How To Sell With Six Words Or Less

by 7 12/20/2012

It’s the most concentrated form of marketing — the tagline.

When done right, a tagline can pack an explosive marketing punch in just a few words.

But the lessons learned here extend far beyond taglines.  The psychology behind these brilliantly crafted bits of marketing can be applied to every level of marketing communications.

Let’s take a look at how these three world-class companies sell with six words or less.

Because I’m worth it  (L’Oreal)

L’Oreal is the largest beauty and cosmetics company in the world.

And they don’t claim to be a bargain.  In fact, they position themselves as a premium provider of beauty products against brands like Clairol or Revlon.

L'Oreal Marketing

This L’Oreal product is nearly double the price of the Clairol product next to it.

It begs the question, why would someone pay more?

One thing is for sure, your buyer is asking the question — “How can I justify this purchase?”

And you’d better have a good answer.  They may want to buy your product or service but they need the justification to do it.

In the 1970′s, L’Oreal chose four powerful words that communicate something very powerful: you deserve this premium product.

Here’s a cut from one of the original television ads,

“I use the most expensive hair color in the world, Preference by L’Oreal.  Actually, I don’t mind spending more for L’Oreal, because I’m worth it.”

Over the years, this tagline has given women the permission they needed to spend a little bit more on their beauty.

L'Oreal Marketing

This 40 year old tagline helped build the largest cosmetic company in the world, L’Oreal.

 

Ask yourself this:  What justification are you giving prospects that are evaluating your product or service?

Like a rock (Chevy)

Metaphors have shocking marketing and communication value.

Consider how quickly and clearly Groucho Marx paints a picture with this metaphor,

A hospital bed is a parked taxi with the meter running.

To illustrate the power of metaphor in marketing, let’s take a look at an experiment from Nils Jostman at the University of Amsterdam.

In the experiment, subjects were asked to estimate the value of a currency while holding a clipboard.  Half of the subjects were holding a heavy clipboard while the other half a lighter clipboard.

The results?  You guessed it.  Those that were holding the heavier clipboard estimated the currency value higher.

It seems that the subjects in the experiments associated weight with higher value.  Simply by placing two things side by side in the mind, their attributes become blended.

You buy that right?  Metaphors are a kind of short story we can use to quickly communicate a message.

Chevy understood the power of metaphor in marketing in the 90′s when they created their powerful tagline, Like a rock.

Chevy marketing

For 13 years this tagline that beautifully communicated the way a man feels about his truck bolstered sales for Chevy”s truck line.

Ask yourself this:  How could you be using metaphor to communicate the attributes of what you are selling?

The Few, The Proud, The Marines

You could look at it two ways:

1)  The Marine Corps is the smallest of the four major armed forces

-OR-

2)  The Marine Corps is the most exclusive of the four major armed forces

The Marines are known for their esprit de corps, and this pride stems (at least in part), from this concept of exclusivity.  Ask any Marine and they’ll tell you — not everyone is cut out to be a Marine.

The Few The Proud The Marines

On the Marine Corps website, the language conveys the message that Marines are rare and unique,

Only those who complete the most demanding training can  accomplish the world’s most demanding missions. If you seek our title, the path ahead will be one of great challenge.

By creating barriers for those that don’t fit, the Marine Corps speaks directly to their ideal candidate.  Language like this gets the job done,

No one can fully comprehend the difficulty of Marine Corps Recruit Training without experiencing it firsthand.

The U.S. Marine’s tagline weighs in at just six words, but delivers a commanding message — come join our club, if you’ve got what it takes.

But the U.S. Marine Corps is just one example of exclusivity in marketing.

In the event marketing space, the BlueGlass conference markets differently than most.  While every other conference is trying to round up as many attendees as possible, Blue Glass limited their last conference to just 125 attendees.   That’s right, only 125 people are allowed on the other side of this velvet rope.

Blue Glass LA Marketing

This year, Blue Glass has increased the limit to 175 but continue to play the exclusivity card in their marketing.

Here’s a snip from the Blue Glass conference website,

Don’t miss your chance to be one of 175 joining the [Blue Glass] experience!

Ask yourself this:  How could you incorporate exclusivity into what you are selling?

Regardless of the length of the communication, ensure that there is sound strategy behind the message you are delivering.

Because it doesn’t matter if you have six words or 600, if you are deliberate with your choice of words, you will make the sale.

About 

Russ Henneberry is the Editorial Director at Digital Marketer. He's worked on digital marketing projects for companies like CrazyEgg, Salesforce.com and Network Solutions. You can connect with Russ on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ or on his blog.

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7 COMMENTS

Adrian @ theIMroom

Fantastic post, the Marines example is especially powerful by showing just how appealiing something that is rare and unique can be. I would also like to add that creating the feel of demand can help sell a product or service too. For example: “Only 40 copies left!”. You see the shopping network do this all the time and it works! This is espeically effective when coupled with something that has limited quantities such as a special edition product.

December 21, 2012 Reply

Ramesh Nair

I expected more samples. Here are few popular ones:

Just Do It – Nike
I’m Lovin’ It – McDonalds
Think Different – Apple (I doubt if they use it anymore)
Finger Lickin’ Good – KFC (they ditched this last year to go with ‘So Good’)
A Diamond is Forever – De Beers
Got Milk? – California Milk Processor Board
We Try Harder – Avis

December 21, 2012 Reply

    Russ Henneberry

    Excellent examples Ramesh! Thanks for adding these! Do you feel like any of these deal with the marketing principles of justification, metaphor or exclusivity?

    December 21, 2012 Reply

John Goslino

Good and useful post, the principles are relevant, exclusivity perhaps a secondary principle allied to a primary benefit-based one, like justification. The Marines example is powerful, suggesting a real unique opportunity, I have tried to convey the value of a tagline like that to small medium enterprises but many just do not appreciate the value and sometimes end up with a message that is weak, obvious, promises nothing, and yes, is inoffensive.

January 9, 2013 Reply

Sharon O’Day

We read an article like this one, marvel at the power of the extraordinary tag lines, spend some time fantasizing in our heads about finding a gem of our own … then give up when everything we come up with is mundane. Frustrating. But educational! ;-)

January 17, 2013 Reply

    Russ Henneberry

    I completely understand that Sharon. These taglines are some of the best we’ve ever known. It’s not easy to duplicate that.

    January 18, 2013 Reply


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