How To Treat It Can Be Tricky

OK, so it’s Hallowe’en and (whether you choose to celebrate or not) you’d be disappointed if I didn’t join in with some seasonal punnery.

What I notice about this time of year is how some marketers really get it SO right… and others seem to sound a bit sleepy hollow.

What’s spooky is how some ideas just don’t get thought through sufficiently before they’re approved.

I’m reminded of an old advertisement put out by a business school.

It probably sounded like a great idea at the time…

And the headline was certainly tantalising enough to want to make people read on. The headline was:

LETTERS WIVES DON’T WRITE TO THEIR UNSUCCESSFUL HUSBANDS

The ad continued with a nicely phrased letter, from a “loving wife” to her “dear” Fred.

In the letter, the wife acknowledges how hard Fred has worked. She said she was “not complaining” but just thinking about Fred (and how he was overlooked for a promotion – they gave it to Joe instead).

The ad letter ends with “Can’t something be done? I want to help you succeed while we are still young. Isn’t there a way?”

So what was the verdict when this ad appeared?

Well, advertising professionals loved it and some thought it the best business school advertisement in years.

The people it was aimed at?

They hated it.

Well, that’s a reasonable assumption considering the response rates for the coupon returns were terrible.

There’s no doubting this was a clever piece of copy.

But it fell short of the mark because it failed one important test.

It didn’t get into the mindset of its target audience – husbands who were unsuccessful in life and work.

Yes, they might welcome support from their wife.

What they didn’t want was a another lecture from their other half – particularly about their failures or failings.

The killer line for me is when the letter says:

“Understand, dear, I’m not complaining. I’m not thinking about me – I’m thinking about you”

Now what do YOU read into that?

To me it sounds like the wife IS complaining. It sounds like it is HERSELF she is thinking about.

There’s another line later in the letter which essentially says Fred just talks about needing to make more money but doesn’t do anything about it. Ouch!

So, take care with your copy unless the response you want from your audience is an eerie silence.

The trick is to treat the reader right.

Do you get what I Hallow Me’en?

P.S. If you want to see the whole letter, just drop me a line with the words “Caple 79” in the subject line and I’ll send it to you

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