Jim Rohn, a great business philosopher once said in a lecture about communication, “to be a master communicator, all you’ve got to do is follow this simple three-step process:
- Have something good to say
- Say it well
- Say it often
Why does this ring true for marketers? Because people trust brands that are expert communicators. What this means is that you will see more engagement, traffic, and conversions when you are effectively communicating with your audience. People want to interact with brands that encourage a two-way dialogue. They want to interact with brands that don't oversell and push their product features on them. When brands do this, they are fighting for the same level as attention from their audience. They are not offering anything new or unique.
For advertising in particular, it means that having something good to say means that you have something unique that is worth advertising. Saying it well means that you are taking what you do well and communicating it in your advertising in such a way that it captures people’s attention and encourages them to take action.
Selling your features is very surface level. You need to dig deeper and establish a memorable connection through messaging that is much more meaningful, and here's how to do it.
Saying it Well
Many marketers and advertisers will agree that advertising gives you great leverage on your dollars invested. However, you can waste a lost of money if you’re not doing it properly. The people that have seen success with ads will agree that the language you use in your ads can make the difference between a successful and a failed campaign.
What's the difference between an ad that makes you a lot of money verses one that costs you a lot of money?
The difference is saying it well.
If you say it well, your ads will make you a lot of money instead of costing you. It's that simple.
Why does this matter? Well regardless if you’re writing the ads yourself or hiring an ad agency, it's smart to understand how to effectively write ads for your business so you can get the most bang for your buck.
Use words to create mental pictures in your prospect's mind
Take a moment and think of a dog. Did you picture the animal or see the words spelled out d-o-g? Most people, if not all, will think of the animal, either their own dog or a dog they might have seen in the park. This is how the human mind works. We don’t picture a word, an idea, or a concept, but rather a picture. Now picture the CN Tower. Did you picture the tall, narrow shaped structure? Or did you see the words spelled out.
You get the picture (pun intended).
Now, let's think of a concept, rather than an object like a dog or landmark. It makes sense you would think of an object by picturing the object, but you’re saying that you probably wouldn’t think of something abstract in a picture.
Let's take the word FAME. What do you see? Did you think of the letters F-A-M-E? Or did your mind paint a mental picture of something instead? Maybe it was a flashback to the old movie Fame, a famous actor or actress, a singer, or a professional athlete. Or maybe you saw a scene from a movie that represented fame. Maybe it was a combination of all of the above? Maybe your mental picture shows the flashes that come from being photographed a thousand times by the media or maybe you saw your picture on the cover of a magazine. It’s different for everybody, but for everybody it’s a visual representation.
Now think of the word Politics. Who or what do you see? Everyone's visual representation will be different. Why am I telling you this? Because the power of visual representation is very powerful in marketing to your prospects.
As an advertiser, you need to create a mental picture in the minds of your prospects that will get them to do three things:
- Pay attention to your ad
- Become very interested in what you’re selling
- And to take action
We've established now that as a successful advertiser, you need to paint a picture in your prospects’ brain, however, this isn’t a simple task to do. You might be thinking “If the mind uses pictures, then we’ll just place a bunch of pictures in our ads and that will do the trick. After all, as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, right? We’ll put pictures in our ad that illustrate the points we’re trying to make and everyone will understand and take action.”
Your interpretation of a picture and someone else’s probably isn’t the same thing. This is the main problem with the use of pictures in ads.
So then, which approach should you take? Should you include pictures in your ads or not? You can use words to create mental pictures to capture the attention of your audience and communicate your story a lot more effectively than a photo can.
Here are some examples...
I’ll start by giving you an example of a smartphone company selling a new waterproof phone. A problem many smartphone users face is destroying their device from water damage, whether it’s in a pot of homemade tomato sauce, a swimming pool, or even the toilet. This particular company acknowledged this pain people were having and engineered a phone that be submerged in a tank of water. How did they do this? The manufacturers used sticky, rubbery glue-like substances to create an airtight seal. Now, imagine you are writing an ad about the merit of the new waterproof device with it’s new and improved sealant. How would you say it? You need to paint a picture for the reader so how exactly could you do this?
Well, find out how the company tested the waterproofness. They tested it in the rain, dropped it in a swimming pool, and maybe even took it in the shower. Now that you know how it was tested, this gives you a good understanding of how you can capture the attention of the audience by directly addressing their pain-point. Writing something like “This phone can survive a dip in the pool on a hot summer day” will most definitely leave your audience with a mental picture of a phone floating in a pool. They’ll want to test it out and see for themselves.
