The Sneetches, by Dr. Seuss

Now, the Star-Bell Sneetches had bel­lies with stars.
The Plain-Belly Sneetches had none upon thars.
Those stars weren’t so big. They were really so small.
You might think such a thing wouldn’t mat­ter at all.

But, because they had stars, all the Star-Belly Sneetches
Would brag, “We’re the best kind of Sneetch on the beaches.”
With their snoots in the air, they would sniff and they’d snort
“We’ll have noth­ing to do with the Plain-Belly sort!”
And, when­ever they met some, when they were out walk­ing,
They’d hike right on past them with­out even talking…”

The $80 Embroi­dery, by Lacoste (poem by me)

Now, some polos have emblems and some have none.
And those emblems resem­blems all crit­ters under the sun
Moose and Crocs and Sheeps and Ponies,
All set-up to cost you more monies
Why should those emblems mat­ter at all?
Those crit­ters are cute but still rather small…
But they’re sure to win the approval of cronies
So search out those emblems and join all the phonies









P.S. I’m not really call­ing Polo and Lacoste wear­ing folks phonies. I’ve got my favorite brands like every­one else. But, hey, it fit in with the rhyme scheme and gen­eral theme. Also, if you’re inter­ested in the sub­ject of mimetic desire (and you should be) you can read more about it here and here.

…it is James Thurber’s Wal­ter Mitty who, in the space of a sin­gle after­noon, is the com­man­der of a navy hydroplane, a life-saving sur­geon, an expert marks­man, and an intre­pid army cap­tain. Wal­ter Mitty isn’t crazy. He just has trou­ble con­vinc­ing the out­side world of who he is inside.

The Secret Life of Wal­ter Mitty’ is a favorite Amer­i­can story because it speaks to the Mitty in each of us. Who among us has never played cow­boy, astro­naut, princess, or nurse? Like Don [Quixote] and Wal­ter, each of us has a secret life, and it is silly to pre­tend that our out­ward choices are not influ­enced by the peo­ple we are inside.

In we are to insist on intel­lec­tual hon­esty, we must urge Don and Wal­ter to aban­don their child­ish dreams. But if we would sell our prod­ucts and make two cus­tomers happy, we will speak not to a tired old man and a hen­pecked hus­band, but will elo­quently address the needs of a chival­rous knight and an intre­pid army captain.

It’s called ‘Advertising.’”

Roy H. Williams, The Wiz­ard of Ads

In my last Prac­ti­cal Tac­ti­cal Tues­day post, I men­tioned that fea­tures might be dra­ma­tized to show some­thing other than imme­di­ate, objec­tive ben­e­fit, that fea­tures might be dra­ma­tized, instead, so as to tie the prod­uct into the val­ues and self image of the prospec­tive cus­tomer. When you choose this other path, you end up adver­tis­ing to the felt needs of  your prospects’ inner Wal­ter Mitty, rather than to their actual, real-life needs.

SUVs vs. Minivans

Exam­ples of this abound, but here’s one we’re all famil­iar with: the mil­lions of moth­ers dri­ving around in SUVs instead of mini­vans.  They chose the more expen­sive SUV despite the fact that SUVs cost more, guz­zle more gas, are more likely to roll-over, and just gen­er­ally aren’t as well suited to the actual com­mut­ing demands of most moms. By all objec­tive stan­dards, the mini­van (or, maybe even the sta­tion wagon) is the bet­ter choice.

But does the aver­age mom see her­self as a minivan-driving Soc­cer Mom?

Um, no, actu­ally.

So why would she want to drive a vehi­cle that’s stig­ma­tized by such an unflat­ter­ing stereo­type?  Well, quite a few of these moms wouldn’t.  So they opted, and con­tinue to opt, for a vehi­cle that bet­ter fits their inner image while retain­ing most of the seat­ing and cargo capac­ity they really need. Hence the cross-over SUV craze.

