An images story appeal is its ability to cause viewers to imagine the story surrounding the captured moment. What happened before and after the moment depicted in the painting of photo, and, by extension, what’s the meaning of the moment being captured?
The idea is for people to see the image and ask themselves, “What’s the story here?” That’s story appeal. And at least according to David Ogilvy, story appeal is crucial for advertising imagery, which makes it a skill worth studying.
And with that in mind, is there anybody in the world better at creating images with story appeal than Norman Rockwell?
Just take a look at the following:
Any chance you could look at any of those and NOT understand the story that’s being told, not “picture” the immediate before and after moments belonging to these images?
How He Does It
Rockwell’s depicts rituals.
It is the easily recognized and self-identifiable nature of these American rituals that give his paintings their emotional appeal. And because we recognize the ritual, we also instantly know what took place just before and after the moment captured in the picture. In our minds, we enter into the storyland Rockwell illustrates for us.
Without ritual it’s much harder for an audience to have that reaction, or for an image to exert that kind of story appeal.
Show me a car driving down the road and I feel no automatic urge to enter into the story of that car and it’s driver. There’s no ritual there. Show me a car driving down the road that’s dragging a bunch of shoes from the bumper and has a “Just Married” on the back window, and the story becomes clear — both of what happened before the couple got into the car and what’ll most likely happen when they get out of the car at their destination.
That’s the storytelling power of ritual. But ritual isn’t just limited to sacraments and formalities. We all have our daily rituals, too. Show me a guy climbing into his car with his travel coffee mug and a briefcase, and I’ll think “commute.” Our take lunchtime for example:
Why This Matters
While the importance of story appeal is obvious for visual ads, it’s important for radio (and TV) ads, too. Here’s why:
Just as every writer has heard the advice to “Show, Don’t Tell,” every writer of drama has heard the adage to “enter late and leave early” when writing their scenes. Basically, skip the exposition at the beginning (enter late), and let the audience figure out the obvious conclusions while you move onto a new scene (leave early).
But that sort of begs the question: how do you do that?
Answer: tap into the power of ritual — show recognizable situations.
And how do I know this works and is sound advice?
- Famous, working screenwriters have offered it up as sound practice
- The two most famous directors of our era, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, see Norman Rockwell as a kindred spirit and brother storyteller, and
- Spielberg specifically mentions the importance of ritual when discussing the influence of legendary director John Ford on his work: “Ford’s in my mind when I make a lot of my pictures. I grew up with John Ford movies and I know a lot about his work and have studied him. I think the thing that might resemble a John Ford movie more than anything else is that Ford celebrated rituals and traditions”
An Advertising Example
Want to see an interesting example of a commercial that taps into the power of ritual and both enters late and leaves early? Check this out:
So what about you? How are you harnessing into the power of ritual and story appeal with your ads?
The Alamo Drafthouse, pretty much the coolest movie theatre chain on the planet, came out with the following promotion for the summer of 2012:
Yup. That’s pretty much PURE GENIUS.
They aren’t playing up the tangibles of the movie business — the latest release, the availability of 3-D IMAX or dolby sound, or say the comfort of ultra-plush seating — they’re tapping into the intangible draw that many or most 40 and 50-somethings have for the pop-culture milestones of their youth.
As a result of this emotional draw that they purposely tapped into, Alamo Drafthouse will likely pay less to show these movies and draw large crowds of very appreciative, excited audiences — crowds that likely wouldn’t have come out for the latest and greatest summer blockbuster fare.
Why Not Your Business?
Sure, The Alamo Drafthouse is IN the entertainment business. It’s probably easier for them to generate excitement around a night out at the movies than it might be for, say, a plumber to tap into the power of nostalgia. But it’s not impossible for the plumber. How about selling claw-foot tubs big enough to let a 6-foot adult stretch out and float, the way you used to be able to when you were a little kid? Sort of a feel like a kid again, bathtub for the affluent type promotion…
Maybe you’re rejecting that specific idea, and that’s fine, the point isn’t that that’s a great idea, but that it’s possible for most businesses to inject an element of sentiment and nostalgia and excitement into their business rather than resigning themselves to pushing nothing but tangibles.
Because when you’re nothing but tangibles, you’re a commodity, or on the road to commodity-ville.
So ask yourself this:
- What are your customers willing to re-call, commemorate, and celebrate with you?
- How can you help them do that?
- What kind of anniversary or connection or historical association could you choose to celebrate?
Most importantly, how could YOU use nostalgia and sentiment in your business?
