Thursday, February 09, 2006

Don't Sell Products.... Sell Fantasies

One of the unsung heroes of advertising is Elmer Wheeler, author of Tested Sentences That Sell.

Elmer Wheeler headed Tested Selling Institute in New York and, as a 1938 New Yorker profile puts it, he "adopted the profession of seducing people in the mass with words. He advises merchants how to win sales and influence customers."

Wheeler codified his methods, and his "Wheelerpoint No. 1" (I didn't make that up) has since become the most quoted rule of advertising:
"Don’t Sell the Steak—Sell the Sizzle!"
He adds: "The sizzle has sold more steaks than the cow ever has, although the cow is, of course, mighty important."

I'd like to propose a corollary to "Wheelerpoint No. 1"--which I call Schillerpoint No. 2 (sorry, the temptation was too strong!):
"Don't sell products.... Sell Fantasies!"
("Schillerpoint No. 1" was published here as "Schwartz's Law.")

At the top left is a panel from a brochure I wrote for a direct mail package selling Bomber Jackets. (Click on the picture to see it full size. If the copy in the picture is too small for you to read, send me an email, and I'll send you back a PDF of the brochure.)

I didn't even see the jacket before I wrote the copy. But that didn't make any difference (except that I had to take the word "epaulets" out of the final copy!).

I should point out here that if you're selling vitamins or software or self-help books, your copy must be jam-packed with details and "reason-why" benefits. But when the only "benefit" is lifestyle, you are no longer selling an item... you're selling a feeling.

You can see in my copy that I was selling daydreams, not clothing... nostalgia, romance and adventure... not weatherproofing!

Variations of the same copy ran in newspapers, magazines, direct mail, inserts and card decks for 13 years. And it sold over 500,000 (that's five hundred thousand) daydreams... I mean jackets.

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