What Makes A Winning Online Ad?


¿by: Daniel Levis

Most people who have been involved with sales & marketing for any length of time have heard the axiom, ¿Sell them what they want. Then sell them what they need¿. But what does it mean? It sounds a little odd doesn¿t it?

Does it mean that people are frivolous & go around making irrational purchases that don¿t meet their needs, before more serious ones that sustain them? Should you try to sell trivial goods first, & then follow up with those that are more substantial? Should you put games & entertainment on your home page, and flour & salt in your follow up messages?

No, that¿s not it.

What it is trying to say is that people buy for emotional reasons. Does anybody buy a Mercedes Benz just because they NEED to get from point A to point B? Do they buy it because they NEED all of the amazing gizmos, the heated leather seats & hand polished wood trim?

No, a person buys an expensive car that they don¿t need because it makes them feel important. You may be shocked when I say this, but I¿m going to say it anyway. Luxury purchases are motivated by vanity, envy, pride, jealousy, & narcissism, even greed. And, there is nothing sinister, or wrong with it. That¿s just the way we are as human beings. It¿s what makes us tick. In fact, these emotions are behind all kinds of everyday purchases too.

Understanding how they motivate buying behavior is critical to selling.

Look at this ad for the Wall Street Journal. It¿s said to be one of the most successful advertisements in the history of the world, responsible for over $1 billion in sales.

Look carefully, & see how skillfully it evokes one or more of these powerful emotions. Try to get a sense of how you feel when you read it.


THE WALL STREET JOURNAL "TWO YOUNG MEN" LETTER

On a beautiful late spring afternoon, twenty-five years ago, two young men graduated from the same college. They were very much alike, these two young men. Both had been better than average students, both were personable, and both - as young college graduates are - were filled with ambitious dreams for the future.

Recently, these men returned to their college for their 25th reunion. They were still very much alike. Both were happily married. Both had three children. And both, it turned out, had gone to work for the same Midwestern manufacturing company after graduation, and were still there.

But there was a difference. One of the men was manager of a small department of that company. The other was its president.

Have you ever wondered, as I have, what makes this kind of difference in people's lives? It isn't always a native intelligence or talent or dedication. It isn't that one person wants success and the other doesn't. The difference lies in what each person knows and how he or she makes use of that knowledge.

And that is why I am writing to you and to people like you about The Wall Street Journal. For that is the whole purpose of The Journal: To give its readers knowledge - knowledge that they can use in business.

The letter closes:

About those two college classmates I mention at the beginning of this letter: They were graduated from college together and together got started in the business world. So what made their lives in business different?

Knowledge. Useful knowledge. And its application.

I cannot promise you that success will be instantly yours if you start reading The Wall Street Journal. But I can guarantee that you will find The Journal always interesting, always reliable, and always useful.


This is a newspaper! It doesn¿t get much more mundane than that, but the same principle applies, do you see the power in it?

What we are talking about here are emotions that are inextricably tied to the universal desire for esteem that¿s hard wired into our nature as human beings. If you¿ve got a pulse, you¿re under its spell. But here¿s the kicker. Most of the time, we are not even aware of the stimulus, only the response.

When you were reading the story about the graduates and the reunion, chances are, you were playing out your own meta program inside your head, and experiencing one of the esteem emotions. And it triggered your own personal desire to show the world what you could do, didn¿t it?

Esteem (to feel valued) is NOT a WANT at all. It is a basic human NEED almost as fundamental as food & water. Your prospect¿s hunger & thirst for it. Their emotions are the expressions of that craving.

If you can trigger them, & then associate satisfaction of the ¿esteem needs¿ with your product, you¿ve got a winning ad!

Copyright 2005 Daniel Levis

About The Author

Daniel Levis is a top marketing consultant & direct response copywriter based in Toronto Canada. Recently, Daniel & world-renowned publicist & copywriter Joe Vitale teamed up to co author ¿Million Dollar Online Advertising Strategies - From The Greatest Letter Writer Of The 20th Century!¿, a tribute to the late, great Robert Collier.


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