“That’s right – it filets, it chops, it dices and
slices. It never stops. It lasts a lifetime, mows
your lawn, and it picks up the kids from school.
It plays a mean rhythm. It makes excuses for
lipstick on your collar. And it’s only a dollar,
only a dollar, only a dollar.”
– Tom Waits, “Step Right Up”
This week, I share the raw copy from a draft of a version of a sketch of a preliminary manifestation of a chapter that’s supposed to go in the book I mentioned.
Did I mention? It’s raw.
And actually, I only have space here to include an excerpt. But I thought you might like it just the same (if not, your money back… how can you beat that, right?)
So without further ado…
“Cash if You Die, Cash If You Don’t”
According to famous copywriter Drayton Bird, that subhead I just gave you above was once one of the most successful headlines in the insurance industry.
“Your safest opening,” says Drayton, who has written copy since 1957 and for clients like Ford, American Express, and Proctor & Gamble, “… is your prime benefit and offer… an instant statement, instantly comprehensible.”
About 100 years ago, copy legend John Kennedy told his boss pretty much the same thing. And then wrote it up in a book called Reason Why Advertising, “To strike the responsive chord with the reader… is to multiply the selling power of every reason-why given…”
In today’s terms, a promise your reader cares about is the single best way to grab him by the lapels. To get him to hear your message out, he first needs a reason to listen.
In the 1960s and ’70s, adman David Ogilvy used a list he’d written, called “How to Create Advertising That Sells,” to bring in new clients for his agency. What did he say inside?
“It pays to promise a benefit which is unique and competitive, and the product must deliver the benefit your promise. Most advertising promises nothing. It is doomed to fail in the marketplace… Headlines that promise to benefit sell more than those that don’t.”
Then you’ve got our friend and fellow copywriter, Clayton Makepeace, who recently told readers of his Total Package blog:
“The only reason any rational human being ever purchases anything is to derive a benefit from it! That means …any scrap of sales copy that fails to clearly, dramatically, emphatically, credibly and repeatedly present the benefits a product will deliver is destined to fail miserably.”
Or as the writer Samuel Johnson put it, when he was writing about the sales game the way it was back in the 1700s, “Promise, much promise, is the soul of advertisement.”
We definitely agree.
You won’t find many ads of any kind that don’t include at least one healthy promise, either implied or stated outright.
So why create a whole lead category just to focus on promises?
When “Promise Leads” Still Work
Because there have been times — and there are still times– when a simple, direct promise without any other touches or twists will be your best foot forward.
So, for instance, where an Offer Lead like those you just saw might read…
A HOLLYWOOD SMILE IN 3 DAYS
…OR YOUR MONEY BACK
A Promise Lead might avoid mentioning the offer up front, so it can target readers who are almost ready to be sold but not quite. This version takes away any up-front focus on the deal and puts the spotlight solely on the big claim:
A HOLLYWOOD SMILE IN 3 DAYS
Likewise, Promise Leads are more direct than the other leads you’ll read about here, in that they each get progressively less direct.
You would think that as target audiences become more aware of their options, thanks to the always-on Information Age, more direct Promise Leads would be all over the place.
After all, goes the theory, more “aware” demands more “direct,” right? Adn yet, it’s also getting progressively harder to make pure Promise Leads work. Why’s that?
We’ll look at those reasons next week.
For now, know there are times when a direct claim and little else is exactly what you need.
For instance, the Promise Lead works especially well for targeting “mostly aware” prospects that are almost ready to buy and are mostly clear on what they’re looking for.
What to Promise and When
At the Ogilvy Center for Research in San Francisco, they ran a test. They wanted to see if people bought more from TV commercials they “liked.”
It turns out, they did.
But before you start studying million-dollar Superbowl commercials, hang on. Because it turns out how the people asked defined “liked.”
It turns out they remembered and ranked ads higher not if they were clever or funny, but if they were relevant to something important to the prospect.
“Advertising works best,” wrote Drayton Bird in Commonsense Marketing, “if you promise people something they want, not — as many imagine — — if you are clever, original or shocking.”
Of course, picking the right promise is fundamental. Because it’s your statement of your intention. In exchange for your customers’ money, what will you do for them?
And we know that ads promise all kinds of things.
To make you thin or bulk you up, to make you stronger, younger, fitter, and faster. To teach you to do something you’ve always wanted to do or make something easier than you ever thought it could be.
They can promise to make you more attractive. They can promise to make you rich. Or to save you money. They can promise you a better ride, a bigger house, more beautiful skin and a beautiful dress, a smart looking suit, or a happy marriage.
They can promise to look out for your interests, if it’s an ad for someone begging your vote. They can promise to look out for someone else that you care about, in the way of a charity for a special cause.
Here’s just a sample of some classic promise-making headlines…
** How to Build A Memory In 4 Short Weeks — So Powerful It Is Beyond Your Wildest Dreams Today
** Change Your Life Next Week
** Turns up your “Digestive Furnace and burns flab right out of your body
But more often, even the straight promise has more behind it than just what it claims.
Beyond what’s written, Promise Leads often satisfy some underlying emotion.
Respect, love, friendship. Prestige among your peers. Confidence and freedom from worry. Inclusion. Safety and security. A feeling of association and even similarity with people you admire and respect.
Even more specifically, a Promise Lead is not just what it can do for the customer, but what it promises to make the customer feel about himself. And maybe most of all, how it will let him be seen be others.
Those factors are what make your claims matter to your readers.
That’s the key.
Especially when your most direct promise is your default lead. Because you have only those first few microseconds for the prospect to decide whether or not to give you any of his most precious commodity — time.
WHAT IF YOU NEVER HAD TO WORRY ABOUT
HAVING ENOUGH MONEY, EVER AGAIN?
What if you could retire within 18 to 24 months of right now — even if you’ve got little or nothing socked away in the bank — while still earning six figures every year?
Even if you aren’t looking to leave your day job, what if you could pad your income with an extra $25,000… $50,000… even $200,000… by spending just a little extra time doing this on Saturdays?
The guy who’s going to show you how puts his money where his mouth is, because he does this himself… and makes north of $200K extra each year (on top of the other $500K he makes).
And he says it only takes him a few hours each week. Wouldn’t doing even half that well be more than worth it? Absolutely. And you can set it all up in just three steps, online and from the comfort of your own home.
Even your neighbors won’t know how you do it.