Is Your Marketing Message Visual, Understandable and Effective?

Patton Oswalt, the famous comedian, has a skit where he made fun of movie titles he thought were lame like “Something’s Gotta Give” or “Audacity” because they don’t tell you what the movie is about.

He then talked about the move Texas Chainsaw Massacre and he explained how as you hear each word, an image is forming in your mid. “Texas….Chainsaw…Massacre…. sounds like a great movie! I want to go! You can see the movie in your head, for free!

How does that compare to the messages that we marketers sometimes create? let’s look at some examples:

Take a look at this copy from a Toyota print ad ‘A quantum leap in interior refinement, and the uncompromising new shape of things to come from Toyota’. A lot of words, very little meaning. I can’t see a movie, or even a picture in my head.

Or this email I recently received from Dell – the headlined read “Get end-to-end solutions that go beyond making ends meet”. Can you guess what they are talking about? The message showed a banner that read: ‘Enjoy free shipping and easy returns on’. Then a headline promised ‘Turn big ideas into cash big flow’ .Now I was seriously confused. What movie is in your head? it went on: ‘One Place. Countless ways to better manage your business’ finances.’. Do you have a clue what is Dell trying to tell me in this email?

The rest of the  email showed a Laptop next to tax and accounting software . It was not even a bundle. Maybe I am not as intelligent as Dell’s target market, so I read everything again, very carefully – and yet could not figure it out. Wouldn’t it be better to have a subject that said ‘Dell can help your business with business laptops and financial software” or even more specific “Here is a good deal on a Dell laptop, tax and accounting software”

Of course, I am trying to pick at Dell or Toyota. I know for a fact there are very competent marketers at Dell and Toyota, these are simply good real-world examples. Most of us marketers fall under the trap of writing ‘solution oriented copy’ full of buzzwords and platitudes. In fact, let me share an example of the content we had on our website at Rackspace:

“…provides fanatical support during the IT strategic planning process and creates true end-to-end IT transformation solutions for Rackspace customers.….to complete their strategic IT vision and make game changing, innovative decisions regarding their cloud computing strategy.

if you talked to people the way advertising does
Image courtesy Hugh Mac­Leod

I am not the first to complain about how buzzwords let customers down. Many cartoons make fun of Marketers. Maybe it is this kind of jargon that has resulted in marketers being considered just above used car salesmen. We rightfully deserve this reputation.

But it does not have to be this way. Maybe this can be one of our New year resolutions: to speak in conversational English. to avoid a 2-dollar-word when a 10 cent word will do, to refine our messages to make them clear and easy to understand.

To help us write more clearly, let me recommend of my favorite books: Your Attention Please . Andy Craig, who facilitates workshops based on Made to Stick, a must-read for every marketer, has built a business out of helping marketers communicate clearly. I recommend you read this interview on Inc. Magazine.

Next time you are writing a headline, marketing copy or even an email, remember Patton Oswalt and start by thinking about what movie do you want your customers to see in their head when they get your message, then write a good ‘movie title’ that will effectively tell that message.

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