Writing Skills

How To Create Advertising That Sells

Business skills | Copywriting | Advertising skills | Marketing skills

General advertising tips


1. The most important decision: How should you position your product?


2. Large promise: A promise is not a claim, or a theme, or a slogan. It is a benefit for the consumer. 'Sell Hope'.


3. Consistent brand image: Same logo, colors, taglines etc. everywhere, all the time.


4. Big ideas: That jolt the consumer out of his indifference - Big ideas are usually simple ideas.


5.A first-class ticket: Give most products an image of quality. Don't make it look ugly, if you can.


6. Don't be a bore/impersonal/detached/cold-and dull: Nobody was ever bored into buying a product. Talk to the customer like a human being. Charm her. Make her hungry. Get her to participate.


7. Innovate/Start trends instead of following them: Don't have your advertising follow fads, or imitate other ads. Innovate, but pretest your innovation with consumers. Look before you leap.


8. Successful advertising sells the product without drawing attention to itself: Make the product the hero of your advertising.


9. Psychological segmentation: Who is your target market? How does it think? If it is a kid, how does a kid think?


10. Don't bury news: People are interested in new product. Get word out that it is a new product. Remember those small red boxes with 'new arrivals' written in them on the product pages of eCommerce websites. It is as simple as that.


11. Boil down your strategy to one simple promise: And go the whole hog in delivering that promise.


What works best in television advertising


12. Testimonials: Avoid irrelevant celebrities whose fame has no natural connection with your product or your customers. Irrelevant celebrities steal attention from your product.


13. Problem-solution (don't cheat): You setup a problem that the consumer recognizes. Then you show how your product can solve that problem. And you prove the solution. But. don't use it unless you can do so without cheating; the consumer isn't a moron, she is your wife.


14. Honest visual demonstrations: It saves time. It drives the promise home. It is memorable.


15. Slice of life: Small stories ('little jane hates...') sell a lot of merchandise.


16. Make your pictures (not dense blocks of text) tell the story. Many of the most memorable ads have no text (or just one word/phrase/small sentence.)


17. On-camera voices do significantly better than commercials using voiceover.


18. Musical backgrounds reduce recall of your commercial.


19. Stand-up pitches can be effective, if it is delivered with straight forward honesty. 'Why I like...'


20. Give your commercials a flourish of singularity: An edge, a symbol, a memorable line, a particular sound that makes them say 'hey, it is the ...commercial!'


21. Animation & cartoons: Cartoons or animation are less persuasive than live commercials. The consumer cannot identify herself with the character in the cartoon. And cartoons do not invite belief. But animations do well with kids.


22. Salvage commercials. Many commercials which test poorly can be salvaged by simply re-editing it most of the time. (in text ads it may mean re-editing and re-arranging the message)


23. Factual vs. emotional: Factual commercials generally are more effective than emotional commercials. Generally.


24. Grabbers: Commercials with an exciting opening hold their audience at a higher level than commercials which begin quietly.


What works best in print advertising


25. Headlines: On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. Include the brand name and the promise into your headline.


26. Benefit in headlines. Headlines that promise a benefit sell more than those that don’t.


27. News in headlines: It pays to inject genuine news into headlines.


28. Simple headlines: Your headline should telegraph what you want to say-in simple language. Readers do not stop to decipher the meaning of obscure headlines.


29. How many words in a headline: In headline tests,we found that headlines of ten words or longer sold more goods than short headlines. In terms of recall, headlines between eight and ten words are most effective.


In mail-order advertising, headlines between six and twelve words get the most coupon returns.


On the average, long headlines sell more merchandise than short ones - E.g. 'At 60 miles an hour, the loudest noise in this new' Rolls-Royce comes from the electric dock.'


30. Localize headlines: In local advertising it pays to include the name of the city in your headline.


31. Select your prospect: When you advertise a product which is consumed only by a special group, it pays to 'flag' that group in your headline. 'Students, not sure what you will do in life?'


32. Yes, people read long copy: Readership falls off rapidly up to fifty words, but drops very little between fifty and five hundred words.


33. Story appeal in picture: Photos that suggest, a story, work. The reader glances at the photograph and asks himself, 'What goes on here?' Then he reads the copy to find out. It takes work to inject a story into a photo.


34. Before & after: Somewhat above average in attention value. Any form of 'visualized contrast' seems to work well.


35. Photographs vs. artwork: Photographs work better than drawing - almost invariably.


36. Use captions to sell: On the average, twice as many people read the captions under photographs as read the body copy. It follows that you should never use a photograph without putting a caption under it; and each caption should be a miniature advertisement for the product - complete with brand name and promise.


37. Editorial layouts: Editorial layouts (ads looking like a news item) get higher readership than conventional advertisements.


