Archive for the ‘Advertising and Marketing’ Category

Selling Swedish Coffee Through the Mail

February 9, 2020

Lester Wunderman

Brand storytelling is about standing for something and striving for excellence in everything your business does. It’s about framing your scarcity and dictating your value.
Bernadette Jiwa, The Fortune Cookie Principle

The Stories We Tell Ourselves

The human mind tells itself stories to make sense out of this crazy old world. We think in narratives. For example, if I told you there were ten thousand orphans created by the latest war, that would upset you. But you would be much more moved by the details of the plight of a single orphan child.

The Father of Direct Marketing

Lester Wunderman was “the first direct marketer ever to be on the senior board of a major (advertising) agency.” He’s often referred to as the Father of Direct Marketing.

Decades before the internet existed, Wunderman envisioned a future where “a better, less time-consuming way of shopping would evolve, and the home would become the shopping center of the future.”

A New Way to Buy Coffee

In 1980, when he was working for Young & Rubicam, Wunderman was convinced he could sell premium Swedish Gevalia coffee by mail, but he faced three significant hurdles:

  1. Getting people to pay a premium price for a brand they’d never heard of
  2. Getting people to buy coffee through the mail
  3. Getting people to believe that great coffee comes from Sweden

Although Y&R’s research showed that Americans enjoyed the taste of Gevalia, Wunderman knew it wasn’t going to be an easy sell.

First of all, there are countries that we naturally associate with coffee – think Brazil, Kenya, Columbia, Italy, or Costa Rica. But Wunderman realized that “No one in America thought of Sweden as a source of great coffee.”

(Actually, the Swedes are crazy about their coffee! Only their Nordic neighbors in Finland drink more coffee than the Swedes. Maybe it’s those long, cold nights.)

Automatic Replenishment

Another problem was getting people to accept a brand new way to buy consumable products. In 1980, Americans weren’t used to receiving packaged goods in their mailboxes.

Wunderman decided he needed a come up with a “new word” to “describe the process of selling something people regularly consumed.” He settled on the phrase “automatic replenishment.” This would allow people to buy a coffee “subscription” so they “would never run out of Gevalia.” It was a very shrewd marketing strategy.

Automatic replenishment is an evocative phrase, and the word replenish contains some very pleasant connotations (refresh, restore, renew). In copywriting, it’s important to remember that the connotations of words trigger all sorts of emotional responses.

The Quest for the Perfect Cup of Coffee

When it came time to write the copy for Gevalia, Wunderman realized that he had to do more than simply choose the right adjectives. Clever advertisers had already sold a lot of coffee by convincing people that it would provide a rich, strong, aromatic, and satisfying experience. These are some wonderful words that convey a sense of wealth, power, comfort, and even a hint of sexual gratification.

It was time to try something else. So Wunderman used storytelling to convince Americans to buy expensive Swedish coffee through the mail. He decided to focus on the tale of Gevalia’s master coffee roaster Victor Engvall and his “obsession with the perfect cup of coffee.”

The Rest of the Story

How did Wunderman do it? To hear rest of the story, see Lester Wunderman’s exceptional memoir Being Direct, Chapter 22.

If you read the whole book, you’ll learn a whole bunch of fascinating stuff: Wunderman’s involvement in the early days of record clubs; how he used catalogues to sell millions of rosebushes; how he helped convince people not to leave home without the American Express Card; how he was courted by the legendary David Oglivy.

Spoiler alert: Wunderman was very impressed by Oglivy, “the best presenter of advertising I had ever seen,” but he decided to merge his firm WRK with Y&R instead.

 

by Richard W. Bray

Some Copywriting Tips for Content Writers

July 16, 2019

Legendary Adman Herschell Gordon Lewis

To be successful, a copywriter has to do everything a good salesman does without the benefit of a live customer to react to — you can’t look into your customer’s eyes and you can’t hear the tenor of their voice as they respond to your words.

Instead, you have to anticipate any possible reservations your reader might have and address them in advance.

Don’t Use a Bunch of Highfalutin Words

You don’t impress potential customers when you use words they don’t understand. In fact, it leads them to conclude that you just aren’t smart enough to say what you mean in plain English.

Make Your Writing More Inviting

When your readers see a massive block of text, it’s intimidating.

So use headlines, bullet points, and bold text to break up your prose and make it more inviting.

Most readers don’t read the whole thing all at once. Instead, they peruse the copy, considering the headlines, bullets, and bold text first.

A word of warning about bold text: Just like swearing, the more you use it, the less potent it becomes.

And generally speaking, headlines should be no longer than 10 words.