But I’m far from pick­ing on mom’s or SUV dri­vers — I’m say­ing we ALL have at least a few areas of our lives where we pick the objec­tively sub-optimal choice in order to chose the prod­uct or ser­vice that bet­ter fits our inner val­ues and identifications.

2 Ways of Mak­ing Decisions

Copy­writ­ers need to keep in mind that we have two ways of mak­ing deci­sions: one is the self-interest, pros and cons model, and the other is the iden­tity model:

  • The Self-Interest Model asks: “What’s In It For Me?”
  • The Iden­tity Model asks: “What Kind of Per­son Am I and What Would That Kind of Per­son Do In This Situation?”

Best of all, your copy doesn’t have to exclu­sively choose one over the other.  In fact, a blend of the two is usu­ally your best option, when you’re for­tu­nate enough to have options.  But if you’re really han­ker­ing to see an almost pure use of iden­tity in ad copy, go read a J. Peter­man prod­uct descrip­tion or two, and you’ll see this style of copy at work.


by Jeff

Seth Godin posted this with more of a “con­sumer pro­tec­tion” spin on it, but I think it’s fun­da­men­tal to mar­ket­ing as well, so I’m going to quote part of the post here, and then elab­o­rate on it a bit.  Here’s the excerpted quote, but you really ought to read the entire post:

Here’s one rea­son we mess up [big deci­sions about money]: Money is just a number.

Com­par­ing dreams of a great [car] stereo (four years of dri­ving long dis­tances, lis­ten­ing to great music!) com­pared with the daily reminder of our cheap­ness makes pick­ing the bet­ter stereo feel eas­ier. After all, we’re not giv­ing up any­thing but a number.

The col­lege case is even more clear. $200,000 is a num­ber that’s big, sure, but it doesn’t have much sub­stance. It’s not a num­ber we play with or encounter very often. The feel­ing about the story of com­pro­mise involv­ing some­thing tied up in our self-esteem, though, that feel­ing is some­thing we deal with daily.

Here’s how to undo the self-marketing. Stop using numbers.

You can have the stereo if you give up going to Star­bucks every work­day for the next year and a half. Worth it?

If you go to the free school, you can drive there in a brand new Mini con­vert­ible, and every sum­mer you can spend $25,000 on a top-of-the-line internship/experience, and you can cre­ate a jazz series and pay your favorite musi­cians to come to cam­pus to play for you and your fifty coolest friends, and you can have Her­bie Han­cock give you piano lessons and you can still have enough money left over to live with­out debt for a year after you grad­u­ate while you look for the per­fect gig…

Do you see the con­nec­tion with marketing?

Mak­ing num­bers, or more com­monly fea­tures, tan­gi­bly and com­pellingly real to the buyer is exactly what good copy­writ­ers are paid to do. And they do it the same way Seth does in that quote:

  • By con­vert­ing num­bers and fea­tures to human-scaled con­crete measures
  • By iden­ti­fy­ing the ben­e­fits that really mat­ter to the customer
  • By dra­ma­tiz­ing those same end ben­e­fits and cre­at­ing iden­ti­fi­able sce­nar­ios around them

Telling me that this light­weight lug­gage is X pounds lighter doesn’t do much for me.  It’s just a num­ber, uncon­nected to any­thing I might really care about.

Telling me that the saved weight equals the com­bined weight of an extra sport coat, shirt, and pair of dress pants, basi­cally an entire extra change of clothes with­out incur­ring any weight penal­ties, and I just might become inter­ested in the lug­gage for an upcom­ing extended trip.

Remem­ber, a num­ber, unless it’s a dollar-figure that’s going into my bank account, doesn’t directly address the all-important What’s In It For Me (WIIFM) ques­tion. But a vision of me enjoy­ing some tan­gi­ble ben­e­fit does.

That’s the obvi­ous part — the tac­ti­cal prac­ti­cal, must-do part.  So if you’re not con­vert­ing your fea­tures into “which means” ben­e­fit state­ments, and then con­vert­ing those ben­e­fits into dra­matic, visu­al­iz­able sce­nar­ios, then get on it… and start answer­ing WIIFM with load, clear, and vividly dra­ma­tized benefits.

