The Two Most Powerful Words in Advertising (No, They’re Not ‘New’ and ‘Free’)
You’re about to discover the two most
powerful words in advertising and how to use them to
easily and consistently explode your response .
First, to illustrate the secret, can you guess which of
these two magalog headlines was the big winner for a
HEADLINE A: (next to photo of financial guru, Charles J. Givens):
If you’ve got 20 minutes a month, I guarantee to work a financial miracle in your life.
(caption under photo) Charles J. Givens, the self-made $200-millionaire, entrepreneur and best-selling
financial author of all time.
HEADLINE B: (same photo and caption):
The Millionaire Maker
(subhead) Can he make YOU rich, too?
Which of these headlines absolutely smashed
the other in a split-run test, outpulling it by a
huge margin and becoming a profitable control
Rather than just tell you the winner, let me describe
how you could know in advance, once you understand
the two most powerful words in advertising today.
The answer will give you more
sheer power to boost your response consistently, beat
existing control packages easily and create your own
blockbuster products than the simple yet profound
secret I will now share. Yet I doubt if you have ever
read this anywhere, even if you have been a lifelong
student of advertising.
First, you must understand why some of what you have
been taught about direct marketing is wrong, or at least
outdated and incomplete.
Most of the few great books on direct response were written
more than a generation ago by legends such as John
Caples, David Ogilvy, Claude Hopkins and one or two
others. Most of their response-boosting secrets remain
Their main teaching: benefits, big benefits, are the key
to high response.
Makes sense. But there is a problem. These giants
wrote this advice long ago when, compared with today,
prospects were under-marketed. So, yes, back then,
flat-out big benefits and words like FREE and NEW
got people excited.
Buy today, more often than not, these same words and
super-sized claims instantly trigger rejection. The
problem is, words like FREE and NEW, and the big-
claim style of advertising they reflect, have been so
overused that they have become bright red flags that
instantly scream to your prospect, THROW ME AWAY!
As proof, when I send e-mail today, I must misspell words like free and
new (which are often touted as the two most powerful
words in advertising). They are so overused, your spam
filter might well bounce my newsletter if I spell them
Best proof: just ask yourself, do YOU get overly
excited when you encounter an email or direct mail
package trumpeting free or new or some fantastic
claim to make you rich, change your life overnight
or grow body parts bigger than you ever dreamed?
Of course not.
You have heard such claims too many times. Your own
exquisitely sensitive mental spam filter rejects
all such messages instantly, as you think to
yourself, YEAH, SURE.
And those, my friend, are the two most powerful and
influential words in advertising today. YEAH, SURE.
They are the near-universal response of a too-busy
world awash in marketing claims.
These two words are merciless tyrants, mass
murderers of response, because they are exactly
the words your harried prospects think every time
they must slog through the daily, ever-rising tide
of advertising claims.
Get rich quick! Yeah, sure (toss it).
Lose weight fast! Yeah, sure (toss it).
Make $1,000 a week stuffing envelopes! Yeah, sure
Elect me and I will make the world safe, cut your taxes
and give everyone universal health care. Yeah, sure.
And so on, including almost all of the big-promise
messages you were taught to trumpet by the direct
As a result, the vast majority of B level copywriters
spend most of their days dreaming up ways to pump
up ever-bigger claims … which is why their mailings are
almost always beaten easily by the tiny handful of A
level copywriters who know this simple secret of
successful selling in an over-marketed world…
NEVER MAKE YOUR CLAIM BIGGER THAN YOUR PROOF.
And always join your claim and your proof at
the hip in your headlines, so that you never
trumpet one without the other.
There is no more powerful nor consistent way to
explode your response. Surround your claims with
stronger, bolder proof and watch your response soar.
And I am not talking just about testimonials, which
do help but have become so overused themselves,
they have lost some of their magic. I am talking
about every method you can possibly find to bolster
your proof and credibility.
There are many ways to do this, as I will teach you in
future issues of my BULLETS newsletter.
One of the easiest ways is simply to avoid like the
measles phrases so overused, they instantly trigger the
YEAH, SURE response, phrases such as get rich quick
… lose weight fast … and, yes, become a millionaire.
Another way is to sandwich your big promise inside an
IF…THEN construction in your headline.
When you say IF (followed by a requirement your
prospects have to meet), it seems to magically switch
off and bypass their YEAH, SURE alarm and usher
you right in the front door to sell.
Surprisingly, it even works when you make the
requirement easy to meet.
And now you know the winner, headline A:
If you’ve got 20 minutes a month,
I guarantee to work a financial miracle
in your life.
I know, the promise still seems so big and hard to
believe. But that is the power of the IF…THEN
construction. For some reason, it seems to put the
universal YEAH, SURE alarm to sleep, like punching
in the alarm code when you enter your home.
The formula: a reasonably easy requirement, followed
by a strong promise. Think up ways to use this for your
Of course, be sure to explain in your body copy why
and how the benefit can be achieved by meeting such an easy
requirement. And if it is not extremely easy, but only
moderately easy, that is even better, as it is more
believable. Surprisingly, candor is a gloriously
effective technique for boosting response.
Anyway, test this IF…THEN idea sometime soon, and
measure the results. You may be startled by
how much it outpulls the typical big-promise
headline most ads rely on.
In fact, the headline above was so successful for Givens,
his publishers asked me if they could adapt it for another
of their products, a weight loss newsletter by Richard
Simmons. Against a strong control package that had
beaten off all comers, they tested this headline, keeping
all other elements in the package the same:
(Next to photo of Richard Simmons)
If you’ve got 20 minutes a month,
I guarantee a thinner, healthier you.
It worked like a charm and handily beat the previous
champ. (BTW, notice the absence of exclamation
marks, the overuse of which INCREASES the aroma
of hype and a resulting YEAH SURE response.)
The most effective use I have ever seen of this
IF…THEN technique was a famous ad for a
I saw it when I was a copy cub, commuting to
Madison Avenue by subway. It was addressed to
secretaries and ran for many years. As you were
standing there, hanging on your strap and swaying
with the motion of the train, you’d read this poster
just above eye level. The headline was a sentence
handwritten in script across a spiral, steno-type
notepad. It read:
F u cn rd ths msg,
u 2 cn dbl yr incm
When I figured it out…
…I flt lk a blumn gnys!
So did legions of secretaries who responded to this
ad for many years.
Coming in future Bullets: many more ways to switch off the YEAH SURE alarm and easily get your foot in the door, which is half the challenge in direct marketing. for starters, the most important advertising question you can ask. This, too, is a secret you have never read elsewhere, yet it will make a huge difference in your marketing fortunes. You will see. Please click here to get your own free subscription.