My book summary of Cashvertising by Drew Eric Whitman aka “Dr. Direct.”
Ninety-nine percent of ads don’t sell squat. That’s cuz most people running ads today don’t know what makes people buy.
Advertising’s purpose is not to entertain, but to persuade consumers to part with billions of dollars every day in exchange for products and services.
Studying psychology to boost ad effectiveness isn’t evil. It simply teaches you: what people want, how they feel about what they want, and why they act like they do.
What people really want: they wanna know what your product will do for them, how it’ll make their lives better, happier, more fulfilled.
The Life-Force 8
These eight powerful desires are responsible for more sales than all other human wants combined. We’re all biologically programmed with the following eight desires:
- Survival, enjoyment of life, life extension.
- Enjoyment of food and beverages.
- Freedom from fear, pain, danger.
- Sexual companionship.
- Comfortable living conditions.
- To be superior, winning, keeping up with the Joneses.
- Care and protection of loved ones.
- Social approval.
When you write ads that tap into one or more of these babies? You’re putting Mother Nature on your side.
People buy because of emotion and justify with logic. Force an emotional response by touching on a basic want or need.
The 9 Learned (Secondary) Human Wants
In addition to the Life-Force 8 (LF8 for short), here are some less bankable ideas:
- To be informed.
- Cleanliness of body and surroundings.
- Expression of beauty and style.
Strong, but remember, these wants are learned. We’re not born with ’em. And when it comes to human desires, biology is king.
Interesting fact: not only is it pleasant for us to satisfy our eight primary desires, it’s also pleasant for us to read about others who’ve satisfied ’em.
Specific visual words give your audience a sense of what it’s like to actually interact with your product or enjoy the benefits of your service – to demonstrate its use inside their minds – way before they buy it. This vicarious pleasure is where persuasion begins because the first use of any product is inside the consumers’ minds. Imagining the use of something that appeals to you increases your desire for it.
The less imagery you convey, the less your message occupies consumers’ brains, the less likely you are to influence them.
The Fear Factor – Selling The Scare
Fear sells. It motivates. It urges. It moves people to action. It drives them to spend money. Fear causes stress; stress causes the desire to do something about it. The fear appeal is most effective when these four ingredients exist:
- It must scare the hell outta people.
- It offers a specific recommendation for overcoming the fear-aroused threat.
- The recommended action is perceived as effective for reducing the threat.
- The message recipient believes they can perform the recommended action.
Ego Morphing – Instant Identification
By purchasing certain things, we, the consumer, enhance our own egos and rationalize away our inadequacies. Said different, we buy to flaunt our traits or to make up for what we lack.
So… show people images they want to see if you’re trying to sell “feel good” items. Cologne, clothing, luxury cars, etc. Like how Abercrombie & Fitch – back in the day – sold me thousands and thousands of dollars worth of overpriced threads using shirtless, shredded dudes with perfect bone structure and facial features.
Transfer – Credibility By Osmosis
No matter how wonderful your ad, if nobody believes you, you’ll just flush money down the toilet. Transfer is a strategy that involves using symbols, images, or ideas associated with people, groups, or institutions of authority or respect, in order to persuade your prospect that your product or service is backed by them.
Simply put, prospects see a symbol of credibility (a logo or endorsement or whatever) and then question less of your sales argument.
The Bandwagon Effect – Give Them Something To Jump On
Fact: humans are social beings and we all want to belong. There are three types of groups you can leverage:
- Aspirational – groups to which you’d like to belong.
- Associative – groups that share your ideals and values.
- Dissociative – groups to which you do not want to belong.
By linking products and services to any of these three reference groups, you can persuade buyers to make decisions based solely on the group with which they identify or want to identify with; and they’ll forego an active, deep analysis of what you’re selling.
The Means-End Chain – The Critical Core
Think of this as “the benefit of the benefit.” For example, if you buy your wife sexy lingerie, there’s a secondary benefit coming later that night, isn’t there? Or if a realtor buys a Lexus, yes, the car’s awesome – but they’ll get more listings from it, too, by looking more successful, right? (That’s what a good salesman would say, anyways.)
For most products, it’s not the product people want, it’s the bottom-line benefit they’re buying. Holes to plant beautiful trees, not shovels.
The Transtheoretical Model – Persuasion Step By Step
This divides consumer knowledge and behavior into five stages:
- Precontemplation – ignorant of or unaware they need your product.
