David Ogilvy’s Guide To Writing Ads Explained Part 20

Back in the 1960s no one had come up with the concept of “The One Thing”. In fact, the ‘one thing’ didn’t really become “The One Thing” until 2013 when the book of that title appeared (written by Gary W. Keller and Jay Papasan).

I spotted it in an airport bookshop on the way to a seminar in the USA the same year and read it in one go (no wonder bookshops started putting up signs that books were meant to be bought, not “borrowed”).

But Ogilvy didn’t have a great name for the concept at the time, so he called it the “burr of singularity” – not exactly memorable and I imagine mostly fell on deaf ears (but that didn’t matter).

Of course, the reality is we’ve all known about it since the day we realised that if we wanted to live, we needed to eat – and that meant focusing on one thing – getting food. But it’s not just about our focus, it’s about our audience’s focus too.

If we want attention, we need to focus on the one thing our audience is after, and having done that, we need to find a way to make sure THEY focus on it too.

The tighter we make that coupling (ours and theirs), the higher the desire (and that means happier customers).

Don’t confuse this with a USP though. A USP is a single, unique BENEFIT, whereas “the one thing” is the thing itself (i.e., the one thing can have many USPs, but a USP can only ever have one thing).

Whatever you think of this idea, understand that failing to focus on anything other than “the one thing” (and everything associated with it) will dilute every aspect of a marketing campaign (or to put it another way, if we focus on everything we end up focusing on nothing).

To give it even more context, it might be helpful to think of “The One Thing” as a 99/1 version of the 80/20 rule (the Pareto principle).

PS. I’ve gone way past what David Ogilvy was talking about with his ‘burr of singularity’, (which meant nothing more than “have a great, memorable logo”) but The One Thing is what most people are missing when it comes to success. If you haven’t got one. Get one.

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