Scientific Advertising: How to Find Mr. Right
You’re standing in a crowd when you spot the man of your dreams. It’s HIM. How do you get his attention? You’ve got one chance. Squelched among strangers you exclaim in his precise direction, “Hey dreamboat! A single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife … !!!”
He looks at you and says, “You’re not from around here.”
“How did you know?” you ask in wonder.
“Because you started a conversation.”
Claude Hopkins explains: “The salesman wastes much of his time on prospects whom he can never hope to interest.” Despite being there in person, there is no way to attract the wrong handsome stranger — even when your pitch cannot be ignored.
We know advertisements are your salesmen in print. But unlike salesmen ... they can be ignored. As Howard Gossage said, people don’t read ads — people read what interest them. If your ad isn’t interesting the conversation you’re hoping to create isn’t going to happen.
So, how do you get your ad in front of an interested Mr. Right?
Keep the question and consider newspapers. They have the same problem. Most of their contents are never read by a single subscriber, Hopkins explains why: “Nobody reads a whole newspaper. One is interested in financial news, one in political, one in society, one in cookery, one in sports, etc. There are whole pages in any newspaper which we may never scan at all. Yet other people might turn directly to those pages …”
Here’s what newspapers and good ads do … they define interest using the perfect headline.
“The purpose of a headline is to pick out people you can interest, says Hopkins. “You wish to talk to someone in a crowd. So the first thing you say is, ‘Hey there, Bill Jones’ to get the right person’s attention. So it is in an advertisement. What you have will interest certain people only, and for certain reasons. You care only for those people. Then create a headline which will hail those people only.”
Lacking a headline, the traditional salesman wastes much time in speaking to people who have no interest. Ads that contain good headlines are sophisticated — your pre-programed remote vetting device. These short lines save enormous resources. Your ad, even if it be written perfectly as we discussed last week, will only attract people who are interested in its headline.
Have a great product but trouble getting response? Perhaps with a better headline you could snag Mr. Right. “It is commonly said that people do not read advertisements,” says Hopkins. “That is silly, of course. We who spend millions in advertising and watch the returns marvel at the readers we get. Again and again we see 20 percent of all the readers of a newspaper cut out a certain coupon. But people do not read ads for amusement. They don't read ads which, at a glance, seem to offer nothing interesting. A double-page ad on women's dresses will not gain a glance from a man. Nor will a shaving cream ad from a woman.”
Here’s where journalists who learn what a story is have a gain on marketers. To make up for it, marketers spend a long time figuring out what headlines work best. On the other hand, journalists can learn from copywriters, who know the words that sell.
Says Hopkins, “The writer of this chapter spends far more time on headlines than on writing. He often spends hours on a single headline. Often scores of headlines are discarded before the right one is selected. For the entire return from an ad depends on attracting the right sort of readers. The best of salesmanship has no chance whatever unless we get a hearing ... The identical ad run with various headlines differs tremendously in its returns. It is not uncommon for a change in headlines to multiply returns from five or ten times over.”
We see the same thing that Hopkins did in our SEO department. We see the numbers behind different key phrases. For example, custom furniture maker will outpull custom furniture master, even though I may prefer the latter.
Don’t think, however, that you can run a well ranked key phrase verbatim without finding out the best words to add to reach your audience. Key phrases aren’t that interesting. Combine a well searched keyphrase with an interesting headline and you’ll win your reader’s heart.
“On a soap, for instance,” says Hopkins. “The headline ‘Keep Clean’ might attract a very small percentage. It is to commonplace. So might the headline, ‘No animal fat.’ People may not care much about that. The headline, ‘It floats’ might prove interesting. But a headline referring to beauty or complexion might attract many times as many. An automobile ad might refer in the headline to a good universal joint. It might fall flat, because so few buyers think of universal joints. The same ad with a headline, ‘The Sportiest of Sport Bodies,’ might out pull the other fifty to one.”
Think about it the next time you see a headline, such as: “One Armed Man Applauds the Kindness of Strangers.” I enjoy the headline, but if the story isn’t one I’m drawn to I’ll move on, even from reading. Now, imagine how fast people keep from buying.
Says Hopkins, “Don't think that those millions will read your ads to find out if your product interests. They will decide at a glance — by your headline or your pictures. Address the people you seek, and them only.”
With the right headline, you can snag Mr. Right.
Photo used under Creative Commons, courtesy of Flickr user _Imaji_.