People have an innate desire to look and feel smart. Sometimes we do funny things just to avoid having to say, "I don't know." Here's a perfect example of this behavior. What if a guy doesn't know much about cars and his engine starts clunking during a date? Most likely reaction: He pulls over and looks under the hood. "Hmmm. I don't see anything wrong. That's weird. " He acts puzzled, as if he'd normally be able to spot the problem. "Well, I guess I'll have to take it into the shop." And thus he avoids admitting that he knows nothing about the engine. He's only saying that the problem is so sophisticated that it requires a specialist.
Because we want to look/feel smart, we want to compare products when we shop. We want to find the best deal. We want to feel like we made the right choice. We don't want to be tricked into buying the wrong product just because of a fancy marketing gimmick. These emotions lead shoppers to seek out facts. Your job is to give people enough information that they feel smart for doing business with you. Here are some tips for listing facts about your product/service:
- Be specific. A bottle of hand sanitizer could correctly state that it "Kills most germs and bacteria." However, it could be more compelling if it specified that it "kills 99.9% of germs and bacteria, such as..." If you had a bottle of hand sanitizer in each hand, would you choose the vague one, or the specific one? Personally, I would choose the specific one, because it would be easier to believe that the product actually does what it claims. The specificity implies that the company has taken more time to test out their product.
- Back up your claims. You often hear companies claiming to be the leader of their industry. How much more impact would those statements have if the companies gave evidence of their claims? A cell phone carrier could say, "We serve over [insert huge number] customers across the nation, making us the most preferred carrier." They've provided evidence that they have a reliable service, which calms the customer's fear of being ripped off.
- Choose quality over quantity. When making a list of features, it may be tempting to list as many features as possible in order to increase the product's perceived value. Be careful not to go overboard. People don't like reading long lists, and when they read things on the internet, their patience is even shorter. A long list will bore the reader. Your time is better spent choosing a few important features and finding an impactful way to describe those features.
- Avoid pseudo features. Sometimes there just isn't that much to say about your product. In those cases, please don't resort to making up features. It can insult your customers' intelligence. I saw a product listing that had eight bullet points. Was the listing for an electronic device? No, it was for a wallet. I was curious to see what could possibly be said about a wallet that would require eight lines. Here are a few of the more interesting features listed:
- "Full Size Bill Section" - It should go without saying that the wallet is big enough to hold your money. It wouldn't really be a wallet otherwise, would it? Maybe I'm out of line though. I suppose it's possible that the company also offers a wallet with a "Monopoly Size Bill Section," so they needed to specify which one this was.
- "Well constructed" - I had assumed that the wallet was decently made...until I read this line. They told me something obvious about the wallet, which made me wonder, "What's wrong with it?" I became a lot less confident about its quality.
- "Logo Inside" - That's not exactly the biggest selling point for me. I don't need to be reminded who made my wallet every time I pay for something. But, again, maybe that's just me.
Some purchases rely heavily on logic. When people shop for TVs in the store, the experience is mostly an emotional one. They see a huge screen up on the wall and picture it being in their own living room. However, most people will do research online before going to the store. During the research phase, the shopper's opinion will depend largely upon the features listed on the website.
A simple list of facts can be the tiebreaker in many purchases. When I shop for things I'm not an expert on, I often find myself saying, "These two look the same and they're the same price, but this one looks like it does more." Sometimes I'm just guessing which product is better based on the description on the box. When I feel like I've put enough effort into making a smart choice, I go with it, because there isn't time to contemplate it all day. I'd like to think that I always behave like an educated buyer, but there are definitely times when I have to rely on a short product description to narrow down my choices. A lot of your customers are in the same boat, so make that product description count.
Facts are only important because they lead to emotions, which are even more important. Use facts to help your customers feel great about doing business with you.
Aristotle believed that in order to be persuasive, a message needed three components: Logos, Ethos, and Pathos.
Logos = Appeal to Logic
Ethos = Appeal to Authority
Pathos = Appeal to Emotion
An appeal to logic could be as simple as, "this product will decrease your costs," which is just a basic statement of function. Appealing to authority means using credibility to show value, e.g. "featured in PC Magazine." Appealing to emotion has a great impact, but may require a little extra thinking. Rather than focusing on the features of the product, think of the emotional impact the features will have on the buyer. One example would be, "Rest easy, knowing your home is safe."
Roles of Logos, Ethos, and Pathos
Making a purchase requires a lot of thinking, but that thinking is mostly done behind the scenes in your subconscious mind. Even a simple purchase, like buying a hot dog, involves quite a bit of psychology. Let’s go through the whole process:
You’ve been making some repairs around the house, and you realize you need a couple more items from the home improvement store. After buying what you need from the store, you walk outside and see a hot dog stand. You notice a big picture of a juicy frank on the banner. The scent of sautéed onions hits you. You think, "That actually looks pretty good right now. I guess I am kind of hungry." (Emotion)
After glancing at the menu, you see the price is low and the hot dogs are already heating on rollers. You could just pull out some cash and quickly buy one on the way to the car. (Logic)
But why are the hot dogs so cheap? Can I trust these things? Then you notice a "USDA Approved" seal on the banner and think, "That's good enough for me." (Authority)
Let’s recap what happened here.
- An appeal to the emotions made us interested.
- We analyzed it logically to see if it was a practical purchase.
- We considered other people's opinions (social proof) to avoid making a bad choice.
Each of your customers goes through a similar thought process. If you adjust your messaging accordingly, you can effectively guide them through the buying cycle.
The next three articles will focus on the components of persuasion: Logic, Emotion, and Authority.
