Posts Tagged ‘David Oglivy’

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