38. Repeat your winners: Ad readership can actually increase with repetition - up to five repetitions.


(Source: Adapted from David Ogilvy's guidelines at Ogilvy and Mather)


What Works Best In Online Advertising (Websites And Landing Pages)


39.Instant Clarity Headline: End Result Customer Wants + Specific Period Of Time + Address The Objections


E.g. 'Hot fresh pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or its free' (Domino’s)


40. Declare The Problem: Explain the problem using your customers words


E.g. 'Sendgrid: 'On average 20% of email never reaches the inbox'


41. Present Your Solution: 'Product Name Helps You Do [Task]. Say Goodbye To [Frustration] And Hello To [Benefit]. You Get [Top 3 Features + Benefits For Each Feature]'


E.g. 'SurveyTool.com - Survetool helps you quickly create and distribute surveys with just a few clicks.'


42. Borrow Credibility: Tie your company to trusted symbols and famous authorities. Put the biggest brands all over your marketing pages, even if they don’t use your product, a tiny reason is enough.


E.g. Many new websites/apps show big brands (whonuse them, or have talked about them) below the sign up button.


43. Social Proof: Show people are using your stuff and signing up


E.g. 'Basecamphq.com - 'millions of people use basecamp'


44. Testimonials: Proof your product works in your customers words.

'Specific end result or benefit customer got + Specific Period of time + Accompanied Feeling + The Persons Name With Their Stats'


E.g. XYZ.com: 'I’ve saved $100o in buying guide books. I found the tips easily and I used them to get a raise. I can now put my kid in a better school.'Wow!'


45. Clear Call To Take Action: What you want the customer to do next.


E.g. Basecamphq.com - Sign up takes less than 60 seconds


46. Reverse All Risk: E.g. Guarantees

'If you don’t love [product], call or email us and we’ll refund every penny immediately.'


E.g. 'Aweber.com/pricing.htm - 30 day money back guarantee'


47. Price Anchoring: Make your price seem like a bargain


E.g. 'For the price a cup of coffee, get all the professional tips you will ever need to succeed in one place.'


48. Frequently Asked Questions: FAQs help boost conversions (people clicking/signing up) and build credibility.


E.g. 'One website increased conversions radically by putting the FAQ right below the buy button.'


(Source: Adapted from a useful guide by Dane Maxwell)


Types of advertising copy you can write


- Plain copy: Main benefits and features of your product. Just make some headings and add bullet lists to each.


- Storytelling copy: About some made up person who faced a problem similar to the top problem your product helps solve, about the fallout of that problem and how they solved it. This is how the great sales letters of the past were written, pushing everything from Readers Digest subscriptions to mutual funds. This is often used in sales letters.


- Conversational copy: Aka 'You and me' copy - 'I know how you feel about...'


- 'Imagine' copy: 'Close your eyes, pretend for a moment Game of thrones were real, and you were imprisoned in King's Landing on Westeros.'


- Long copy: Think of it as a 10-slide presentation, and sending each section, one at time, via email to the prospect.


- Direct from CEO/founder copy: Making prospective believe the CEO is a just another regular person like them.


- Frank copy: This is how Volkswagen built its brand in the U.S. in 60s. They showed their car was 'ugly' (they called it 'lemon') but it was the 'people's car'.


- Superlative copy: Apple does it, but it can also back its claims. 'A Phone like no other'.


- Rejection copy: That only a select group can buy your product, it is not for everyone.


- Great writing copy: A combination of beautiful design, moving story and great wording, as if some Nobel prize winner wrote it.'This story is for those who broke the rules, and then fixed a broken industry.'


Use Words And Phrases That 'Sell'


- The word 'because' has great power

Social psychologist Ellen Langer tried three different ways of asking:


'Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?' (60% said OK)


'Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush?' (94% said OK)


'Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make some copies?' (93% said OK)


What worked for her?

The word 'because'.


When you want people to take action, just give them a reason.


- The 5 most persuasive words in the English language








(Source: Gregory Ciotti)


- The 20 most influential words in advertising























(Source: David Ogilvy)


Advertising is not science

Online advertising is said to be more effective than offline advertising because we can track the performance of these ads in real time, we 'have an idea' of how many people actually saw our ad, how many clicked and so on. But then we come to know about 'ad fraud', websites misreporting page views and using technical smarts to fool trackers, and about old people/teens and bored middle class women as main clickers on ads - if they are your target customers, fine. Otherwise...


But even in these unsure times, the #1 thing is the creative, how effective ad we have have created - perfect words for a perfectly relevant audience. This is something that will be under our control, our creative.


What you should do next: Look at any ad - poster, magazine, newspaper, online banner, text ad (Google) etc and see for yourself how well/or not they follow one or more of the guidelines and tips listed in this copywriting section.


Also search Google for 'best converting words and phrases', 'fear headlines' etc.


Thank you for reading.
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