Please, please, please – wherever possible – sell on the positive. Why? Because, nearly always, selling on the negative puts your target audience on the back foot and, therefore, the defensive.
Selling on the negative gives them something to refute – something to act out against. It also makes it look like your offering isn’t that great, or that you’re scared of the competition (even if you’re not).
When I was training as a copywriter, I was set a spec brief – with my art director – for KFC. We’d spotted the rash of KFC-alikes that had sprung up all over the place; Southern Fried Chicken, Paris Fried Chicken, Kentucky Flavour Chicken. We created a campaign that simply showed these places, with the endline: ‘KFC – we’re flattered, but better’.
It was instantly dismissed, as: ‘it looks like KFC are sneering at these places, and that they’re actually starting to get worried about them’… good point.
I strongly dislike Corsodyl (or their ads, at least) because they threaten me – ‘use this or your teeth will fall out’ (their TV ads feature a beautiful woman, tarnished by the big gap in her mouth where a tooth was – assumption: if she’d used Corsodyl this wouldn’t have happened).
I’d rather use other mouthwash brands with the same ingredients now.
Could they not have spun it on the positive: what keeping your teeth enables you to do?
I’ve noticed this on a different level. There are a lot of health-based MLM programmes out there; pure Aloe Vera, weight loss, muscle gain, improved blood circulation etc
I have to say, I’m utterly fed up of these products being sold to me by way of threat or highly improbable, hammed-up stories.
I had a weight-loss supplement reseller try to convince me to buy into her product by telling me ‘I could get fatter’ and pointing to – then actually prodding – my ‘love handles’ (this really happened).
At that point she’d lost me: I was completely negative towards both her and her product.
I’m not that sensitive about my weight, but what annoyed me was;
a) she didn’t know this before she prodded me
b) what if she used this approach on someone who is?
Why not sell me the benefits of losing weight/toning up? Looking good on the beach, dating etc?
She also told me that, two years ago, she’d had a stroke and could barely walk, but this product (for weight loss) had sorted that out. B*ll*cks. She then told me that her nearly-blind friend has had much of her sight restored since using the same product – again, b*ll*cks.
I’ve also had a ‘miracle cure’ for improving blood circulation, and the ‘age of my arteries’, put to me.
Apparently I’m at much greater risk of diabetes or heart disease if I don’t buy this miracle cure.
Not only that, but I might live much longer if I use it… which is interesting, as the seller must know something I don’t: how long I’ll live in the first place.
Why not tell me how youthful or vibrant I might feel if I use the product? Why not tap into my interests? Why not tell me that it’ll help me run or swim for longer? That my energy levels will increase?
As for the Aloe Vera products – I’ve had my complexion and skin condition criticised and been told I’ll be more susceptible to dermatitis if I don’t use them (ironic, as I do get the odd bit of eczema). Again, this is like hitting me with a brick and expecting me to say thanks.
Imagine if I approached people and – while they were talking – told them that their sentences were syntactically incorrect and their grammar choices were poor… or, if they didn’t use my copywriting their business might fold:
do you think they’d feel positively disposed towards me? I doubt it.
It’s a real shame, as I think there are some people working in MLM schemes who have integrity, and I like their approach. Too many others are spoiling this for them though.
If selling a product or service, always tell people what it can do, not what will happen if they don’t use it, or how bad your competitor is. Simple.