People do not buy products, they buy stories. With every product you buy, you are not buying the product per say, you are buying a story. Don’t believe me ? Wander into you local supermarket, you will see generic brands and name brands. You wander into the aisle that sells plastic sandwich wrap. You spot a box of Saran wrap and few feet to the left there is a box of generic plastic sandwich wrap. Both plastic wraps possibly might be identical, possibly they might have even came from the same factory, and possibly where made on the same machines. What is the difference between the two products ? Price in some cases the Saran wrap is twice as expensive as the generic brand. What accounts for this price difference ?

Regular plastic wrap just wraps sandwiches, Saran wrap makes you a hero.

For the generic plastic wrap, the box talks about its tensile strength and how the plastic wrap is an impermeable membrane. Not really sure what an impermeable membrane is but it sounds quite boring.

By contrast, saran wrap tells a story. Parent makes sandwiches and wraps them in saran wrap, child takes sandwiches to school and while the child is eating the sandwiches they get pleasant memories of the parent. The child then comes home from school and tell the parent, thanks for the great sandwiches I love you. The parent feels fulfilled, the child and parent have a happy bonding moment and all of this is due to saran wrap.

Of course we are all too smart to fall for this, or that is the lie that we tell ourselves. Even if you understand how the process works, it still has an effect on you. Read the previous sentence a few times till it sinks in. Even then you are going to say I am too smart for that. Every time I go to the supermarket to buy plastic wrap, subconsciously I have doubts, am I doing the right thing buying the generic wrap. Maybe I should spend a few extra dollars and buy saran wrap ?

Analogy and metaphor allow us to transfer knowledge from one area to another

Analogy and metaphor is an extremely powerful tool which allows us to transfer knowledge from one area to another. This is a much underused tool. The analogy does not have to be perfect, but it still can be extremely useful. Often we talk about sexual market value for example, this is an analogy to a stock exchange. Obviously there in most cases there is no central sex stock exchange where sex is bought and sold. The exception being prostitution and sex workers, both are extremely useful since you could theoretically get actual dollar values.

A street prostitute sells her vagina, a high class prostitute sells a story.

The street prostitute or on line variant just describes her product, she describes her basic physical attributes, what acts she is willing to perform and her price. As a result her price is relatively speaking low. By contrast the high class prostitute might have the same physical attributes and be willing to perform the same sex acts, but because she is selling a story, she is able to command a much higher price. We will examine what is the story she is selling.

In a previous post I talked about how men and women speak a different language. I then spoke about when it comes to demonstration of attraction, women are generally affirmation based, which means they like to talk a lot. While men are generally speaking service based, as in when they demonstrate attraction, they do it by actually doing things. To sell a story properly, it has to match the recipients belief system.

We will examine the belief system of the average man and how the story is sold to them.

  • men want to fix things, the high class prostitute plays into this by implying he can fix her.
  • men generally speaking demonstrate their worth by acts of service, this ties in closely with the first belief. So by fixing the prostitute he can gain worth.
  • the high class prostitute creates a story, and the hero of the story is her client.

The story is more important then the product itself

In Ogilvy on Advertising he shows that for most common household products there difference in quality between the best product and worst product is less then 5%. I will repeat that again, the difference in quality between the best product and worst product is less then 5%. But meanwhile the difference in price is often 300%. That means with a good story you can increase the value of the product by over 300%. If you examine each of Oglivy’s advertisements they are telling a story.

The plot of the story does not have to be overly complicated, the plastic wrap story is extremely simple. Use a certain type of plastic wrap, become a hero.

Examine commercials or public figures and see what type of story they are telling

The best way to learn is by examining the stories of successful products or people. Examine what type of story are they telling. The Apple ipod was not marketed as a music player, it was marketed as a product that made you a rebel. Someone that stands out from the rest of the crowd. Ironically by buying this product you became part of the crowd.

Trump sells himself as a maverick who stands up against the establishment and tells it how it is. His slogan is Make America great again. Cowboys and gunfighters are the image that most Americans have about traditional USA. The pioneer who is stands up against all odds and battles the forces against him. John Wayne or Clint Eastwood taking on the establishment single handedly to bring justice to the American frontier. Trump does not have to actually mention anything about cowboys and gunfighters, it is a story that appeals to the American psyche.

Start creating your own stories

An accountant and a doctor both earn around the same amount of money, but if you would ask a woman who she prefers, she prefers the doctor. A doctor is seen as someone who saves lives, he is a hero. An accountant on the other hand is seen as boring, he peers over books and shuffles paper around. The perception is more important then the reality.

Whether you are selling yourself or selling a product you need to create a story which matches the product which you are selling. The brilliance of men like Oglivy is they are able to create a story which fits the product.

People who claim this doesn’t work are lazy

Human beings in general are lazy, they always want a simple solution which doesn’t require much effort. Also to create your own stories requires a lot of self honesty and self examination, people dislike self honesty because it reveals a lot of truths which they would rather avoid.

When Oglivy started to market a product, he would spend a minimum of three months researching the product. His research would include everything that was directly or indirectly related to the product. Often he would tour the factory where the product was made, and would talk to everyone involved in making the product from the person on the assembly line to the woman working in accounting.

He then would spend countless hours coming up with different headlines, different plots and then most importantly he test these headlines and different stories.

Start examining different stories and start learning how to create stories of your own, and most importantly practice telling these stories. Before Oglivy started his advertising agency, his first job was a door to door salesman selling gadgets to bored housewives. It was this job that allowed him to gain insight into the psychology of housewives and what works and doesn’t work.

The important thing is to keep on telling different stories, improving on your stories and to continue practicing. People like stories and stories are what sell your product.