And then, of course, there’s the more sub­tle part: talk­ing about what this or that fea­ture or char­ac­ter­is­tic means not in terms of imme­di­ate ben­e­fit, but in terms of self-identity and shared val­ues.  It’s a bit less practical-tactical, but per­fect for The­ory Thursday…

There’s a sim­ple axiom amongst direct response copy­writ­ers: “make it easy for the cus­tomer to say yes.”

Sounds like a “duh” piece of advice, but it’s amaz­ing how often this advice gets botched.  And it usu­ally get’s botched in one of two ways:

1) The copy doesn’t make it easy for the cus­tomer to real­ize WHAT she would be say­ing yes to.  

In other words, the site doesn’t clarify:

  • WHAT is being offered for sale,
  • WHEN or in what FORM the cus­tomer should expect the actual deliv­er­ables to arrive
  • WHY this is a good deal and bet­ter than the other options
  • HOW MUCH the offered prod­uct or ser­vice will cost

2) The copy doesn’t make it clear HOW to say yes and take that next step.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m a big fan of hav­ing dif­fer­ent con­ver­sion points for early, mid­dle, and late stage shop­pers (where appro­pri­ate), but  you shouldn’t let that get in the way of hav­ing a nice, clean, sim­ple Call to Action.  If prospec­tive cus­tomers have to decide between 14 options just to buy, you’re mak­ing them work too hard, and your sales will suf­fer accordingly.

You Might Be Mess­ing This Up If…

What’s really insid­i­ous about this par­tic­u­lar con­ver­sion flaw is that your mar­ket­ing and Web teams are unlikely to know about sim­ply because they’re suf­fer­ing under The Curse of Knowl­edge.  To them the offer seems per­fectly clear, and the dif­fer­ent options for buy­ing are  a bonus rather than a bur­den.  So even if you don’t think you suf­fer from this, you might want to check to see if:

  1. You have unusu­ally high bounce rates on your home page.
  2. Peo­ple are click­ing on your Calls to Action and then back­track­ing to “How it Works,” “FAQ,” and “About Us” pages — almost as if they’re look­ing one last time to see if they can’t find some answers.
  3. You have unusu­ally high exit rates from “How it Works,” Ser­vices, and Prod­uct pages
  4. Your cart or check­out aban­don­ment rates stay high despite a high-quality check-out process and repeated opti­miza­tion efforts aimed at this por­tion of your Website.

I’m not say­ing these issues are proof pos­i­tive that your mes­sag­ing and basic offers need work, just that the rep­re­sent a good rea­son to look into it.

How to Fix It

The best advice is to hire an out­side expert. I real­ize that sounds a bit self-serving, com­ing from a messaging-driven Web­site Opti­miza­tion pro­fes­sional, but, well, what can I say? It’s the sim­ple truth.

But if you’re try­ing a DIY approach, here’s what I recommend:

A) Try the “Here’s the Deal” Exercise.

Imag­ine that you’re at the bar with an acquain­tance who knows almost noth­ing about your prod­uct or ser­vice, but who would ben­e­fit from it, if only she under­stood a few things. If you were to turn to her and say, “so here’s the deal,” what sort of short and sweet pitch would you give to her that would get her ready to say yes or com­mit to learn­ing more in 120 sec­onds or less?

Also, make sure you don’t use jar­gon — remem­ber, this prospect isn’t an indus­try insider — dur­ing your “so here’s the deal” speech, and make sure the ben­e­fits are dra­ma­tized and compelling.

B) Try Using Schemas

I had Baba Ghanoush for the first time a few months ago, and when I asked what it was, a whole bunch of peo­ple started to explain it to me, with vary­ing degrees of suc­cess.  But then Bryan Eisen­berg — a con­su­mate mar­keter and my per­sonal Web­site Opti­miza­tion men­tor — nailed it when he said it was “egg­plant gua­camole.”  Boom. Sud­denly every­body got it.