Start With a Bang

As the great Elmer Wheeler used to say (no, I’m not making that name up) “The First ten words are more important than the next ten thousand.”

That’s why it’s often a good idea to begin with one or two provocative questions or a short, direct declarative sentence.

Sell the Benefit

Legendary adman David Oglivy used to say that good copywriting shouldn’t call attention to itself. Instead, you should “make the product the star.”

Tell the readers precisely how whatever you have to sell will make their life better by saving them time, saving them money, making them look better, making them feel better, or making other people envy them even more.

Don’t Overpromise

If you make one unbelievable assertion, readers will automatically question everything else you have to say.

Say Their Name, Say Their Name—A Lot

As Dale Carnegie used to say: “A person’s name is to that person, the sweetest, most important sound in any language.”

But you can’t address your customers by name. So use the words “you” and “your” as often as you can without sounding goofy.

We Think by Feeling

Modern brain research confirms that human beings “think by feeling,” just like the poet Theodore Roethke said.

Words evoke feelings. And buyers are overwhelmingly influenced by feelings. Legendary adman Joseph Sugarman reminds us:

You buy a Mercedes automobile emotionally but you then justify the purchase logically with its technology, safety and resale value.

Customers aren’t buying what you’re actually selling — they’re buying the way they hope it will make them feel.

The Right Connotations Are Crucial

Connotations are the feelings that a word evokes in addition to its official dictionary definition.

For example, the words cheap and inexpensive mean roughly the same thing, but they have very different connotations.

Which sentence sounds more warm and cuddly?

Dr. Smith provides outstanding treatment.

or

Dr. Smith provides outstanding care.

And don’t use words with negative connotations to assert a positive value. For example, legendary adman Herschell Gordon Lewis used to go bonkers whenever he read copy that suggested a product would “drastically improve your life.”

Drastic is full of negative connotations — so why not say “this product will dramatically improve your life,” instead?

Rhythm and Flow

Even though people will typically read your copy silently inside their own heads, the sound of the words you choose and how they flow together strongly influence the way your writing will be received.

Poetry and copywriting have a lot more in common than most people realize.

 

by Richard W. Bray

SEO: A Love Story

November 17, 2018

I remember the times
When you sat on my lap
You shared your domain name
And showed me your sitemap

I had a high PageRank
The world was my stage
I was the solitary server
On your landing page

We were so optimized
And you threw it away
De-indexing my love
On a Whiteboard Friday

We had canonical love
It just isn’t right
For anyone else
To be crawling your site

I’m losing my mind
And I’m right on the brink
Why you gotta treat me
Like a no-follow link?

Follow the breadcrumbs
Back to my perch
You know where to find me
In an organic search

By Richard W. Bray

Applying Joseph Sugarman’s Copywriting Tips to Content Writing

April 24, 2017

Copywriting usually means putting the right words together in the right order to get people to pay money for something.

But sometimes copywriting means saying the right things to get people to feel good about your client.

Content writing is copywriting designed specifically for professional websites.

Content writing shares these two major goals with copywriting:

a) getting people to pay money for something.
b) getting people to like someone/something better.

But medium affects message. In addition to selling the product and the client, content writers must regularly supply a substantial number of words on topics that are useful and interesting to the client’s audience. For example, if the client owns a fitness gym, engaging and informative blogs on health and nutrition should be of interest his customers.

Good content is important to SEO and good SEO brings more visitors and more visitors mean more money for the client. And when visitors stay longer, it’s good for SEO, which means more customers and more money. (Of course, this only applies if you’re selling a product or service people want; not even Don Draper could sell something people don’t want.)

Joseph Sugarman wrote extremely successful advertising copy for a long time. He specialized in direct mail and advertorials, advertisements disguised to look like articles in magazines. It’s not easy to get someone’s attention when she’s sorting through junk mail or reading articles in a good magazine. Sugarman needed to suck his readers into his copy and engage them to the point where they read the entire thing. And then many of them would pick up the phone and call the 800 number where operators are standing by.

Sugarman’s genius is to make his copy extremely compelling from beginning to end.  As any writer can tell you, that’s not an easy thing to do.

People voluntarily seek web content via a link or a search engine.  So content writers don’t need to grab their readers with the same intensity that Sugarman did. But content writers do need to be able to hold their readers, and Sugarman was great at that. Like copywriters, content writers want to hold the reader long enough to garner a sale or at least hold the reader long enough to get his contact information.

Tips from Joseph Sugarman for Content Writers

Here’s some tips from Joseph Sugarman’s Adweek Copywring Handbook which apply to content writers as well as copywriters:

You control the environment. Unlike a store where you spend thousands of dollars to create an environment, you can do it all simply in the copy of your ad or the look of your web site (38).

