A statistical approach to persuading prospects (using popcorn)

friday, 12 november of 2010

A statistical approach to persuading prospects (using popcorn)

by Tom Trush

Statistics are powerful numeric weapons that can persuade prospects to take action on your marketing materials.

But generating responses isn't as simple as just dropping in some data.

The mind thinks in pictures, so numbers -- especially large ones -- are difficult to comprehend. To ensure the significance of your statistics is understood, you must match your data to experiences in your prospects' lives.

For example, here are two sentences from a recent ad for The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority:

With two people per room, Las Vegas' 140,000 hotel rooms could host the entire population of Boulder, Colorado.

Las Vegas has more than 10 million square feet of meeting and exhibit space, the equivalent of 175 football fields.

Notice how the descriptions after "140,000 hotel rooms" and "10 million square feet of meeting and exhibit space" made the facts easier to comprehend -- and visualize. Without anything to reference, your mind would have trouble grasping each number's significance.

In Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, authors Chip and Dan Heath, tell the story of Art Silverman. In 1992, as the communications director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Art wanted to educate the public about the unhealthiness of movie popcorn.

He began by sending a dozen medium-sized bags of popcorn from random movie theaters to a lab for nutritional analysis. Tests revealed a typical bag of popcorn had 37 grams of saturated fat -- an enormous amount when you consider the United States Department of Agriculture recommends just 20 grams of saturated fat in your daily diet.

The culprit was the coconut oil theaters used to pop their popcorn.


The problem Art faced was that few people understand how bad 37 grams of saturated fat can be for your body. After all, who memorizes the USDA's recommended fat allowances? When you're dealing with grams, does "37" really seem like a high number?

Art's solution was a press conference where he presented a message almost anyone could understand:

A medium-sized "butter" popcorn at a typical neighborhood movie theater contains more artery-clogging fat than a bacon-and-eggs breakfast, a Big Mac and fries for lunch, and a steak dinner with all the trimmings -- combined!

Brilliant!

The media ran with the story. Popcorn sales at movie theaters plummeted. And, before long, all the major theater chains announced they would stop using coconut oil.

The next example is from an ad written by copywriter Drew Eric Whitman for a brand of mattress covers and pillow cases. Drew's statistics are made more compelling by his ability to paint a mental picture with written words.

No matter how often you wash your sheets, your bed is an insect breeding ground, teeming with thousands of hideous, crab-like dust mites aggressively laying eggs in your pillow and mattress, causing you and your family to suffer year-long allergy attacks. While you sleep, they actually wake up and start to crawl ... eat your skin flakes ... and drink the moisture on your flesh.

It gets worse. Did you know that 10% of the weight of a two-year-old pillow is actually dead mites and their feces? This means that every night you and your family are sleeping in the equivalent of an insect's toilet, actually covered in a m?lange of both their living and dead bodies and "oceans" of their bitter excrement.

How could you not rush out to buy new bed linens after reading that copy?

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© Trey Ryder


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