By Roy H. Williams
Ever wonder how some people can love an ad that you hate with a purple passion?
Even the best ads miss the mark by a mile with at least half their target audience. Ads are like music; a distinctive style and message that repulses some listeners will attract others like bees to honey. These are the ads that work wonders. Worthless ads are the ones crafted so as not to offend anyone.
But “making sure that no one is offended” is how the typical business owner will critique ads that are presented to him for review. “Gosh, this could offend single females, don’t you think?” “This ad makes us sound overconfident and people hate arrogance.” “I don’t like this slang phrase you used. Remember when we said ain’t’ on the radio and that English teacher wrote us that nasty letter about how we were contributing to the decline of civilization and that she would never shop with us again and that she was going to tell all her friends not to shop with us anymore?” (That really happened. I’m not making it up.)
Herein lies the frustration of every ad writer — “Do I write ads that will move the customer, or do I write ads that my client will approve?” The fundamental problem is this: Different people prefer different things. And it’s just as true of business owners as it is of their customers. But does it make sense for them to communicate only to people who are wired like they are? Of course it doesn’t! But that’s precisely what most owner-operators are doing. And in so doing, they miss at least half their potential customer base.
Around 400 BC, Hypocrites observed there were essentially 4 different types of people. He named them Sanguine, Phlegmatic, Choleric and Melancholic in his famous book Air, Water and Places. In more recent years these have been titled Expressive, Amiable, Driver and Analytical. For the purpose of today’s discussion, we’ll call them Spontaneous, Humanistic, Competitive and Methodical. Take a glance at their descriptions below and you’ll see how the best possible ad for one of these can be a complete loser ad in the ears of another.
Spontaneous - Lives an undisciplined and fast-paced life. Hates words like “calculated” and “reasonable.”
Humanistic - Connected, warm, interactive. “All for one, and one for all.” Tends to love testimonial ads.
Competitive - Independent, goal-oriented. “What can you do for me?” Tends to hate testimonial ads.
Methodical - Lives a disciplined, detail-oriented life. Loves words like “calculated” and “reasonable.”
Wait a second… I can hear your thoughts: “But is there a way to write an ad so that it appeals equally to each of the preferences?” Yeah. Sure. Right. Uh-huh. Just like we can make a movie that appeals equally to fans of horror flicks, romantic comedies, action films and documentaries.
The answer is to write different ads for each of these different types of customers and then rotate them in a long-term campaign. In a great ad series, the business owner will love half the ads and hate the other half, and his customers will feel the same way. But they’re each hating a different half.
Honey is good and we like it. Bees sting us and we hate it. But you can’t have one without the other.