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Tell your readers what to do next

31 Aug

There are times when I look at an ad and it seems to wave goodbye to me right after that. There simply aren’t any calls to action nudging me to buy the product somewhere or to order it online. It’s almost criminal to leave your readers clueless on what to do next.

I’ve seen a fair share of advertisements for small businesses where they try to emulate what the giants are doing — just a logo and a smarty-pants tagline. What these advertisers fail to understand is that the big boys get away with doing something like that because they have built a name for themselves. Very often, these ads without a call to action are usually generic brand ads that aim to remind consumers of their existence. It’s like them saying “Hey, we’re still here, business as usual.” Unfortunately, some small business owners copy the formula and they end up with zero recall value, not to mention an absence of enquiry calls because there wasn’t a number in the first place.

And this seems to be the favourite way of advertising for many new and unknown brands in the market. Sporting a logo and a tagline is cool. But it’s not when you’re a virtual unknown in a sea of competitors.

When you advertise something, that space is yours. Apart from telling readers what your product can do for them, you have to tell them where and how to get it. Should they be the first 100 to respond in order to receive an special-edition gift? Or should they visit your facebook page for exclusive information? Create an interaction between the readers and your brand. The ball is in your court. Guide your readers by the hand and tell them what to do next.

Don’t squander the opportunity in an ad by just showing your logo. You can do that when your brand is big enough.

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Those exclamation marks

18 Aug

When I browse through my mail, I can’t help but notice an excessive number of exclamation marks littered all over. Like confetti after a street party. The common culprits are flyers for warehouse sales that urge me to hurry down soon and cosmetic products that insist I must try one today.

The exclamation mark. What better way to indicate urgency and that irrepressible sense of excitement. Better yet, use three, four or even five of them at the end of every sentence. That ought to knock readers off their feet with a heavy dose of awesomeness. Now read my lips: n…o…no.

Whenever I see a phrase that ends with multiple exclamation marks, I wonder what goes into the process of deciding the quantity used. Oftentimes, I think of the marketing manager instructing the poor writer to add two more, because a single one looks lonely and miserable. Then the director comes along and decrees that three more should be added (four if he’s in a jolly good mood that day). It’s almost as if the sales revenue is directly influenced by the number of exclamation marks. If only.

Exclamation marksLike the word ‘free’, the exclamation mark is used and abused. And If you realise, the two of them are often paired together.

What is so repugnant about the exclamation mark, you ask. I wouldn’t say it’s detestable but when it falls into the hands of people who have no other way to convey excitement than to hit the key repeatedly, it becomes tiresome.

For one, its generous usage in advertising collaterals means that its original significance has been devalued to the level of pure tackiness. Somewhere along the line, marketing executives had such a field day using the exclamation mark as an act of revenge against nitpicking copywriters that the tradition has stuck ever since. Okay, I made that up but who knows?

And it seems that the liberal usage has a mind-numbing backlash on modern readers who have all become immune to its intended effect. Do you squeal and jump in joy when you read a sales pitch that has more exclamation marks than the actual word count? I bet not.

The next time you finish writing a direct mailer or a newsletter for your business, read and decide which key phrase truly deserves an exclamation mark. Or perhaps you don’t even need one. The outburst of ecstasy that appears at well-timed intervals usually comes across as more genuine. Your readers will appreciate that.

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Tell a good story

11 Aug

The next time you’re out doing your groceries, observe what makes you reach out for one brand of coffee and not the other. Apart from the obvious difference in aroma, we’re all influenced by the story behind every brand.

CoffeeIf you’re a person with a strong sense of social responsibility, it’s likely you’ll buy the story of fair-trade brands, on how the profits are benefiting harvesters in poorer regions. If you see coffee drinking as a form of art meant to be slowly savoured by the window on a wintry morning, you’d probably react better to brands that position themselves as ‘connoisseurs’ or purveyors of sophistication.

Whatever your caffeine inclination may be, you must have agreed with the proposition of the brand before making a purchase. This is an unspoken contract between you and the brand. The point is, there is no boring product, only a boring proposition.

It doesn’t matter if you’re selling something of little interest. A story can always be created for seemingly insignificant products like paper clips or umbrellas. If the Japanese can popularise the collecting of moss balls in cutsey bottles, there’s no saying why you can’t develop an angle for your product. It’s how you package it. It’s how you bring the prospective customer on a journey of discovery.

Let them run around in your world and get them warmed up to the idea that your brand has something interesting to share. Feed them little nuggets of information. Was it fabricated with materials unique to the region? Make that your angle. Did it undergo multiple rounds of stringent inspection, far more than your rivals? Harp on that.

Anything you left out about your product or service can be picked up by your competitors and used to their advantage. Claim ownership of a story angle before anyone else does. Make it yours, and make it big.

Take a good look at your product. Walk about in your factory. Talk to your workers. You’d be surprised that the most mundane piece of information can distinguish you from your competitors.

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