Because Bryan invoked a schema we already rec­og­nized, gua­camole, and then mod­i­fied it with egg­plant. Isn’t that a much more ele­gant expla­na­tion than Wikipedia’s, “a Lev­an­tine dish of egg­plant (aubergine) mashed and mixed with vir­gin olive oil and var­i­ous seasonings”?

The same thing hap­pens with movies, too.  Accord­ing to Chip and Dan Heath, Speed was ini­tially pitched as “Die Hard on a Bus.”  Boom. You get it.  Aliens is a sci­ence fic­tion movie, but it’s noth­ing like Star Trek. Totally dif­fer­ent feel, right?  But if you say “Jaws in Space,” you instantly grasp both the con­cept and the feel of the movie.

So what schema could you use to describe your prod­uct or service?

Cau­tion — the schema you use can greatly impact the customer’s expec­ta­tion of value and price, so choose wisely.

C) Stream­line Your Call to Action and Con­ver­sion Process

Now, don’t get rid of your lead nur­tur­ing pro­gram or any­thing, but do con­sider whether you might nar­row down your offer­ings and options. Or at least con­sider mak­ing one option the “default” and most pro­moted option. And as with any piece of Web Opti­miza­tion advice, test it out. See what actu­ally con­verts the best. You might just be sur­prised at the results.

And that’s today’s Prac­ti­cal Tac­ti­cal Tues­day Tip :)

Do the HOME­work too!

When it comes to Adver­tis­ing, Mar­ket­ing, and Per­sua­sion, are you a stu­dent of what’s come before you?

  • Do you know the history?
  • Do you try to learn from the greats by read­ing their books and study­ing their works?
  • Do you look at all of it?  Or just a nar­row slice?

If you didn’t answer Yes to the main ques­tion and the first two bul­let points, you can stop read­ing now. Really. There’s no hope for you.

But I find that quite a few seri­ous copy­writ­ers get hung up on the third bul­let point.

These copy­writ­ers have stud­ied the direct mail lin­eage — Hop­kins, Caples, Col­lier, Schwartz, Hal­bert, Kennedy, et al — but haven’t looked at any of the giants of Madi­son Ave style adver­tis­ing beyond, maybe, Ogilvy.  And vice versa for broad­cast adver­tis­ing guys who’ve never stud­ied Direct Response marketing.

Or they’ve never thought that the The­atre Arts or Rhetoric or Com­edy Writ­ing or Sales Train­ing or even say, Comic Books had any­thing to teach them.

In other words, they dis­miss stuff that’s not directly in their field or that they don’t “get” right away. Big mistake.

So today’s les­son: be a stu­dent of the game — the whole game.  Learn what’s great from the past. Study it.  Note that “study” doesn’t mean pas­sively read­ing it. When in doubt, fig­ure out what other great tal­ents that you DO like see in the “greats” that you don’t get.

And here’s two great links to get you started on the path:

  1. This New York Times arti­cle on Ed McCabe [hat tip to The Escape Pod for turn­ing me onto this article]
  2. This Invis­i­ble Ink post on learn­ing from leg­ends you don’t “get” at first con­tact.

P.S. That NYT arti­cle men­tions the same Volvo ad I used as an exam­ple in my last The­ory Thurs­day post and I man­aged to snag a screen shot of it.  Here it is:

What it Takes to Make the Sale!

I’m guess­ing you already have at least one guar­an­tee or risk rever­sal ele­ment to your main offer.

Maybe it’s in the form of a money-back or sat­is­fac­tion guar­an­tee, a free ship­ping guar­an­tee, or maybe a free esti­mate or free diag­noses. What­ever it is, the point is that you already have it in place. After all, it’s com­mon sense to use some­thing like that to reas­sure your cus­tomer and win more business.

But chances are it’s not doing you very much good because you don’t pro­mote or repeat it often enough — espe­cially at those cru­cial moments of buy­ing decision.

