Tag: copywriting

 
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Be Imaginative

Whatís the easiest way to kill a great ad campaign before it even begins? Take it too seriously. Advertising is not rocket science. You shouldnít need a degree in the physical sciences to create or understand an ad.

And you should never, ever, under any circumstances, kill an ad because it is not literal enough. On the contrary, if you find your ads are too literal, you should destroy them all and start fresh.

Are Volkswagens flawed pieces of junk? No, but an ad with the headline ìLemonî gets your attention, doesnít it? It makes you want to read the story, which goes on to explain how the particular car shown in the ad would never be driven because VW cares so much it weeds out the lemons so you never get a bad car. Think what an opportunity would have been missed if the folks at Volkswagen had taken that headline too literally.

Think about it from this angle. Why do people read an ad or watch a commercial? The majority do so because they find them entertaining and informative. If your ads are all information and no entertainment, youíve wasted your budget.

This is not to say that an ad should be created purely for entertainment purposes. Again, a great ad is both entertaining and informative. The entertainment value should be derived from a feature of your product or brand. In other words, what youíre selling should be the star of the show. Sounds simple enough, but it is often hard to strike the right balance. Thatís what makes advertising so fun.

How much information does your audience really need? What kind of story will they find entertaining? These are questions that should be asked and answered early on so that when you finally are presented with an ad or a campaign, you can judge the work according to these preordained guidelines.

A good campaign will reach your target audience and talk to them on a personal level. This has a valuable effect on your sales and reputation. A great advertising campaign will do more than that. It will create a buzz outside of your target audience.

Apple Computerís ì1984î commercial ran only once. But it is still one of the most talked about commercials because it was rebroadcast on every major news show and written about in every major newspaper for weeks and months. And none of this cost Apple anything more than a single TV buy.

Itís worth noting that Appleís Super Bowl commercial helped make the company a household name and created unbelievable demand for the new Macintosh computer-yet the ad never showed the product or explained any details about it.

BMWís Mini Cooper was one of the first cars to be introduced in the United States with no TV advertising. Blasphemy! Instead, they bolted the Minis to the roofs of SUVs and drove them around major cities. They created tongue-in-cheek billboards, interactive print ads and great guerrilla promotions. Most importantly, they created a waiting list of customers who couldnít wait to get a Mini.

Companies that think bigger become bigger. Itís a self-fulfilling cycle. If you just think like a local operation, you might miss the opportunity to expand regionally, nationally, or even internationally. Your advertising campaign should reflect the direction of your companyóeven if youíre not yet there.

Challenge yourself and your agency to think bigger

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Be Single Minded

Youíve read about the importance of being courageous, rebellious and imaginative. These are all vital ingredients in an effective advertising campaign. However, they must be tempered with the most important ingredient of allóstrategy.

As long as the advertising industry has been in existence there has been debate about whether advertising is art or commerce. Quite frankly, this kind of divisive argument is a waste of time and has only helped to diminish what little respect the industry has earned through the years. Besides, the answer is simple. Advertising is the art of commerce.

It canít be pure art because pure art wonít engage the consumer on behalf of the brand. Art can certainly get peopleís attention, but it rarely causes them to take action. If the consumer is not actively engaged, the brand wonít grow. If the brand doesnít grow, the company wonít profit. And if the company ceases to make a profit, it dies and takes its brand with it.

On the other hand, advertising canít be mere commerce because capitalism, in and of itself, is not pretty. It doesnít make people sit up and take notice. Pure commerce deals with the exchange of money for goods and services. How boring is that. Besides, you donít want to encourage simple commerce. You want to promote branded commerce. That is what makes strategy so important.

Letís be clear. Weíre talking advertising strategy. Advertising is not marketing. Marketing involves several disciplines including product, pricing, packaging, distribution, customers and promotions (which encompasses public relations, advertising, point-of-sale, direct marketing, e-marketing, etc.).

If your ad agency canít tell the difference between marketing and advertising strategy, run like hell. Youíre liable to waste a lot of money. Now some agencies do understand the balance between the broader marketing picture and the narrow, targeted advertising scope. If they are capable and comfortable operating in both realms, they will be a very valuable partner to you.