- Contemplation – they’re aware of your product and have thought about using it.
- Preparation – they’re thinking about pulling the trigger, but need more info on benefits and advantages.
- Action – boom, ready to buy!
- Maintenance – they continue to buy your product without giving it another thought. It’s now a part of their life.
And your job is to be aware of which stage prospects may be in and supply enough information and motivation to keep them moving through each stage.
The Inoculation Theory – Make Them Prefer You For Life
Think of a vaccine. You introduce a weak virus into your body which is promptly killed, plus, you develop a resistance to it for life. You can do the same with advertising, in three steps:
- Warn of an impending attack.
- Make a weak attack.
- Encourage a strong defense.
For example: an auto body shop might warn people to look out for price-gouging by shady shops on simple repairs like fixing a tiny chip in the windshield. “They’ll quote you $900, but it can be done for a small fraction of that.” In this way, they’re actually encouraging prospects to do their due diligence and compare their service to that of their competitors’. This makes ’em look honest and confident.
Important: the attack must be weak or it could backfire.
Belief Re-Ranking – Change Their Reality
You can change your prospects’ beliefs or the importance of their beliefs. By using images, stats, stories, testimonials, you can appeal to emotions or intellect and win ’em over… if they currently don’t think they need your product.
Or, even easier, reinforce what they already believe. Moms may not want your new frozen waffles, but if they already believe their kids eat too much crap, and you market all the vitamins and minerals they contain? You’re upping your odds.
The Elaboration Likelihood Model – Adjust Their Attitude
There are two routes to change someone’s attitude:
- Central route – persuading using logic, reasoning, deep thinking.
- Peripheral route – persuading using the association of pleasant thoughts and positive images or cues.
If your product is expensive or important (buying a house, for example), you’ll need to address the central route by pouring on the facts, stats, evidence, testimonials, case studies, and reports.
If your product is inexpensive and/or unimportant (a can of beans, for example), you can get away catering mostly to the peripheral route by loading your ads full of colorful, pleasant images, funny or trendy subject matter, or celebrity endorsement.
Note: central route processing lasts longer. When someone thinks long and hard about choosing you, they’ll defend that decision against peer criticism and competitors. Nobody wants to be wrong. Think: politics, religion, education – it’s almost impossible to change someone’s mind on these things.
The 6 Weapons Of Influence – Shortcuts To Persuasion
If using the peripheral route of persuasion, put these six cues to work:
- Comparison – the power of your peers.
- Liking – “I like you… take my money.”
- Authority – cracking the code of credibility.
- Reciprocation – what goes around comes around, profitably.
- Consistency – “You’re this type of person? Good, then don’t be a hypocrite – buy this product.”
- Scarcity – get ’em while they last!
Message Organization – Attaining Critical Clarity
No matter the message, it must be well-organized and easily and accurately understood. Simple is better. You can actually harm your business running ads that give prospects the wrong impression.
Examples vs. Statistics – And The Winner Is?
Examples. You want people imagining themselves using your product or service and the best way to do that is with strong, emotionally-charged examples. Examples also require less mental effort to process, as compared to stats – another bonus.
Message Sidedness – Dual-Role Persuasion
Compliment what’s good about your competition, then say why you’re better. Use comparison charts if it makes sense to. This takes advantage of the fact that most of us are lazy, peripheral thinkers: “Oh, nice, the research has already been done for me!”
You can also play takeaway. Tell prospects why they shouldn’t buy. It’ll make ’em want it even more.
Repetition And Redundancy – The Familiarity Factor
Repeating your message not only chips away at the walls of disinterest, but with each repetition, your ad gets seen by more and more who didn’t notice it the first or last time around. Also, familiarity, acceptance, comfort, and trust begin to build.
Change the ad slightly for even more benefit. This piggybacks off “multiple sources and arguments” in favor of your product. It feels unique each time, even though it’s basically the same ad being used again and again.
Rhetorical Questions – Interesting, Aren’t They?
A statement disguised as a question, this technique allows you to make factual-sounding, persuasive claims without needing to support them with evidence or reason. Also helps readers remember your message.
Evidence – Quick! Sell Me The Facts!
People buy from you when they believe what you sell is of greater value than the dollars they gotta cough up to acquire it. What’s in it for me (WIIFM)? Until readers know this, not only will they not buy, but the fear of loss will stop ’em dead in their tracks.
