The Benefits of Soft Sell

Think of an iconic ad you love. Does the Coca-Cola Company describe the taste of their beverage? Does BMW list the specifications of their latest model? Does a perfume commercial, starring a glamorous movie star, outline the elements that make up the ingredients of what’s in the bottle?

Ads, as we’re sure you’ve noticed, are about feelings, not specifications. And similarly brands are personalities, not the products themselves. Whether it’s a Stradivarius violin or a kitchen roll, every brand is essentially a character with story.

Insert Marc Almond joke here…

Content – more than any conventional ad – is about the soft sell. It’s about building a relationship and a conversation. It’s about writing something that people will want to read – and share! It’s about sharing a story that someone will want to hear.

The sales and brand recognition will follow afterwards.

Choosing Your Voice

Just like in real life, there are many things that affect how you’re heard. Your voice consists of both the tone of your language, and in what you choose to talk about.

Here are three different voices that had different objectives:

A Break-Up Letter from Eat24

“Dear Facebook,

“Hey. It’s Eat24. Look, we need to talk. This isn’t easy to say since we’ve been together so long, but we need to break up.  We’d love to say “It’s not you, it’s us” but it’s totally you. Not to be rude, but you aren’t the smart, funny social network we fell in love with several years back. You’ve changed. A lot.”

So opens a breakup letter from the food token site Eat24 to social media giant Facebook. It’s a genius idea – conversational, funny and original. Even more brilliantly, it snuck in plenty of information about the company itself and its social network policy.

Traveller’s Guide to Tipping

Hipmunk is a travel site that offers a familiar suite of products (price comparisons, flight bookings and so on), but their content helps set them apart: It’s helpful, immensely sharable and well-written, and it’s perfectly targeted to their demographic.

Traveller’s Guide to Tipping is a perfect example, listing popular travel destinations and their local customs when it comes to service charges. It’s conversational, easily digestible in list form and eminently practical.

VitaMax: Be Inspired

This one might be accused of walking the line between hard and soft sell, but its presentation, language and content are so appealing that it does achieve what the best content sets out to do – it’s engaging and relevant to the audience.

One might think that the language is a little rich for a blender manufacturer, but every marketer knows that a product is not just a product. And a blender, this site argues, is not just a glass case with spinning blades; it’s a portal to healthier living and culinary splendour. A brand is a lifestyle, not just the object, and the Be Inspired blog from VitaMax has everything from lifestyle hacks to fitness posts to (of course) recipes.

Shop Window vs Salesperson

When comparing copy to traditional marketing and ads, there’s an analogue metaphor that works nicely: Copy is like a shop window – eye-catching, sometimes abstract, and putting the best image forward. While traditional ads are more like face-to-face sales – blunter, more direct and closer to a hard sell.

Let the market copy speak softly for you and the sales will follow.