The importance of a strong ad strategy canít be stressed enough. Creating ads without strategy is like throwing a ping pong ball at a speeding car in a wind storm. There is little chance you will hit your target.

With a sound advertising strategy, however, even a company with a limited budget can compete against deep-pocketed competitors. Such is the power of the single idea that remains constant over time. This, my friend, is the essence of long-term branding.

You must start by knowing to whom you are speaking and to whom you should be speaking. What are their hot buttons? What kinds of things are they paying attention to (art)? What would make them want your product or service (commerce)? What kind of life do they lead? What are some of their daily hassles? Can your product or service help with any?

The key, of course, is to begin thinking about your customers and potential customers. Focus on their needs instead of your own. By offering solutions to their needs, you will fulfill your own profit needs. It doesnít work the other way around. Trust me.

Only after you know your audience, should you start thinking about how to communicate with them. Because only then will you know how and where to reach them.

 

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Be Rebellious

 

In order to get consumers (whether they are retail or service customers or business-to-business audiences) to notice an advertising message, many companies resort to loudness and one-upmanship. Neither of these tactics works in the long run.

If your competition is talking loudly and you decide to yell louder, what do you think they will do? Yep. Theyíll start to scream. Nobody wins a shouting match when it comes to advertising. And usually youíll find you even lose a few customers in the process because they canít stand the noise.

Itís the same with one-upmanship. If you have to compete on more and better coupons or more and better discounts, giveaways or incentives unrelated to your core product, your revenue per sale decreases as well as your number of sales.

Customers see these types of games as gimmicky, fake and disingenuous; and they leave. The ones who do stay now view you and your competitors as commodities with no difference except your price. That is a dangerous place for a company to find itself.

The answer to clutter is not more clutter; itís finding who wants to hear you and speaking to them. So how do you compete if you canít out shout or out discount your competition? You get rebellious and radical with your advertising.

Do those words scare you? Thatís okay. Remember, youíre being courageous now. You can handle it. Besides, rebellious and radical arenít dirty words. They will help you draw attention away from your competition without resorting to screaming and insulting your customers.

Itís not about being outrageous just to get attention; itís about being remarkable. An advertising campaign with a strong rebellious strategy is, by its very nature, different from anything your audience will find from your competitorsí marketing efforts. Itís unexpected. Itís surprising. Itís effective.

There are two keys to creating a successfully rebellious advertising campaign. The first is the big idea. This idea comes from a strategy that is derived directly from your customers and their relationship with your brand. You arrive at this idea through a discipline called account planning. Weíll get into the details of both the big idea and account planning in later articles.

The second key to a successfully rebellious advertising campaign is attention. You canít gain attention if you donít learn to identify and then steer clear of the norm. It doesnít matter how great your product or service is or how large your potential market, if your target audience doesnít pay attention to your message, your ad budget has been wasted.

Think about these two keys while you flip through the newspaper or a magazine. Ponder them while you watch TV. You should notice something almost immediately. Most ads today donít seem to be based on any big idea. Many are so boring that you flip right past them without noticing them. Others get your attention but the ads donít have much to do with the product so you quickly forget the brand the ad was supposed to sell you. What an opportunity for your brand!

Now, there is a caveat to being rebellious. Your ads should never be different just for difference sake. The difference should be derived from your brandís uniqueness

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Be Courageous

For such a simple statement, this is one of the hardest things for people to do. It goes back to that damn survival instinct each of us is born with. If an animal draws attention to itself in the wild, it might soon find itself the main course of a larger animalís next meal. That fear of being chewed up and spit out has survived all our millions of years of evolution and is alive and well in todayís business environment.

Fight or flight is another instinct many of us havenít yet learned to manipulate. Itís easier to run away from a new idea than it is to stay and fight for it. With todayís leadership-by-committee mentality and intense public scrutiny, the easiest solution is unfortunately the most popular. Companies today often miss the forest through the trees. They tend to concentrate so much on short-term profit that they fail to make investments or take advantages of opportunities that promise long-term profit simply because they require a short-term loss.

It may also be argued that fighting for a new ideaówhether that means pushing for the development of a new product, staving off competitors or supporting a slumping brand rather than letting it dieóis usually undesirable because of such costs.

