Benefits Revisited in the Age of Hype
Copywriters always have operated on the principle that benefits are the guts of any promotion. We know our prospects don’t care about the products we’re pitching. The only thing they want to know is, “What’s in it for me?”
But with thousands of overhyped ads assaulting people daily, consumer skepticism keeps growing in direct proportion to the hype. Credibility is stretched razor-thin. As veteran copywriter Clayton Makepeace observes, “Pure benefit leads don’t work as well as they once did because they scream, ‘Hey, this is another AD! Read this so I can SELL you something.’”
With the deluge of me-too messages promising to help us save time, look younger, make a pile of money, boost our sex appeal, etc., benefit claims must be credible to be effective. The following are a few techniques marketers are using now to make their product benefits sound more believable and give their promotions more traction.
Consumer-generated Content. P&G used this technique recently in a full-page ad in The New York Times. Featuring a gonzo-sized, blood-red Heinz Ketchup bottle, the ad asks readers to do the heavy lifting by creating their own ketchup commercial. This approach turns traditional top-down benefit advertising on its head by having the consumer specify product benefits, not the advertiser. The copy on the ketchup bottle reads: “Hungry for Fame? Make the next great Heinz TV commercial.” The call to action directs readers to www.VisitTopThisTV.com. The tagline offers a financial reward (the winner gets $57,000) plus 15 minutes of fame (a place in the 130-year history of a cultural icon).
Advertorials. A cross between an ad and an editorial, advertorials are getting new respect because they make benefits, presented in the context of a newsworthy event, seem more plausible. Bob Bly, the guru of B-to-B promotions, explains that in the majority of cases, benefits still sell for his clients. But “wherever there’s a glut of marketing, prospects become skeptical of benefit claims, which is why advertorials work as well as they do.”