Six Tugs of War

Six Tugs-of-War:

1. Intellect vs. Emotion

Intellect and emotion are not connected! Consequently, ad writers must choose whether to speak to the customer's intellect or to her emotions.

2. Time vs. Money

Today's shoppers are going directly to the store they feel is most likely to have what they want, and they are walking in the front door with every intention of buying. Category killers don't just give the competition a run for its money, they eliminate it by design. Which category do you kill?

3. Opportunity vs. Security

I'm sitting at the conference table when a prospective client lays a large check in front of me. He covers the check with his hand and says, "If I give you this money, what will you guarantee me?" It's a question I'm asked routinely, so I lay my hand on top of his, look into his eyes, and give him my standard answer: "I guarantee that you'll never see this money again." The only fool greater than the one who expects big results from small changes is the fool who believes big changes can be accomplished without risk. Opportunity and security are inversely proportionate: as one goes up, the other goes down. It's a fundamental law of the universe.

Do you have the courage to be a pioneer, or will you live your life as a settler?

4. Style vs. Substance

Shoes, fragrances, clothing, and soft drinks are often sold with ads that are "artsy" and "fluffy," and every time one of these campaigns becomes a big hit, some car manufacturer will begin an equally fluffy campaign to sell automobiles. Those campaigns invariably fail. Products that are mostly style can be sold with ads that are mostly style. Products of substance, however, require ads of equal substance. Is your product mostly style or mostly substance?

5. Pain vs. Gain

Which would you rather have:

1. a sure gain of $ 3,000, or

2. an 80 percent chance of winning $ 4,000 and a 20 percent chance of winning nothing?

Now choose between 1. a sure loss of $ 3,000 and

2. an 80 percent chance of losing $ 4,000 and a 20 percent chance of losing nothing.

In their research on the process of human decision making, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky clearly established that when the identical question is posed in slightly different ways, the resulting answers can be radically different. Of particular note was their observation that "losses loom larger than gains" -- specifically, that our willingness to accept risk is higher when we are facing possible loss than when the identical risk is presented in terms of potential gain. In the first example, most people are unwilling to accept the risk. They opt for the "sure" $ 3,000, though pure mathematical probabilities make the second choice slightly more attractive (0.8 x $ 4,000 = $ 3,200). In the second example, however, more than 90 percent of those surveyed choose to accept the risk of losing an additional $ 1,000 to gain the 20 percent chance of losing nothing. Professors Kahneman and Tversky, at the University of Chicago, proved it again and again: the average person avoids risk when seeking gains, but is willing to embrace risk to avoid losses. Sales trainers have long known this and often teach their students to phrase things in terms of potential loss. "You'd hate to return tomorrow and find that someone else had purchased this item, now, wouldn't you?" The pain-versus-gain theory is not so easily applied to advertising, however, because it presupposes that the subjects have been successfully reached with your message of potential loss --a very dangerous assumption in advertising. In reality, ads that speak to the fear of loss must necessarily conjure a negative first mental image, and in so doing, they will often alienate the listener. When confronted with an uncomfortable mental image, a percentage of the public instinctively opt not to "participate" with the ad; they direct their attention elsewhere. Moreover, those who casually participate with such ads often associate the negative mental image with the advertiser who presented it, and the campaign becomes counterproductive. Although the fear of loss may be more powerful than the hope of gain, it's usually a mistake to use fear as a motivator in your ads. The first objective of every ad is to successfully engage the imagination of the listener with a thought more attractive than the one that currently occupies the listener's mind. How attractive are the mental images in your ads?

6. Sight vs. Sound

The greatest liar who ever lived was the one who first said, "One picture is worth a thousand words." Don't you believe it.