Memorize the points below; they all apply to online marketing and digital design. Written by David Ogilvy (1911 – 1999), they are more thought-out, researched, and accurate than any bullshit spewed from the Adage Power 150 bloggers.
The points may seem familiar, as some bloggers rehash and recycle the ideas as if they were the latest, most amazing discovery (i.e., always measure your advertising). Ogilvy wrote it in 1983. Most of the facts were discovered in the 1920s – 1950s.
Marketers: if you’ve never heard of David Ogilvy, you are one of these people and have failed at learning your craft.
Here’s the advice from Ogilvy, all relevant to online marketers:
- Pursue Knowledge – I asked an indifferent copywriter what books he read on advertising. He told me none, relying on intuition. The willful refusal to learn the rudiments of the [advertising] craft is all too common. I cannot think of any profession which gets by on such a small corpus of knowledge.
- Write brilliant copy:
- Never use superlatives (e.g., “best in the world”). No one is convinced.
- Stay away from analogies–few people understand them.
- Testimonials improve your sell, especially those from experts. [Matt: an experiment with SoBe energy drink, from my last post, confirms this].
- Always include the price.
- Long copy pulls in more people than short copy. It conveys the impression that you have something important to say, whether people read it or not. [Matt: I'd like to disagree with Ogilvy on this one...who wants to read long sales pitches? But Ogilvy always sought data to support his points. Who am I to argue without any data except intuition? Refer to the "pursuit of knowledge" point.]
- If you use long copy, include a sub-head–it will heighten the reader’s appetite.
- The more facts you tell, the more you sell.
- How to write headlines:
- The ones that work best provide a promise, a benefit.
- If it contains news, it’s a sure-fire hit.
- Include the brand name in the headline, as most people will not read the body copy.
- Never run an ad without a headline.
- Don’t add periods to the end of a headline–they signal that the reader should stop.
- Designing your ad:
- People read in the following order: illustrations, headlines, copy–so put the headline below the illustration.
- Always use captions. More people will read them than the body copy.
- Don’t make an ad look like an ad. This signals to the reader, “Skip me, I’m an ad.”
- San-serif is hard to read–we are used to reading serif font [Matt: though most online text is in san-serif].
- Drop initials increase readership by 15%
- Set key paragraphs in bold.
- If you space between paragraphs, you will increase readership by 12%.
- Never write in ALL CAPS [including headlines]–they retard reading.
- Logos are horrible: they were created in the 1800s because of illiteracy. Brands insist on using them–but research shows that they reduce readership.
- Make Your product the hero – if you think that your product is too dull, I have news for you. There are no dull products, only dull writers.
- Always Test - Certain techniques work better than others. You’re not going to sell by being creative or original [Matt: Ogilvy hates the word "creative]. Creative wins awards, not sales.