A lot of words have lost their sizzle. The most effective marketing phrases from previous years are now just clichés. Avoiding these overused words will make your messages have a bigger impact on the reader. Here are a few words to be careful around:
This is just a small list to get you thinking. More and more words will lose their impact each day. Take for instance the "redesigned" car. It was no longer exciting to redesign something, so car companies started "re-imagining" things. It wasn't long before big software companies started using the same term. This tells us two things: 1) It must be working for them. 2) It's going to get old really quick. Remember, the bandwagon of marketing words only leads to Cliché Town.
Some common marketing words still have an important place in your copy, but the context must be right. The trick is to be specific. Consider the promotion done by blender manufacturers. Several companies claim that their blenders are the "fastest." Of course, that means nothing if anyone can say it. But, if one company can prove it-using real numbers-they can still effectively use the word. "The blade spins at ## rpm, making it the fastest on the market." Now the word has meaning again.
If you want to double-check your website's copy, you can use our "Hypometer" to find empty hype words that may need revision. It's a great place to start before a re-write.
Here are a few important tidbits to help your business gain news publicity.
1) Is it newsworthy? A newspaper doesn't arbitrarily choose which articles to print. They use a set method to determine newsworthiness. The news media have learned, through years of experience, what the average person cares about. If a story is not relevant or interesting to the readers, it will not be published. Each story must meet certain criteria, and these criteria are known as "news values." Here are some of the more important news values:
Timeliness - Is it important right now?
Conflict - People like conflict. That's why we still have reality TV.
Impact - How does the story affect the reader?
Proximity - Does the story have an impact on the reader's location?
Prominence - Did a well-known person or entity do something? (Notice that I didn't say "do something important." Sometimes a celebrity just needs to go to Starbucks to get on the news.)
Novelty - Is the story about something new? If not, does it offer a new perspective on something old?
Significance - Is it big enough that people will care?
A story doesn't have to meet each of these criteria to be considered newsworthy, but the more the better.
2) Be concise. Journalists receive a lot of calls and emails, so they don't have time to waste. Before you contact them, make sure you already know what you're going to say.
Focus on the most newsworthy part of your story first, and then flesh out the details if they are interested. For example, don't start with, "My friend Dave and I had this idea when we were college roommates." Start with, "We've developed a new system for…" This will help them see the value of your story more quickly.
3) Make the reporter's job easier. Reporters are constantly up against deadlines. If there is some way you can make their lives easier, they will appreciate your help.
Have you ever seen a story on the nightly news about a new drug treatment? They usually include footage of researchers in lab coats and an interview with a doctor. The doctor explains why the new treatment is a breakthrough and will offer hope to people suffering from [insert malady here]. Well, here's a dirty little secret. Oftentimes, the footage and the interview were actually produced by the pharmaceutical company. The script for the interview was written by the marketing team, which explains why there isn't much emphasis on the drug's side effects. But, because it's easier, the news station just uses the pre-made footage.
When you send information to a reporter, make sure to include any relevant statistics from your industry. This will save the reporter time and make your story more compelling.
4) Use the phone. If you plan on contacting a large amount of media outlets, it would certainly be easier to use email. Unfortunately, email doesn't have the same impact as a phone call. Anyone can send a mass email, which means your email will be in the same pile as a bunch of spam, and that won't help your credibility. So grab the phone and make a call. One call could have a bigger impact than 10 emails. Email transmits a message. Phones connect people.
If you have any other tips on gaining publicity, feel free to leave a comment.
Colors have several meanings, depending on the context in which they are used. We associate various events and emotions with colors based on our experiences, which is why they have different meanings in different cultures. Below is a list of the most common meanings of color.
[Note: There's always somebody who will argue that black and white technically aren't colors, but for the sake of this discussion, if it's in the crayon box, it's a color.]
Black - Black is a serious color that has a large effect on emotions. Black can mean power/authority. It is also associated with evil or mourning.
Blue - Blue is a soothing color. It is easier to think clearly around blue. Don't overuse it though, because too much can have a depressing effect. Because blue is not commonly found in nature, it shouldn't be used for food marketing.
Brown - Brown symbolizes nature, and is associated with a feeling of reliability.
Gray - Gray adds stability to ads, websites, etc. It is a safe, neutral color. Avoid using too much gray, because it can be depressing and feel empty.
Green - Green is calm and refreshing. Green represents nature and life. In modern use, it implies a product is "eco-friendly." Green is the easiest on the eyes, which means it may increase the amount of time a website or advertisement is viewed.
Orange - Orange is a happy and energetic color. Orange can be used to show that a product is different than others.
Purple - Traditionally, purple was used to symbolize royalty because it is rarely found in nature, and therefore more special. Because of its rareness in nature, purple also implies that something is artificial. For this reason, purple is not good for food products or health products.
Red - Red has the strongest effect on emotions, so use it carefully. Red can increase anxiety, and it has even been said to increase a person's heart rate. You wouldn't want your customers to get anxious about doing business with you, so use it sparingly. However, light red (pink), is known as one of the most soothing colors. It has been used successfully in prisons to decrease behavioral problems.
White - White can represent things that are clean and pure. There is feeling of safety around white. This stems from the safety we associate with well-lit places, as opposed to dark alleys.
Yellow - Yellow is a happy color, and is useful in getting attention. Yellow is hard on the eyes, and can easily become overwhelming. It can cause emotional agitation. However, when used in moderate proportions, it can increase focus.
Colors can mean many things to many people, but this list can serve as a generic reference to get you started.