At the end of part 16 I made a promise about part 17. It was this: “You won’t want to miss it.”. It was a blind promise. Devoid of substance, but based on trust.
David Ogilvy also made promises. They were based on trust too, but he packed them full of proof (albeit uncheckable proof much of the time).
But then that’s how we all operate when we want something. We learn quickly that making promises to deliver what people want is the fastest way to get what we want.
We learn it from our parents when we’re kids: “if you want that, then you need to do this” (eg. a bit of work around the house – cleaning up your bedroom, mowing the lawn, doing the dishes, washing the windows, etc.).
The best promises use reciprocation then. “If you do this, I’ll do that” or “if you do this, then you’ll get this [amazing benefit]” or “if you do this, then the pain will go away”.
Ogilvy’s promise in element 17 of his direct response ad was this: “if you choose to advertise with us, we’ll make sure you get the best possible promise at the lowest possible cost delivered direct to the best possible audience”.
The proof was technology. A technology which meant that clients didn’t need to test headlines (promises) in adverts by sending them out first. No direct mail charges, no pre-advert adverts.
They’d develop a whole bunch of promises for the client, then rank them in order before spending any serious client money on ads.
But the real trick in creating a wildly successful promise is to use reciprocation without involving your own money or assets (that’s how billionaires create and grow their wealth – leverage).
When you’re thinking about your next headline, think about the promise, then think about how you can use reciprocity to get what you want by giving your audience what they want.
PS. If you want to see just how far villains were prepared to go to sell cigarettes, take a look at any of their ads from any era and think about the promises they made.
PPS. There’s just two elements left to go in this series. Make sure you subscribe to the Science of Copywriting Weekly Newsletter so you don’t miss out.