David Ogilvy was widely regarded as the 20th century’s most sought-after advertising executive. Even though we’re 15 years removed from his death in 1999, his reputation and stature continue to grow.
The foundation for Ogilvy’s greatness was an unwavering faith in great copywriting, with copywriting defined as “salesmanship in print.”
Last week I wrote a post titled, “David Ogilvy’s First Commandment of Great Copywriting.” The First Commandment is: “Position your product or service before you try to sell it.”
Today, I’m going to share Ogilvy’s Second Commandment. I believe it was Ogilvy’s Second Commandment, combined with the wisdom to never abandon it, that made him “The King of Madison Avenue.”
Then I’ll show you how to use the commandment to sell your products and services.
With no further introduction, here it is:
A promise is a benefit for the buyer.
It pays to promise a benefit which is unique and competitive. And the product must deliver the benefit you promise. Most advertising promises nothing. It is doomed to fail in the marketplace.
When explaining promises, Ogilvy often quoted writer Samuel Johnson: “Promise, large promise, is the soul of an advertisement.”
There are two revelations for me in the second commandment: all advertising must include a promise, and the promise must be a benefit.
Alright, that’s cool theory, but how can you use it to get customers to buy your stuff?
A Simple Process for Using Ogilvy’s Second Commandment
Remember that these are commandments — not suggestions — for great copywriting.
As with all commandments, if you don’t follow them, bad things happen. Really bad things. If you don’t follow Ogilvy’s commandments, you don’t make money, you go out of business, and you have to go back to work for someone else.
But enough with the scare tactics. I hate scare tactics because they scare me.
Here’s the good stuff: if you always follow the commandments, buyers will be throwing money at you.
And here’s the process:
1. Write down all of the benefits you can think of for the product or service you want to sell.
A quick refresher: Benefits are the ways in which your product’s features affect the customer. When you discuss benefits, the focus is on your customer.
For example, if you’re selling weed killer, don’t tell the buyer about the chemicals in the weed killer (that’s a product feature), tell her what the weed killer will do to her crabgrass (a benefit)!
2. Select a handful of the best benefits, remembering that the best benefits are unique and competitive.
3. Write promises for each benefit.
4. Test the promises in your copy to determine which one sells the best.