Think of your product as a clear plastic bag with a $20 bill in it. And all you’re asking for is a measly dollar. Who wouldn’t do that deal? Point being: your prospects must be convinced that the transaction favors them. So they need to know the exact contents of “your bag.”
Go heavy on facts, figures, research, charts, testimonials, videos, quotes – anything you can dig up to show unbiased support for your claims.
Heuristics – Serving Billions Of Lazy Brains Daily
Heuristics means gaining knowledge by intelligent guesswork. The “pain” of thinking causes us to wanna reach decisions quickly and easily so we can go back to doing fun stuff. Like watching one-punch knockouts on WorldStar.
Most helpful example is the Length Implies Strength heuristic. Which says, basically, if an ad is long and full of credible facts and figures, it’s more likely to be viewed favorably. As in, “Wow, look at all that information – it must be true!”
Hardly anyone checks facts. If you provide ’em with enough testimonials, case studies, benefits, and reasons to buy, chances are, they’ll believe it. So be thorough.
The Psychology Of Simplicity
This is the number one key to effective written communication: write so people can understand. As Eugene Schwartz said:
Write to the chimpanzee brain. Simply. Directly.
For best readability, shoot for sentences of about 11 words. Also refer to people (Bob, Amy, he, she, him, her, etc.) at least 14 times every 100 words. And aim for 75% of your words to be one syllable. Last, one thought per sentence. That’s it.
Shake readers outta their reading routine by commenting on context. For example, I could reference “the MacBook Air I’m typing these very words on.”
Use definite words. Instead of “Want your body to look better?” you could say “Men! Want a rippling, rock-hard stomach?”
Try the short paragraph trick: ask a question or make a statement, then answer or continue the thought in the next paragraph, then carry on. This quickens the pace and makes your words look more inviting.
To really lure readers into your copy, consider an opening line of two to four words. Some examples:
- I confess.
- We’re free.
- It’s tough.
- This is important.
- S.W.A.T. team uses them.
- It’s a problem.
Load on the pronouns. You, me, I, he, she, him, they, them. Especially you and I. Gives your writing a warm, friendly feel.
Bombard Your Readers With Benefits
Consumers buy based on what the product will do for them, not on what ingredients it has. Remember, features are attributes; benefits are what you get from those attributes. Which is what really entices people to buy.
Put Your Biggest Benefit In Your Headline
Sixty percent of all people stop reading an advertisement after the headline. So put the one thing that’s most important in the one place where they’re most likely to see it.
Your headline should immediately select the audience you want to hook.
Short headlines obviously get better readership and are easier to understand.
Crank Up The Scarcity
As advertisers we need to motivate people to take action right now. If nothing else, use basic deadlines to boost immediate response. Examples:
- Call before June 5th
- Supplies are limited
- Offer expires March 3rd
- Price only guaranteed until January 15th
- Happy Hour is from 5 pm to 7 pm
- Good only for the first 50 callers
Psychologically Potent Headline Starters
There are four important qualities that a good headline may possess:
- Quick, easy way.
- “Free Book Shows You How To Write Sneaky Advertising That Practically Forces People To Send You Money!”
- “Powerful New Seminar Teaches Flea Marketers The Power Of ‘Flea-Psych’ To Drive People Into A Buying Frenzy”
- “At Last… A Bakery That Uses Only Organic Sugar, Flour, Milk, And Eggs!”
- “This New Invention Stops Any Attacker In His Tracks Without A Gun, Knife, Or Black Belt In Karate”
- “Presenting The Easiest Way Ever Developed To Learn The Piano”
- “Can You Be Sure Your Child Won’t Get Kidnapped?”
PVAs – The Easy Way To Boost The Power Of Your Copy
Powerful visual adjectives. Use ’em. Instead of saying “juicy red apples,” say “mouth-watering, sugar-sweet, hand-picked apples.” Instead of “drink cleaner water,” say “enjoy pure, crystal-clear, glacier-fresh water.” Instead of “earn good money selling gold at flea markets,” say “corner the gold market at high-traffic flea markets and watch the dollars come pouring in.”
Directing Mental Movies
There are five elements – our senses – that are the ingredients of everything we experience in life. So, to boost the effect of your words, double down on:
The end. For more million dollar book notes, see the archives.