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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