I have guest posted over at Web Marketing Today for a while now, but the Website itself has recently undergone a redesign as well as a slight editorial change with regards to my posts. While the focus on Web Marketing for small to medium-sized businesses remains the same, my posts are now focused on:
- Website Improvement for Service-Based Businesses
- Content Marketing for Service-Based Businesses
I’m excited about this because SMB Service Providers are a largely underserved market when it comes to Web Marketing. Most examples focus on either etailers or enterprise-sized B2B service providers.
Yet, a majority of what my Wizard Partners call “Main Street Businesses” are either service providers (think HVAC, carpeting, contractors, printers, advertisers, Web designers, accountants, consultants etc.) or are retailers who manage to stay profitable and, frankly, relevant to the customer based on their ability to provide services around the sale (most niche or specialty stores & boutiques). So this is an extremely important market to serve and speak to, and I feel uniquely privileged to be able to do so.
If you’re interested in this kind of content, you can find all my Web Marketing Today posts here. A recent one that I think many of you would like is this post on 5 Sales-Generating Photos for Service Websites.
At any rate, I hope you like what you find, and please let me know if there is anything that you’d like me to cover in future articles.
Did you know that there are 12 kinds of Ads?
Granted, this model is geared towards TV ads, but, yes, according to Donald Gunn, a former creative director at the legendary Leo Burnett agency, there are only 12 kinds of ads.
I’m not going to go into them here, since you can read all about Gunn’s categories over at LifeIsMarketing.com, but I am going to give you an alternate framework for thinking about ads.
So what’s the framework?
It’s the same Framework that’s been made famous — or, at least more famous — by its mention by the Heath Brothers in the opening chapters of their justly famous book, Made to Stick, wherein they mention an Israeli research paper, “The Fundamental Templates of Quality Ads.” According to the published research, 89% of award winning ads could be classified into 6 basic templates.
More importantly, providing amateurs with just 2 hours of training on the use of these templates boosted their abilities to produce ads that positively affected audience perception of the advertised products by 55%
And now I’m going to break those templates down for you 🙂
Just keep in mind that, again, these templates were discovered while researching award winning ads, not necessarily sales increasing and market-share winning ads. But for what it’s worth, here are the templates, complete with handy-dandy examples:
Template 1: Pictorial Analogy
In technical terms, this type of ad creates a dramatic situation and then makes a substitution between the product and another item with symbolic significance in order to illustrate the value or worth of the product. The idea is to create an unexpected or surprising explanation of the value of the product through visual metaphor.
If that’s hard to follow, just look at the nike example to the right.
In the ad you are introduced into a dramatic situation of having to jump from a burning building only to find that the firefighters’ safety net/trampoline — an item with huge symbolic value — has been swapped for a nike air shoe.
This pictorial analogy creatively illustrates the protective and cushioning function of Nike Air technology and is reinforced by the ad copy which calls the air technology, “Something soft between you and the pavement.”
Template 2: Extreme Situation
This may seem similar to the pictorial analogy, but it’s different because it requires no use of symbolism or analogy — it’s more straightforward in it’s extremity. The cleve outdoor ad for the superglue isn’t trying to make a visual pun, it’s just showing the glue used in an exaggerated extreme.
The same can be said for this ad for WMF knives:
Template 3: Extreme Consequences
This template shows the exaggerated results of either using the product or the exaggerated consequences of not using it. This listerine ad shows the extreme consequences of NOT using their mouthwash.
While this ad for Wonderbra indirectly shows an extreme consequence from using their product:
Template 4: Competition
As the name indicates, this template shows the product in direct comparison with either competing products or exaggerated alternatives. This Verizon ad is about as straightforward a competition ad as you can get:
While this Land Rover ad is a bit more indirect, both in its execution and in what it sees as the product’s real competition : )
Template 5: Interactive Experiment
Yes, boys and girls, non-internet ads can be interactive. And, no, that doesn’t require the use of QR codes and such. Just take a look at this great ad for DHL:
Template 6: Dimensionality Alteration
This is where you show some attribute of the product or service by altering the environment. A classic example is this old-school headline for a faster cruise ship:
“Starting next tuesday, the Atlantic ocean becomes only one-fifth as long”
But my favorite example of this isn’t an ad at all, but a quote from Billy Wilders immortal, Sunset Boulevard:
“You’re Norma Desmond. You used to be in silent pictures; you used to be big”
“I still am big — it’s the pictures that got small.”
Here’s what it looks like in a print ad that compresses time to show consequences:
And that’s a quick and dirty break-down of the ad templates. Hope you find ’em useful.
P.S. if you’re interested, most of these 6 categories include sub-categories, that you can read about in the original research. But for those too lazy to do that, here’s a quick and dirty chart showing all the sub-categories:
“In fact, I’m going to apologize. This whole ‘dream myth’ has been propagated by news reporters like me. Because we love telling this story, we love the dream. Whenever you write a profile of some person who is a success or who is going to jail, you always start at the end and follow the line back so it looks like it all makes sense. You sit someone down and you ask, “When did you first dream of being an opera singer (or a Nobel–prize winning economist, or the worst inside trader of all time)?”