Assur­ances Need Repetition

You assume that  dis­play­ing or speak­ing of your guar­an­tee once is enough, and, well, it’s just plain not.

It’s not enough because the buyer is jug­gling too many other fac­tors in her mind to hold onto that piece of infor­ma­tion so that she can recall it when the moment of truth comes. Plus, it’s not really her job to remem­ber it, either — it’s YOUR job to remind her.

Test­ing this On Your Website rocks the Pont of Action Assurance

Online, this is an easy thing to test: sim­ply run a split test where you test repeat­ing your sat­is­fac­tion or money back or safe shop­ping guar­an­tees in your cart and check­out process vs. not using those points of action reas­sur­ances.  For lead form Web­sites, you can use your pri­vacy or non-call or free-diagnosis guar­an­tees.  What­ever is most appropriate.

Again, chances are you’ll see a big lift by using these points of action assur­ances because, truth be told, this is one of those go-to tools that us Con­ver­sion Rate Opti­miza­tion Pro­fes­sion­als bank on to drive results.

Imple­ment­ing it Offline

Studer Group’s AIDET

But what about off-line?

Guess what, it’s even MORE impor­tant offline than on.

I used to work for a fab­u­lous con­sult­ing com­pany that coaches hos­pi­tals on improv­ing their patient sat­is­fac­tion scores. And one of their go-to tools was a script­ing acronym called AIDET, specif­i­cally used to man­age patient anx­i­ety through reassurance.

AIDET stands for:

  • Acknowl­edge — Acknowl­edge the patient. Look them in the eye and say hello.
  • Intro­duce — Intro­duce your­self and give a quick back­ground of your expe­ri­ence and qual­i­fi­ca­tions. Don’t assume that the patient will assume that you know what you are doing just because you are wear­ing scrubs; TELL them you have umpteen years of expe­ri­ence at what­ever it is you are doing.
  • Dura­tion — Tell them what you are doing and how long what­ever your task is will take — i.e., how long you’ll be both­er­ing them
  • Expla­na­tion —  Tell them WHY you are doing what you are doing, HOW it works, and What is involved.  Relate every­thing back to their care. Exam­ple: I’m wak­ing you up at 4:00 am to draw blood for tests that will pro­vide “real-time” lab results to your doc­tor when he comes to check on you at 7:30 this morning.
  • Thank You — Thank the patient for seek­ing care at your hos­pi­tal, for being patient dur­ing your pro­ce­dure, etc.  Then ask if there is any­thing else you can do for them, specif­i­cally stat­ing that you “have the time” to answer their ques­tions or do what­ever they might request.

So what does all this have to do with Point of Action Assurances?

Notice that the Intro­duce part reas­sures the patient that they are in good hands, and that the “I have the time” phrase said dur­ing the Thank You part reas­sures patients that it’s OK to ask. The assump­tion is that it’s the nurses job to remind and reas­sure the patient dur­ing crit­i­cal trans­ac­tions and not the patient’s job to know or remember.

Your in-store staff can use sim­i­lar tech­niques.  I’d advise you to come up with your own acronym, but you would def­i­nitely want to remind cus­tomers that:

  • Your stores sat­is­fac­tion guar­an­tees or return policies
  • You have addi­tional items or sizes in the back and would be happy to bring them up front for the customer
  • You are an offi­cial dis­trib­u­tor or what­ever for this or that brand
  • They have been specif­i­cally trained in how to fit cus­tomers for this or that item
  • They them­selves are pas­sion­ate chefs/bikers/hunters/stereophiles/etc. and/or have been trained on the products
  • Pro­vide free esti­mates, draw­ings, sam­ples, etc. to prospec­tive customers

So what are you doing at your busi­ness?  Does your staff have any­thing like AIDET to fall back on to ensure that they are con­sis­tently reas­sur­ing cus­tomers dur­ing the moment of truth?

If not, you might want to do a lit­tle “offline” test­ing of your own…

Page 7 of 30« First...56789...2030...Last »