Scientific Advertising: How to Stand Out With Facts
We’re all inoculated against "The Best."
Writing that you or your service are the best without data or anecdotal evidence brands you a marketing hack. "Best" and "Greatest" are at best passed over without notice. (See?) And half the time we simply won’t believe you. (Really ... exactly half the time?)
They create a negative effect on your business, as Claude Hopkins says: “They lead readers to discount all the statements that you make.” To craft advertising and messages that help you stand out, marketers learning to pen need a lesson that writers of narrative and reportage have always known…
Facts Are Interesting
Read this opening selection from "Oranges," written in 1966 by John McPhee. Note your bewilderment transform into interest. And don’t worry, I’m going to connect it to advertising:
“The custom of drinking orange juice with breakfast is not very widespread, taking the world as a whole, and it is thought to be a very American habit. But many Danes drink it regularly with breakfast and so do Hondurans, Filipinos, Jamaicans, and the wealthier citizens of Trinidad and Tobago. The day is started with orange juice in the Colombian Andes, and to some extent, in Kuwait. Bolivians don’t touch it at breakfast time, but they drink it steadily for the rest of the day. The ‘play lunch,’ or morning tea, that Australian children carry with them to school is usually an orange, peeled spirally halfway down, with the peel replaced around the fruit. The child unwinds the peel and holds the orange as if it were an ice-cream cone. People in Nepal almost never peel oranges, preferring to eat them in cut quarters, the way American athletes do. The sour oranges of Afghanistan customarily appear as seasoning agents on Afghan dinner tables. Squeezed over Afghan food, they cut the grease. The Shamouti Orange, of Israel, is seedless and sweet, has a thick skin and grows in Hadera, Gaza, Tiberias, Jericho, the Jordan Valley, and Jaffa; it is exported from Jaffa, and for that reason is known universally beyond Israel as the Jaffa Orange. The Jaffa Orange is the variety that British people consider superior to all others, possibly because Richard the Lionhearted spent the winter of 1191-92 in the citrus groves of Jaffa. Citrus trees are spread across the North African coast from Alexandria to Tangier, the city whose name was given to tangerines...”
These 266 words just taught you more about oranges than you’d ever imagined. They also give you compelling reading. You may know just as much or more about your company as McPhee knows about oranges.
If so — why do you write advertising that states your equivalent of: Oranges are the Best!
Talk More About What You’ve Got
Reveal your inner secrets. Delight your customers. Describe what is unique, inspiring and fascinating about what you’ve got. That’s one big difference between marketing and writing. But there’s no reason your marketing can’t use the art of descriptive eloquence. It’s the same thing you do during a live sale, and it’s part of the psychology of your ads.
Now, scan the selection again. Note that McPhee didn’t use a single word of fanciful imagery. He used description. Everything he said was real. Yet he spun a book of facts about a single subject that is well known among narrative nonfiction readers ... because well-told facts sell themselves.
You can even tweet them:
- “Cut the grease like they do in Afghanistan …”
- “Why the Dalai Lama never peels an orange …” and
- “Lollypopify your fav fruit …”
Claude Hopkins explains: “The weight of an argument may often be multiplied by making it specific. Say that a tungsten lamp gives more light than a carbon and you leave some doubt. Say it gives three and one-third times the light and people realize that you have made tests and comparisons.”
(It’s also more interesting.)
“A dealer may say, ‘Our prices have been reduced’ without creating any marked impression. But when he says ‘Our prices have been reduced 25 percent’ he gets the full value of his announcement.
Hopkins shows us several more examples of products that advertised in competitive markets by using highly specific facts and profited. Here is one that sounds like our excerpt from John McPhee. But it’s not about oranges. It’s for Schlitz beer:
“In the old days all beers were advertised as ‘Pure.’ The claim made no impression. The bigger the type used, the bigger the folly. After millions had been spent to impress a platitude, one brewer pictured a plate glass where beer was cooled in filtered air. He pictured a filter of white wood pulp through which every drop was cleared. He told how bottles were washed four times by machinery. How he went down 4,000 feet for pure water. How 1,018 experiments had been made to attain years to give beer that matchless flavor. And how all the yeast was forever made from that adopted mother cell.”
“All claims were such as any brewer might have made. They were mere essentials in ordinary brewing. But he was the first to tell the people about them, while others cried merely ‘pure beer.’ He made the greatest success that was ever made in beer advertising. ‘Used the world over’ is a very elastic claim. Then one advertiser said, ‘Used by the peoples of 52 nations,’ and many others followed.”
You can tweet that, too: “See the 1,018 tests that prove our beer is pure...” and lure your customers with infectious facts.