A Common Sense Approach to Ads and Marketing


Daniel Levis emailed me a series of questions about marketing two weeks ago:

…Whether to use humor in your sales copy…

…Whether to swear…

…Whether to use “literary” language…

…Whether to be creative…

…Whether to use metaphors, idioms, similes…

…Whether to be controversial – or even offensive…

  1. If using humor is natural for you, use it.  Why not?  As long as your humor is tasteful (which gets to question two), and moves your copy to your intended destination, sure, use humor.  The key is writing in your voice – not writing something you think (key word, think) will sell.  One of the words my mentor uses about marketing is congruent.  If humor is a part of who you are, it is congruent with the person you are.  Authenticity sells a whole lot better than phoniness, which intelligent people can spot a mile away.

2. Whether to swear.  Daniel says this depends on your product or service and your potential customer or clients.  Marie Forleo is a successful online marketer who paints it blue every once in a while.  That’s part of her sassy persona.  As you may have noticed, I don’t use profanity.  To do so wouldn’t be true to who I am.  Authenticity is part of the answer to this question, but your product, service, and clientele are also part of the equation on this one.

3. Whether to use “literary language.”  Again, what is best for your potential customers and clients?  If you’re selling to college professors, literary language may be best.  Otherwise, it’s likely that plain speaking will work best with your audience.

4. Whether to be creative.  David Ogilvy, one of the greatest advertising men of all time said it best.  Creative is what sells.  If you have a brilliant “creative” idea and it doesn’t sell, it may be considered creative in some other field. but for advertising and marketing purposes, it’s not.

5. Whether to use metaphors, idioms, similes… Use whatever it takes to get your idea across. Don’t make your copy so literary that only college professors understand what you’re saying, unless men and women with PhDs are you entire market.  But, yes, use whatever literary tools you know if it helps you write compelling copy.

6. Whether to be controversial or offensive.  Again, it depends on who you are and your target audience.  If being controversial or offensive helps you connect to your target audience, then go ahead, do it.  If it doesn’t work for them, don’t do it.  If it doesn’t work for you, don’t do it.  There are plenty of other ways to get attention, and using controversy or offensiveness could cheapen your image and the image of your products and services.

The bottom line is always the bottom line, which is to say, whatever you do in your advertising and marketing, if it sells it’s good advertising and marketings, and if it doesn’t, you need to change your approach.  As Daniel points out, tabloids sell well on newstands and in grocery stores.

There is a market for tabloids.  There’s also a market for The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.  I’m guessing that the tabloid market and the more sophisticated newspaper market are very different.  Same thing online.  It may take some trial and error, but if you have a good idea of your target audience, you will have a good idea about what approaches to take to connect with them.


4 thoughts on “A Common Sense Approach to Ads and Marketing

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