Certainly that might be true in the short term, but in the long run, giving up too soon my actually cost your company far more in lost revenues, public outrage or shrinking market share. It requires a different way of thinking. Advertising and promoting your business is an investment in your businessí future. Investments are not mere costs. They come with a benefit.

Letís get one thing straight from the very beginning. No company ever dominated its industry by operating with a philosophy of fear. And, ultimately, no company can survive if it doesnít learn to conquer its fear and take chances, make changes.

It is the ability to see past any short-term problems to the bigger, long-term picture that has fueled the meteoric rise of the worldís most successful companies. Nobody knew what Apple was before its history making 1985 Super Bowl commercial.

Apple paid to run that commercial only once, but it ran again hundreds of times around the country and the world during local and national news broadcasts. Stories about Apple and its commercial were front-page news for weeks.

When it comes to advertising, you might wonder what kinds of changes are needed. After all, itís just advertising. If your ads look like your competitorsí ads, if your messages are strikingly similar, if you talk to yourself instead of your customers, if you worry more about your logo being large enough than the message being attention-getting enough, you need to change.

Now this is just the first step, so we wonít get into any more detail here. The object of this step is to let you know that you need to screw up your courage and prepare to make some changes in your advertising that will have a profound effect on your bottom line.

Fear is the greatest motivator. However, instead of motivating people to act, it usually causes people to freeze or retreat. It takes courage to make the kinds of changes that are needed to survive in todayís crowded, complicated and competitive business environment.

Conquer your fear. Be courageous.

 

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9 secrets Mark Twain taught me about advertising

ìMany a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising.î

Advertising is life made to look larger than life, through images and words that promise a wish fulfilled, a dream come true, a problem solved. Even Viagra follows Mark Twainís keen observation about advertising. The worst kind of advertising exaggerates to get your attention, the best, gets your attention without exaggeration. It simply states a fact or reveals an emotional need, then lets you make the leap from ìsmall to large.î Examples of the worst: before-and-after photos for weight loss products and cosmetic surgeryóboth descend to almost comic disbelief. The best: Appleís “silhouette” campaign for iPod and the breakthrough ads featuring Eminemóboth catapult iPod to ìinstant coolî status.

ìWhen in doubt, tell the truth.î

Todayís advertising is full of gimmicks. They relentlessly hang on to a product like a ball and chain, keeping it from moving swiftly ahead of the competition, preventing any real communication of benefits or impetus to buy. The thinking is, if the gimmick is outrageous or silly enough, itís got to at least get their attention. Local car dealer ads are probably the worst offenders–using zoo animals, sledgehammers, clowns, bikini-clad models, anything unrelated to the productís real benefit. If the people who thought up these outrageous gimmicks spent half their energy just sticking to the productís real benefits and buying motivators, theyíd have a great ad. What they donít realize is, they already have a lot to work with without resorting to gimmicks. Thereís the product with all its benefits, the brand, which undoubtedly theyíve spent money to promote, the competition and its weaknesses, and two powerful buying motivatorsófear of loss and promise of gain. In other words, all you really have to do is tell the truth about your product and be honest about your customersí wants and needs. Of course, sometimes thatís not so easy. You have to do some digging to find out what you customers really want, what your competition has to offer them, and why your product is better.

ìFacts are stubborn things, but statistics are more pliable.î

In advertising, you have to be very careful how you use facts. As any politician will tell you, facts are scary things. They have no stretch, no pliability, no room for misinterpretation. Theyíre indisputable. And used correctly, very powerful. But statistics, now thereís something advertisers and politicians love. ìNine out of ten doctors recommend Preparation J.î Who can dispute that? Or ìFive out of six dentists recommend Sunshine Gum.î Makes me want to run out and buy a pack of Sunshine right now. Hold it. Rewind.

