How to craft a unique advertising message for a common product or service?

friday, 29 april of 2011

How to craft a unique advertising message for a common product or service

by Tom Trush

About 80 years ago, Claude Hopkins had a problem you probably faced at some point during your business career.  

The advertising writer had just landed a campaign with a struggling company. But the fact that the company had trouble attracting the customers they wanted was only a minor issue.

The primary problem was the product -- it was anything but unique. Several companies shared what essentially was an identical product. In fact, the product was so common that it was already in homes and taverns throughout the United States.

The new client was Schlitz and the product was beer. 

At the time, Schlitz held fifth place in its industry. The strategy you're about to read propelled the Milwaukee brewer into a tie for first after only a few months. 

Schlitz's rise to prominence has been called the greatest success in beer advertising. Not only do you see beer's biggest brands using the same strategy today, but it's also something you can apply to any business.

When Hopkins began studying other beer companies, he noticed they all announced the same claim in their advertising -- "pure." In his book, "My Life in Advertising," Hopkins explained how brewers would publicize the word in big letters. Some would even buy double-page ads so "pure" was displayed as large as possible.

Hopkins recognized the claim had little effect on prospects. So he went to a Schlitz brewery in search of a solution ... 

Once there, he saw plate-glass rooms filled with filtered air where beer dripped over pipes. The process allowed the beer to cool in purity. 

Next, he saw large filters packed with white-wood pulp, and then watched how every pump and pipe was cleaned twice daily to avoid contamination. Even the bottles were washed four times by machinery. 

Although the brewery sat on the shores of Lake Michigan, Hopkins saw how Schlitz tapped artesian wells to collect pure water from 4,000 feet below the ground. He was also shown vats where beer aged for six months before it went to users. 

A stop in the laboratory revealed how the yeast used in Schlitz beer was developed from an original cell that required 1,200 experiments before the finest taste was discovered.

Once back at the office, Hopkins asked, "Why don't you tell people these things? Why do you merely try to cry louder than others that your beer is pure? Why don't you tell the reasons?"

"Why?" was the response. "The processes we use are just the same as others use. No one can make good beer without them."

Hopkins had a hunch people would respond to reading how Schlitz achieved "pure" beer. So he used print ads to tell stories that gave purity meaning. 

Here are a couple of those ads: 

  1. Schlitz: In Filtered Air - click here.

  2. Schlitz: Perfection of 50 Years - click here.

Notice how Hopkins supported his claims with specific facts and didn't assume prospects knew information his client believed was common knowledge. Too often, we're so close to our products and services that it's difficult to realize what prospects truly understand.

Also, Hopkins was a master at educating his readers. When you walk away from reading one of his ads, you feel a little wiser. 

And, finally, Hopkins wasn't hesitant about using long copy. He understood prospects crave as much information as possible before making a purchase. After all, who would ever handicap a salesman by allowing him to speak only a certain number of words?

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© Trey Ryder

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