John Caples was a legendary ad executive and copywriter.
He worked for 40 years at BBDO, one of the nation’s largest ad agencies, and he was BBDO’s vice president when he retired. He died in 1990.
During his first year as a copywriter, Caples wrote one of the best-known direct-mail ads of all time. Writing about a home-study course offered by the U.S. School of Music, the ad was headlined, “They laughed when I sat down at the piano, but when I started to play…” The ad was a great success, and copywriters have been using variations of it ever since.
Thousands of people in sales and marketing have been influenced by Caples’s methods and advice. Many of the copywriting “how to” articles that you’ll find online today were based on his work.
Caples once did a study of 100 of the most effective advertisements ever written. He wanted to know which words were used most frequently in the headlines. Here’s what he found:
If you combine the score of the word “you” with the score of the similar word “your,” there are 45 mentions, which is almost as many mentions as the other words combined (52).
“The words ‘you’ and ‘your’ are very effective,” Caples said. “Every copywriter should remember the value of hammering away at you, you, you, both in headlines and in copy.”
We’ve been bombarded by “you” and “your” our entire lives. When you begin looking, you’ll find “you” and “your” used everywhere in sales and marketing. Check out these slogans, for example.
• You’re In Good Hands – Allstate
• Your World. Delivered. – AT&T
• This Bud’s For You – Budweiser
• Have It Your Way – Burger King
• What’s In Your Wallet? – Capital One
• You Know Us – Farmers Insurance
• When You Care Enough To Send The Very Best – Hallmark
• You Can Do It. We Can Help. – Home Depot
• What Would You Do For A Klondike Bar? – Klondike
• You Deserve A Break Today – McDonalds
• Nationwide Is On Your Side – Nationwide Insurance
• This Is Your Brain, This Your Brain On Drugs – Public Service Announcement
• You Could Learn A Lot From A Dummy – Public Service Announcement
• How Do You Spell Relief? – Rolaids
• What Can Brown Do For You? – UPS
• Can You Hear Me Now? – Verizon
• Let Your Fingers Do The Walking – Yellow Pages
The organizations above spent who-knows-how-many millions of dollars on those campaigns, and the use of “you” and “your” was no accident. Give it a try in an A/B test to see how it works for you.