ìWhenever you find youíre on the side of the majority, it is time to reform.î

Letís take a look at how these statsóthis apparent majorityómight have come to be. First off, how many doctors did they ask before they found nine out of ten to agree that Preparation J did the job? 1,000? 10,000? And how many dentists hated the idea of their patients chewing gum but relented, saying, ìMost chewing gum has sugar and other ingredients, that rot out your teeth, but if the guyís gotta chew the darn stuff, it may as well be Sunshine, which has less sugar in it.î The point is, stats can be manipulated to say almost anything. And yes, the devilís in the details. The fact is, thereís usually a 5% chance you can get any kind of result simply by accident. And because many statistical studies are biased and not ìdouble blindî (both subject and doctor donít know who was given the test product and who got the placebo). Worst of all, statistics usually need the endless buttressing of legal disclaimers. If you donít believe me, try to read the full-page of legally mandated warnings for that weight- loss pill youíve been taking. Bottom line: stick to facts. Then back them up with sound selling arguments that address the needs of your customer.

ìThe difference between the right word and almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.î

To write really effective ad copy means choosing exactly the right word at the right time. You want to lead your customer to every benefit your product has to offer, and you want to shed the best light on every benefit. It also means you donít want to give them any reason or opportunity to wander away from your argument. If they wander, youíre history. Theyíre off to the next page, another TV channel or a new website. So make every word say exactly what you mean it to say, no more, no less. Example: if a product is new, donít be afraid to say ìnewî (a product is only new once in its life, so exploit the fact).

ìGreat people make us feel we can become great.î

And so do great ads. While they canít convince us weíll become millionaires, be as famous as Madonna, or as likeable as Tom Cruise, they make us feel we might be as attractive, famous, wealthy, or admired as weíd like to think we can be. Because thereís a ìLittle Engine That Couldî in all of us that says, under the right conditions, we could beat the odds and catch the brass ring, win the lottery, or sell that book weíve been working on. Great advertising taps into that belief without going overboard. An effective ad promoting the lottery once used pictures of people sitting on an exotic beach with little beach umbrellas in their cocktails (a perfectly realistic image for the average person) with the line: Somebodyís has to win, may as well be you.î

ìThe universal brotherhood of man is our most precious possession.î

Weíre all part of the same family of creatures called homo sapiens. We each want to be admired, respected and loved. We want to feel secure in our lives and our jobs. So create ads that touch the soul. Use an emotional appeal in your visual, headline and copy. Even humor, used correctly, can be a powerful tool that connects you to your potential customer. It doesnít matter if youíre selling shoes or software, people will always respond to what you have to sell them on an emotional level. Once theyíve made the decision to buy, the justification process kicks in to confirm the decision. To put it another way, once theyíre convinced youíre a mensche with real feelings for their hopes and wants as well as their problems, theyíll go from prospect to customer.

ìA human being has a natural desire to have more of a good thing than he needs.î

Ainít it the truth. More money, more clothes, fancier car, bigger house. Itís what advertising feeds on. ìYou need this. And you need more of it every day.î Itís the universal mantra that drives consumption to the limits of our charge cards. So, how to tap into this insatiable appetite for more stuff? Convince buyers that more is better. Colgate offers 20% more toothpaste in the giant economy size. You get 60 more sheets with the big Charmin roll of toilet paper. GE light bulbs are 15% brighter. Raisin Brain now has 25% more raisins. When Detroit found it couldnít sell more cars per household to an already saturated U.S. market, they started selling more car per caróSUVs and trucks got bigger and more powerful. Theyíre still selling giant 3-ton SUVs that get 15 miles per gallon.

ìClothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.î

Who gets the girl? Who attracts the sharpest guy? Who lands the big promotion? Neiman Marcus knows. So does Abercrombie & Fitch. And Saks Fifth Avenue. Why else would you fork over $900 for a power suit? Or $600 for a pair of shoes? Observers from Aristotle to the twentieth century have consistently maintained that character is immanent in appearance, asserting that clothes reveal a rich palette of interior qualities as well as a brand mark of social identity. Hereís where the right advertising pays for itself big time. Where you must have the perfect model (not necessarily the most attractive) and really creative photographers and directors who know how to tell a story, create a mood, convince you that youíre not buying the ìemperorís clothes.î Example of good fashion advertising: the Levis black-and-white spot featuring a teenager driving through the side streets and alleys of the Czech Republic. Stopping to pick up friends, he gets out of the car wearing just a shirt as the voiceover cheekily exclaims, “Reason 007: In Prague, you can trade them for a car.”

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