And here’s the best part: every person who heard or read that headline got to paint the mental picture using their own images and scenes which makes the picture more vivid and more believable.
Here are a few more examples. A company that does pre-employment screening and background checks wanted an ad that emphasized how effective they were at screening out bad employees. They debated about what people really wanted from a pre-employment screening company. “They want the checks done fast, they want the checks done accurately, etc.” But what people want can all be summed up in one headline: “Now You Can Avoid Hiring Weirdos, Losers, and Lunatics.” The sub-headline said there was a secondary benefit of “and get all the information you need in just six hours or less.” That one definitely puts a pretty graphic picture in your mind.
Now let’s talk about some other ways that might not work as well when creating a mental picture in the mind. “We Go The Extra Mile For Our Clients.” Did you picture anything specific there? There’s nothing really there for us to picture. It leaves you visually numb. It does a poor job of creating a mental picture.
How about this one: let’s take the example of a photography studio specializing in children’s portraits and senior pictures for high school students. For the last several years, they had done what just about every other photographer on the face of the planet did when it came to advertising. They sent out an oversized postcard with a bunch of pictures of beautiful people on the front with some kind of boring headline like, “Only the Best” or “Capture Your Style” or something that was trying to convey the message of “Come get your photo take here and you’ll look beautiful, too.” The only problem with that kind of advertising is that it DOES NOT create any mental pictures. And the actual photos on the postcard don’t mean anything since the person looking at them fully expects the promotional picture would look good. Even a horrible photographer has a few decent shots he shows his prospects. So instead, one photographer sent a postcard that contained only the following words: “You’ve Got The Ugliest Kids I’ve Ever Seen In My Life,” with the sub-headline “That’s What They’ll Say If You Get Caught Using The Wrong Photographer.” See how effective that is? See how that creates a vivid picture – a mental impression – in the mind? That’s the power of mental pictures. And you can create them for your product or service too.
Now, I’m not saying that you can’t use actual pictures effectively in an advertisement. You can. It’s been done lots of times…but here’s the key: usually the pictures are used in tandem with words. Why? The words are what create the MENTAL picture that describes the actual picture. Here’s an example: if you do a lot of meetings or seminars, you get a lot of solicitations from meeting facilities. There’s also a magazine called Meeting News. It’s one of those free subscription magazines with a bunch of shallow, token articles existing solely as an advertising vehicle for resorts and meeting facilities. That being the case, you’d think the advertisers would be trying really hard to say just the right things to make the phones ring. I mean, it’s a competitive environment in that magazine; almost every ad is selling the exact same thing: meeting space.
There was a full-page ad for Hilton Resorts dominated by a huge photograph. It was an aerial view of a big green lawn with a dog that had dug what looked like about a half a dozen holes. The dog was currently situated near the middle of the page and was in the process of digging another hole. Remember I said earlier that while a picture is worth a thousand words, the important thing is which thousand words? So what does the hole-digging dog say to you? What conclusion do you draw? Fortunately, Hilton was good enough to provide a headline to try to clarify. The headline read, “At Hilton Direct, we’ll find the perfect meeting location for you, whether it’s 2,000 miles away or in your own backyard.”
Oh, okay…the doggie’s looking for the perfect location to bury his bone, I mean, to plan his meeting. Does this make sense to you? The picture does a horrible job of getting to the point – which, by the way, still hasn’t been discovered. After a thorough reading of the ad’s text, you can find the point. Buried way down deep in the copy is this tidbit: they have over 500 properties all over the country which, I guess, ensures there’s one near you and by making just one call, you could presumably make your meeting plans for anywhere. So here’s the question: why didn’t they just say that? Maybe they should have used the headline “Only One Resort Lets You Compare And Price Out 523 Different Meeting Facilities Nationwide With Just One Easy Phone Call. That’s Hilton Direct.” Yes, there are probably better headlines they could use, but it’s better than the digging dog.
The place to paint the picture is in the mind. Not on the paper. Don’t draw a conclusion from the examples here that you have to use an inflammatory headline like the Fat Guy one or the Ugly Kids one or the Don’t Hire Losers one…although it can certainly help. Those are just examples to prove the point about creating mental pictures. Here’s what you need to know: Your ability to use words to create pictures in the minds of listeners will greatly enhance your chances of success. Most of the ads out there don’t effectively create mental pictures. Instead, they unthinkingly spew out verbal garbage. Instead of mental pictures, they create mental numbness. Why would they do that? Don’t waste your money that way.