Visual Storytelling

In case you’re not up on your entertainment news, Nicollette Sheridan, of Desperate Housewives fame, is suing her former boss for wrongful termination and battery.

Lots of off-stage drama has ensued during the court proceedings, and lots of industry insider information has been revealed as well.

This LA Times piece does a great job of summarizing the action to date, but one quote from that article struck me as particularly important for copywriters:

“A mid-level writer testified that she earned $648,000 for one season’s work, eliciting groans from a spectator’s gallery packed with reporters earning substantially less for putting verbs after nouns.”

That quote thwacked me upside the head because of it’s mistaken assumption.  Truly, the reason that TV writer earns several times more than most journalists* is because her job DOESN’T involve “putting verbs after nouns.”

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Today’s Practical Tactical Tuesday is going to be a complete re-publishing of a Monday Morning Memo from Roy H. Williams, followed by a Web example or two. Not because I’m lazy, but because I think this information is that important and practical for small business owners, freelancers, consultants.  So here it is: Read more

Tom Fatjo is a big-time CEO of huge publicly traded company, who got to that position through an uninterupted string of entreprenuerial success.  From 1966 through 1981 Tom built 3 hundred million dollar companies:

1) Browning-Ferris Industries, Inc. the world’s largest solid-waste disposal company at that time, with sales in excess of $550 million

2) Mortgage Bank, servicing over $400 million in mortgage loans (back in 1981, when banking and mortgages were respectable industries…)

3) Criterion Capital Corporation, whose subsidiaries and affiliates managed over $2 billion.

In other words, the guys an entrepreneurial and business stud.

But what does this have to do with you? Read more

With the movie version of The Lorax out at theaters near you, I thought you might enjoy this:

So, it’s funny because it’s true, right?

It also highlights the difference between, what a story or movie or ad is superficially about, and what it’s REALLY about. An important nuance that a lot of copywriters screw up.

An ad for a car might be about the car, but it’s REALLY about celebrating the fact that you’ve arrived. And while this ad is for a watch rather than a car, the copywriter definitely got that distinction:

You are standing in the snow, five and one-half half miles above sea level, gazing at a horizon hundreds of miles away. It occurs to you that life here is very simple: you live or you die. No compromises, no whining, no second chances. This is a place constantly ravaged by winds and storm, where every ragged breath is an accomplishment. You stand on the uppermost pinnacle of the earth. This is the mountain they call Everest. Yesterday it was considered unbeatable. But that was yesterday. As Edmund Hillary surveyed the horizon from the peak of Mount Everest, he monitored the time on a wristwatch that had been specifically designed to withstand the fury of the world’s most angry mountain. Rolex believed Sir Edmund would conquer the mountain, and especially for him they created the Rolex Explorer. In every life there is a Mount Everest to be conquered. When you have conquered yours, you’ll find your Rolex waiting patiently for you to come and pick it up at Justice Jewelers. I’m Woody Justice and I’ve got a Rolex… for you.

So when writing your ads, make sure you ask yourself: “What’s this about? What’s it REALLY about?”

P.S. If you have trouble with this, think in terms of creating an emotional understanding of an intellectual truth.

If you can find that kernel, the core of what that product is, so that when you talk about it, no matter how you talk about it, people respond and say “Yes! That’s right!”, then if you talk about it in a strong, interesting, memorable way, they say “Yeah that’s right, I’m gonna buy it.”

– Jim Durfee (co-founder, Carl Ally Inc.) as quoted in Art & Copy

Every now and then an ad comes along that really nails the true essence of the product. Ads that achieve both maximum impact and dramatic sales success. Think “Got Milk.”

This Clorox ad belongs in that category:

YouTube Preview Image

Think about it, bleach isn’t really about just getting things clean. Soap does that well enough. Nor is it about merely disinfecting things, although that’s closer to the mark. Bleach is about making things “ritually clean.”

When a kid poops in the tub and you bleach it, you not only cleaned the tub of poop, you removed whatever imaginary, psychological contagion might have been left over. That’s how we think of bleach — it’s beyond clean, beyond merely disinfected, and taken all the way to pristinely, immaculately, safe. And, yes, there’s a whole lot of Magical Thinking involved in this.

The essence of Clorox isn’t just what it does (Pine Sol and Lysol also disinfect), but encompasses as well what we unconsciously believe bleach does, as well as the full context of it’s use and role in our lives.

Remember that when creating advertising for your products.

Most people think of transparency as almost the opposite showmanship. Most people are wrong.

Transparency is letting prospective customers see through to whatever they feel they need to verify in order to confidently give you their money. Or to at least take that next step toward doing business with you.

But a lot of persuasive techniques help build confidence in the prospect.  The difference is that transparency creates confidence in highly skeptical or suspicious prospects, in situations where most other persuasive techniques simply wouldn’t work. “Seeing is believing,” and all that — it’s powerful stuff.

So the less trust, the more you need transparency. When the police officer pulls you over, he’s not going to take it on faith that you don’t have a gun — he wants you to keep your freakin’ hands where he can see them. He demands transparency.

Simple, right? But like most buzzwords “transparency” is most misunderstood by the very people mouthing it most often, to the point that they’re oblivious to the proper way to use this persuasive tool in marketing small and medium-sized businesses.

And for the record, the proper way is the way that not only creates trust, but also increases profits. The proper way requires transparency AND showmanship.

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