The Art of Writing Advertising Claims

Over the years, I’ve learned that I have some unusual pairings of skills.  I am a math nerd and a writer.  An engineer and a marketer.  An ideator and editor.  Beyond enabling me to be a pun guy at parties, these complementary divergent skills have also helped me immensely in the art of writing advertising claims.  Finding ways to sell the story of a product with a pithy, inspiring, and legally-approved turn of phrase has become a favorite past-time over the years.  And with experiences from all sides of the advertising process, in R&D, Marketing, and a Creative Agency, I have developed some personal rules of thumb for writing winning claims.

  1. Stories before Claims– Before rushing to find that perfect comparison, feature, or language, understand the story you want to tell.  Consumers buy stories and not benefits and “Tell your story, don’t sell your story.” 
  2. Be Pithy. The Hemingway Principle– Hemingway inspired the art of the “6 Word Story”, and that art applies aptly to claims.  Be inspiring. Be specific. Be concise.  
  3. Change the name of the game– When looking for ways to show superiority, create new vernacular and set a new standard. Not just a TV with a better picture… a high-definition television.  Not simply a stronger deodorant… a clinical strength antiperspirant.  A phone with new tricks… a smart phone.  Change the name and change the game.
  4. Rhymes and Alliteration– Alliteration always attracts attention.  And a good rhyme works most of the time.  Claims that roll of the tongue and are “sticky” to the brain are more likely to drive recollection and results.
  5. Use the Torture Test– Putting your products to the test in an extreme, yet (somewhat) relevant scenario can emphasize the product’s performance in a unique and memorable way.  Done right, these also can accompany an ownable, iconic visual or demo.  “Takes a Licking and Keeps on Ticking.“  “Clinically proven to work even in the Sahara Desert.”  Accentuate (not quite exaggerate) your product’s greatness by pushing it to the extremes.
  6. Never Pick on the Little Guy – We often like to compare ourselves to our competitors rather than just enlighten the world on our own inherent awesomeness. Sometimes the comparisons work. Value claims and superiority claims against a market leader can be very effective.  But never, ever, ever compare yourself to a “follower”.  Yes, you get the satisfaction of winning.  However, in the process you are both elevating the status of the competitor (if they are the standard, they must be good) and risking looking like a bully (why is Goliath picking on David?).  Focus on being the best, not beating the rest.
  7. Avoid Numeric Claims– I hate numeric claims. To me, marketers who gratuitouslyuse numbers to make product claims are like comedians who need to use foul language to get a laugh. Usually when we resort to a “2x more” or a “42% better”, it is because we haven’t invested in finding that right, pithy, magical language.  Yes… there are times where the numbers are powerful, particularly on a crowded, commoditized shelf.  But as a general rule, subtract the numbers from your claims.
  8. If You Can’t Fix it, Claim It– That aftershave still burns when you put it on… that burn let’s you know it’s working.  That white residue… it highlights shows how well your product covers the skin.  That menthol smell… wow, that muscle rub is really strong.  Sometimes an unavoidable product featured can be heroed rather than ignored. If you can’t fix it, feature it.

Leo Burnett is quoted as saying, “Make it simple.  Make it memorable. Make it inviting to look at. Make it fun to read.”  While the list above is not a comprehensive list, I can solidly claim that these pointers can help strengthen how you talk about your products.  92% Guaranteed.

Mike Thomas claims to be the Chief Innovation Officer at Upstream 360 and author of the 2x clinically proven book, Agents of Change: Unleashing the Innovation of Real-Life Superheroes.

This article was originally posted at Upstream360.com

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