Then you ask, “What obstacles did you have to overcome? How did you triumph?” Reporters are no different from every storyteller through time. We want to tell and hear the hero’s journey. The epic myth.
You know what never makes it into the hero’s journey? All the dreams that didn’t work out. There’s just not time. You never hear the part of the legend where the hero just wanted to chill for the summer, hang out in Portland, and figure some stuff out. Get his head straight. That happens, but every storyteller edits that out.”
— NPR Reporter, Robert Smith, during his Reed College Commencement Address
It is perhaps fitting that Steven Pressfield has run a series of articles on “The Hero’s Journey” of late, because his latest book explores exactly those areas of the journey that Robert Smith accuses reporters of leaving or editing out of most subjects’ “success stories.” The part where the hero — deliberately or unconsciously — choses the wrong career path, sometimes repeatedly. Or where she sandbags it for a summer to “get her head straight” or work through some stuff.
In other words, most people leave out exactly the part that the rest of us desperately need to know — what happened to get you from the point where you weren’t making it to the point where you were! How’d you make the leap, man? Tell us!
And there’s a simple reason most people don’t tell us, even beyond the reporters desire to present us with slices of life with the boring parts cut out. Quite frankly, that shit is embarrassing. Who wants to talk about self-sabotage, mis-steps, and unsuccessful careers. Not me.
That’s what makes Steven Pressfield such an incredible treasure and stand-up guy: he’ll do it. And in Turning Pro, he does just that; he gives you exactly the nitty gritty on HOW to turn pro, what happened before he turned pro, and what you can expect in the journey.
So if that’s the kind of stuff you’d like to learn — if you’re tired of reading all those dream come true stories with the important shit cut out — then link on over to Black Irish Books and grab yourself a copy!
P.S. Black Irish Books is the new publishing company started by Steven Pressfield and Shawn Coyne. It’s a great venture and worth supporting, so even if you’d rather get your copy from Amazon, please consider ordering direct from the author.
OK, the headline exaggerated it — most of these resources won’t help you improve your entire Lead Gen Website, just your Lead Generation Forms.
But, if your forms suck, then all that hard persuasive work you’ve done on the rest of the Website goes to waste, right? So why not get hot on improving your forms now, so you can enjoy a full pipeline of well-qualified prospects later?
So let’s start with…
Wisdom from the Eisenberg’s
Great information for ensuring your Website is pulling in profitable and qualified leads rather than tire kickers. This is one of the few resources that does actually talk about more than just lead forms. And just for good measure, here’s a ClickZ article from Bryan that also gives recommendations applicable to both your entire Lead Gen Website and your forms.
This is a great strategic, top-down look at the three big flaws afflicting most lead-gen forms. I’m sure you’re doing to know what those three flaws are, but you’ll have to click-through to find out 🙂
Resource #3: 7 Form Factors to Increase Conversions
This one looks at the major elements that are part of every lead generation form, and then tells you how to maximize the effectiveness of each element.
Now Let’s Look at…
Split Test Results Worth Studying
Resource #4: Wider Funnel Tests a Newsletter Sign-up Form
This is a great test for a few reasons, but mostly because the test explicitly forms hypothesis to test, prior to creating the test, rather than just throwing variations against a wall to see which one “sticks.” Plus the hypothesis and lessons learned are really insightful and broadly applicable.
Resource #5: Wider Funnel Tests for Form Length and Form Flow
Another solid testing write-up from Wider Funnel. Worth the read.
Case Studies & Usability Guidelines
Resource #6: Lesson From Madlibs Signup Fad: Do Your Own Tests
If you’ve never heard about them before, the Madlib style sign-up form proved a hit with several businesses and bloggers on the Web a few years back. But when this guy tested it out for himself, he found a different story. Bottom Line: best practices are in no way guaranteed to work in your specific situation, and surprising, head-slapping tests are fairly common for anyone that runs them. Think for yourself & do your own testing.
Resource #7: An Extensive Guide to Web Form Usability
Smashing Magazine has no shortage of great articles on Web Design and Usability. This one is no exception.
Resource #8: Testing Form Length Reduces Cost Per Lead
Marketing Experiments has a nice blog post on this, and one of the more interesting points about this isn’t the findings — since shorter forms almost always DO increase conversion, thereby driving down cost per lead — but the point made at the end: that the “extra” information you’re holding out for is probably not that accurate or valid to begin with. This is a great one to show to naysayers who fight the “shorter is better” mantra. That and the ol’ “Let’s just test it and see” strategy : )
So that’s all eight of them. Now go out and do some optimization testing!