How Powerful Ad Copy Can Make You Drool Over a Bar of Bath Soap

Dear Friend,

I have a nice headful of hair.

And it’s a good thing, too.

Because every so often I have a “discussion” with someone that causes me to rip much of it out.

For example…

I just got off the phone with a friend who is writing a brochure. He and his wife sell homemade soap. Very nice soaps, actually. Beautiful colors and fragrances. Some look like nice big, juicy hunks of watermelon. Others resemble fresh orange slices… bright lemon wedges… and meaty chunks of coconut. Yum.

(Do you see what PVA’s–powerful Visual Adjectives–can do to your copy, regardless of the product?)

OK.. back to my hair ripping.

Oh, what the heck…. here’s the dialogue, as I remember it…

DREW: Hey George… you guys have some wonderful soaps here. These fruity soaps are especially appealing. But why just say, “Orange-Scented Bar Soap?” Or, “Coconut-Scented Bar Soap?” Why not really get into it?

Why not compare the soaps to the freshest, juiciest slices of Mandarin or Florida oranges?

Why not talk about how washing your face with it is like splashing your skin with liquid sunshine?

How the aroma reminds you of walking in the sunny, breezy orange fields of Florida?

And your coconut soap! Yum! Why just say, “Smells like coconut”? Why not compare it to the freshly cut coconuts in the sun-soaked western Caribbean… reminiscent of the milky white meaty centers and the sweet, luscious juice?

This is what powerful copywriting is all about. Putting sharp, bright, colorful imagery into people’s heads!

GEORGE: That seems a little over the top, don’t you think? After all, we’re not selling food… we’re selling SOAP!

DREW: UGH. (To myself.) Of course you’re selling SOAP, George, but you want to create some romance… some imagery… something that people can latch onto. It’s called SELLING.

GEORGE: All that doesn’t seem necessary.

DREW: NECESSARY? NECESSARY?! It’s not NECESSARY to sell soap, George! But if you ARE going to do it, why not do it well? Why not do it “aggressively?” Why not do more than your competition is doing? You’re not the ONLY one in this business, you know.

GEORGE: Uh huh.

DREW: I want you to make a fortune with these soaps. They’re great! But you need to do MORE than your competition. Don’t you want to stand apart… stand out?

GEORGE: Well, if doing what you’re saying was so great, why doesn’t anyone else do it?

DREW: Why does McDonalds sell billions of dollars worth of burgers? It doesn’t mean the people who eat all that cow grease are smart. It means they’re simply doing what they’re doing.

You can’t go through life saying, “If others aren’t doing it, why should I?” Most people DON’T do things the best possible way. They do what they THINK is best. And since most businesspeople don’t know much about creating effective advertising, they DON’T do what could be most effective!

GEORGE: (Thinking.) (It sounds like a field of crickets.)

DREW: George, listen to me.

GEORGE: I AM listening!

DREW: You’re selling specialized soap. You’re not selling Ivory. Or Zest. Or Irish Spring. You’re selling EXPENSIVE soap that has 2 things going for it:

1) It’s visually beautiful, and…

2) It smells delicious.

To NOT play up the 2 things that make your soap so appealing is MISSING THE BOAT!

People don’t buy your soap because they simply need to get clean. They can get clean a lot more cheaply with a bar of plain ol’ eyeball-burnin’ Ivory.

(Ever get Ivory in your eyes? Death seems merciful.)

GEORGE: Yes… but…. people will know how it smells WHEN THEY BUY IT. Plus, everyone knows what oranges, coconuts and lemons smell like. They smell like oranges, coconuts and lemons.

DREW: Dear God help me. (To self.)

GEORGE:… so why take all that space to describe it to people who already know?

DREW: Because it helps persuade!

Look at it this way: if someone sees your brochure… and that someone likes the smell of oranges… then she is going to be romanced by a description that’s in keeping with what she likes.

(Read that again.)

It helps her imagine! It takes up more “space” in her brain by creating a mental movie of the product! Describe the juicy wedges… the sunny fields… the hand-picking that goes on in the orchards… that sweet bursting of aroma when you peel one.

And don’t stop there!

Create a deep mental hook with a phrase she won’t be able to shake. Something like: “The Orange-Juicy Way to Wash!” or something similar. Don’t call it “lather,” call it “Sweet Orange-Cream Bubbles.” This is how you make ordinary copy EXTRAordinary.

GEORGE: But won’t people think that’s a little manipulative?

DREW: It IS manipulative. And NO, they won’t think that.

Besides, ADVERTISING IS MANIPULATIVE! We manipulate people’s thoughts. That’s what it’s all about.

It’s not EVIL, unless you’re selling junk and your claims are misleading or downright false.

It’s all about sales, George. And there are degrees of selling.

Hey, let’s face it: you can call yourself a SELLER if you simply have something you’ll exchange for money. Or, you can be a SKILLED seller and incorporate those things that have been PROVEN to encourage people to buy. It’s your choice.

GEORGE: I hear what you’re saying, DREW… but all those fancy descriptions. I can’t get over the fact that we’re just selling soap to use those kinds of descriptions.

DREW: Sigh. (The sound of brown hair ripping.)

5 thoughts on “How Powerful Ad Copy Can Make You Drool Over a Bar of Bath Soap

  1. I know of the feeling only too well, perhaps this is the reason why today at the grand old age of 46 – I’m as bald as a coot up top.

    We’ve got to face it. Lots of people are, well, not to put too fine a point on it, a bit ‘thick’ when it comes to positioning a product or a service. For some reason people actually seem to enjoy holding themselves back. Fear of personal embarrassment perhaps?

    What is most odd is that when talking with said product owners, sometimes you can say something to them which to you and I as copywriters is just pure commonsense. Yet the listener, in your case… George, he’ll still stick stubbornly to his way of thinking even if in doing so he’s going to hurt his sales to the tune of many, many thousands of dollars.

    Even when you put it to them, “Look! Do you honestly believe holding to a false opinion or idea which is going to cost you x amount of sales throughout the course of the year, the point is, is this a price you’re willing to pay in lost financial revenue and profit just so you can take a false step in the wrong direction to do what you believe is right for your business? Is this a price, losing x amount of dollars profit, is this a price you’re willing to pay?”

    Even then some people, many people still won’t get it. Amazingly so.

    I despair lol.

    Smoking hot,

    Mark Andrews

  2. Kate Robinson said:

    Just to be clear – all that is based on the premise that your friends do have an exceptional product, that really does smell like genuine fruit! It’s only when your product is actually banal or sub-standard that glowing ad copy becomes disingenuous and misleading. In my experience immense care goes into ad copy *not* misleading consumers, but conveying exactly what benefits a product or brand offers – benefits that are refined over long development.

    • Drew Eric Whitman said:

      Exactly, Kate. Good copy is no substitution for ethics. 😉 Thanks for your comment!

  3. You’ve inspired me to infuse more emphasis on advertising copywriting in our IMC degree program. The weight always seems to be on the visual (Photoshopping, art direction), when, in fact, both are mutually important for creative synergy and positive results.
    Thank you.

  4. Drew Eric Whitman said:

    You’ve very welcome, Professor! And you’re right on the money. Good art SUPPORTS good copy. It should never be the other way around. That is, if you really want to SELL. 😉

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