At the preliminary part of the sale, you must get the prospective reader to start saying yes. In order to do this, you should make statements that are honest and believable (40).

Emotion Principle (66)
a) Every word has an emotion associated with it and tells a story.
b) Every good ad is an emotional outpouring of words, feelings and impressions.
c) You sell on emotion, but you justify a purchase with logic.

You can create a warm and personal atmosphere when you use words like I, you and me. This will create the feel of a personal form of communication (88).

Use as few commas as you can get away with (106).

Break up your writing with paragraph headings because they make your writing look more inviting so your reader will start the reading process (114).

Never forget that just as a song has a rhythm, so does copy (120). Always listen to the words you write inside your head or even read them aloud if it helps.

by Richard W. Bray

New and Improved

January 7, 2017

zznewandimproved

We’re proud to announce
It’s incredible to see
A sensational development
A new and better me

The improvement is amazing
It’s finally here
Compare to other products
It’s remarkably clear

From our team of experts
This miraculous device
A revolutionary bargain
At a startling price

It’s quick and it’s easy
It’s coming to your town
Accept no other offer
We won’t let you down

Introducing our new strategy
It’s guaranteed to work
Time to tell the truth:
I was a stupid selfish jerk

I’m sorry and I love you
I’ll be a better man
It’s a limited-time offer
So get me while you can

by Richard W. Bray

Some Thoughts on Joseph Sugarman’s Adweek Copywriting Handbook

January 29, 2011

sugarman

It’s all about getting her to read the first sentence. And then the next. And the next. Until she finishes the copy and picks up the phone to place her order.

In The Adweek Copywriting Handbook, legendary adman Joseph Sugarman explains the art of creating print advertising which will motivate a person “to exchange his or her hard-earned money for a product or service” (5).

Grab and Keep the Reader

Sugarman describes how “the purpose of all the elements in an ad” is “to get you to read the copy” (31). The pictures, layout and headline must pull readers into the ad. Then the words take over.

The first sentence must “really grab and keep” the reader (32). In order to do this, Sugarman advises copywriters to “Keep it short, sweet and almost incomplete so that the reader has to read the next sentence” (32).

It had to happen.

It’s you against the computer.

It’s easy.

Each of the three brief opening sentences provided by Sugarman is designed to lure the unsuspecting reader down the “slippery slope” of words, ultimately leading him to commit an act of unnecessary consumption.

Once the potential customer has begun her descent, the copy must be compelling enough to “get momentum going and create that buying environment” (114).

A good salesman can decide which strategy to utilize by reading his customer’s face, but a copywriter uses mere words to generate the elements of a showroom inside the reader’s imagination. This process includes anticipating and assuaging all possible objections. Sugarman warns: “Give the readers any excuse not to buy and they won’t buy” (124).

From Me to You

And just like any other salesman, the copywriter’s most important task is to develop a personal relationship with the customer. Although a particular advertisement appears in a magazine that will be read by thousands of readers, it should address potential customers in the same manner one would use speaking to a friend.

It is essential that you write your copy as if you are writing to that single individual. Your copy should be very personal. From me to you. Period (91).

One way copywriters achieve this sense of intimacy is by utilizing the personal pronouns, you, I and me, which “create the feel of a personal form of communication” (88). The word we, however, can make the seller seem large and impersonal. That’s why it’s best to refer to a company and its support staff in an endearing manner: “My team of great engineers is available to help you” (281).

You sell on emotion but you justify a purchase with logic

Human beings are capable of making rational decisions, but decision-making is not a rational process. As poet Theodore Reothke shrewdly noted, “We think by feeling.” And any purchasing decision is fraught with feelings.

As Sugarman explains:

You buy a Mercedes automobile emotionally but you then justify the purchase logically with its technology, safety and resale value (138-9).

How Many Words?

Is there such a thing as too much copy? Not according to Sugarman: “There really is no limit to how long copy should be if you get results” (83). However, space is always finite in newspaper or magazine advertisements. (But space is not restricted with internet ads, which creates many selling opportunities)

But as general rule brevity is better, and “the goal in writing ad copy is to express the thoughts you want to convey in the most powerful way but with the fewest words” (102 ).

Like a Poet

Like a poet, an effective copywriter needs to understand the emotional connotations of the words she chooses. Also like a poet, she must learn to “edit for rhythm,” in order to create copy that flows mellifluously (104).

You’ll Have to Buy the Book to Get the Rest of the Stories

Like how Sugarman got sales to rise twenty percent by changing a single word in a page of copy (70). Or how he sold a quarter of a million Walkie-Talkies by calling it a Pocket CB.

by Richard W. Bray