The Secret Sauce of Marketing

The sauce is S for simple, A for appealing, U for unexpected, C for credible and E for emotional.

Simple messages have one central truth and are easy to grasp and picture. Coming up with a simple truth is the hardest thing. How do you boil down what you want to communicate to one thing? Most marketers have several things they want to advertise and aren’t good at sacrifice.

Proverbs are the example: simple and profound. Microsoft’s tagline – “Your potential. Our passion.” – doesn’t ring true, sounding like a corporation trying too hard. On the other hand, Las Vegas scores with “What happens here stays here.” Metaphors can be powerful, such as Shakespeare’s “Juliet is the sun.” – what more can be said? As for pictures, Facebook posts with photos have 53 per cent more likes.

Appealing messages are different, valuable and personalized. Steve Jobs introduced his iPhone with these words: “What we want to do is make a leapfrog product that is way smarter than any mobile device has been, and super-easy to use.” That super-appealing pitch was matched by his concise description of the iPod: “1000 songs in your pocket.”

However, you need to keep to no more than three positive claims for your product – after that, appeal declines, as skepticism rises. Product benefits, which are the sizzle that sell the steak, work better when personalized.

Unexpected messages are surprising, intriguing and seductive. Unless there’s an element of surprise or intrigue, you limit your chance of capturing attention since our brain ignores the expected and familiar. Hathaway had been making shirts for 116 years and was little noticed until David Ogilvy put an intriguing eye patch on the actor in an ad; within a week, the company’s stock sold out and it became the best-selling dress shirt. Seductive involves lowering defences through encouraging self-persuasion.

Credible messages are trusted, transparent and verifiable. We live in a skeptical age, so it’s critical you heed those three dictums. Candour can be very disarming. Having fun with yourself can be effective, as with Volkswagen’s “think small” pitch in the 1960s. But when the company lied about its diesel engines amid an appeal to those interested in sustainability, it lost credibility – and sales.

Emotional messages are warm, arousing and plot-driven. Canadian neurologist Donald Calne says, “The essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leads to action while reason leads to conclusion.” You want action, so arouse emotions, display warmth and try to present a narrative that allows people to connect to your product or service as the hero in a story.

Flip through a newspaper and magazine. Look at the stories and advertisements that catch your attention.

Originally posted by Harvey Schachter in the Business Management section of the Globe & Mail.