but rec­og­niz­ing the need for it — and doing the patient research and dig­ging to find it — is one of the major keys to writ­ing copy that works.

Apple of course, is a mas­ter at this, which is one rea­son they are renowned design icons, because inspired design imputes high qual­ity. But it’s also why Apple never skimps on screen qual­ity, key­board feel, and the over­all pol­ish put on their user inter­faces: those are the sort of tan­gi­ble, expe­ri­en­tial things that impute quality.

Yes, of course, we expect real qual­ity from an Apple prod­uct in the sense of free­dom from typ­i­cal PC-like annoy­ances, annoy­ances bril­liantly dra­ma­tized and mocked by Apple’s “I’m a Mac” cam­paign.  But even if you knew noth­ing about Apple or PCs and just LOOKED at the com­pet­ing prod­ucts laid side by side, you’d intu­itively get that one set of prod­ucts were spe­cial and nicer than the rest.  Regard­less of how their inter­nal com­po­nents and specs stacked up.

So Here Are My 3 Take­aways from This:

1) Qual­ity is impor­tant, but qual­ity with­out imputed qual­ity will go unre­warded in the marketplace.

2) Busi­ness own­ers should never expect cus­tomers to rec­og­nize qual­ity and should “bake” imputed qual­ity into their offerings.

3) Copy­writ­ers who fail to use imputed qual­ity cues will end up with under­per­form­ing ad copy.

P.S. — Want to see an already-existing qual­ity cue in action? Check out these guys thud­ding the door closed on a Mercedes:

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P.P.S. — How do I know that Ogilvy dili­gently searched for prod­uct facts that would help him find and rec­og­nize impor­tant qual­ity cues?  Because he listed research twice when explain­ing his copy­writ­ing method­ol­ogy!  Steps 3 and 5 both empha­size the impor­tance of research and facts.

* For a more detailed analy­sis of this famous Ogilvy Ad, check out my old GrokDot­com post.


  1. Naomi Niles on 01.31.2012

    I was just think­ing the other day about some­thing sim­i­lar with my Nook Color (the first one). It’s a lit­tle bit heavy, which you think wouldn’t be an asset. But, to me, one of the things I espe­cially like about it that sig­ni­fies qual­ity to me, is that it feels a lot stur­dier than other read­ers and tablets I’ve tried.

    It’s not phys­i­cally that attrac­tive, but it’s a great piece of design. Func­tional, sturdy, and makes you feel like you’ll have it at least a few years. Not all that com­mon with new technology.

  2. Jeff on 02.01.2012


    Great obser­va­tion. Yeah, before the age of aero­space alu­minum, tita­nium, and car­bon fiber, weight used to be a big time indi­ca­tor of qual­ity — it meant that more mate­r­ial than was strictly needed was used, either for added strength and dura­bil­ity or for orna­men­ta­tion and ergonomics.

    I used to own an H&K P7 pis­tol that was just weighty as all heck, espe­cially com­pared to a Glock. But you could tell just from han­dling the gun that it was top qual­ity. Lots of imputed qual­ity there.

    - Jeff

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