Welcome to the second installment in the Audiolytics™ Master Class. Last time we discussed how to capture attention in “The Setup.” Now that we have the attention of our intended audience, we’ve got to keep it and move them toward action. Enter the second Audiolytics™ Key Component, Value Prop:
Audiolytics™ Definition: The promise a good or service makes to its potential customer. It is the “why” or the “solution” that the service or good promises to deliver.
“Promise, Large Promise, is the soul of an advertisement.”
Samuel Johnson (1759)
The Value Proposition is a clear, simple promise. At its core, this is what an effective ad provides. We must give assurance that there is a solution, bolstered by a LARGE PROMISE, that is a vehicle toward a plane of existence where life for the consumer can be more pleasurable and where everything is better. The LARGE PROMISE connects to the heart of an audience. It is a signal that rings through the noisy minutiae of one’s day to day experience. The goal is to spark intrigue and stand apart from the ordinary deluge of commercials, salesmanship, and manipulation.
There are two ways most marketers fail in their delivery of a LARGE PROMISE. The first pitfall is underselling. So many new companies sell themselves short by hesitating to fully identify the greatest potential value of their product/service.
The second common failure is overselling. An overly aggressive, grandiose, or disingenuous claim rings false. The above-mentioned essayist described his disdain for this second failure when he said:
“Whatever is common is despised. Advertisements are now so numerous that they are very negligently perused, and it is, therefore, become necessary to gain attention by magnificence of promises, and by eloquence sometimes sublime and sometimes pathetic.”
There is no denying that the commercial saturation of American media spaces has led to a savvy modern consumer. In 2017, digital marketing experts estimated that most Americans were exposed to around 4,000 to 10,000 ads each day. With such exposure comes awareness, intelligence, and, sadly for us, a sort of jaded and weary cynicism.
Think about it. If the majority of the sensory data my eyes and ears absorb each day are attempts to influence my psyche into taking action for the benefit of somebody who doesn’t love me but wants my money, I am naturally going to evolve stronger intellectual defense mechanisms to guard against the noise. Simply put, I am going to learn to tune it all out.
This helps in one way to explain the failures of various contemporary ad campaigns, even ones ranging into the massive budget spectrum. Example: Dove Soap. Recently, the company (well known for its decade of “Real Beauty” campaigns) unveiled what was thought to be a bold marketing strategy called Real Beauty Bottles.
“Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes,” Dove claims in one of their commercials. “There is no one perfect shape.” The campaign rolled out six different shapes of Dove-branded soap bottles, each depicting a more or less common body shape for women. The promise here is a noble one: whatever your body type, you will be seen and acknowledged as a human being. You will not be alone in the world.
The campaign backfired. The “squatter” shaped bottles were unwieldy in the shower, compared to the hourglass shape. Women who purchased these bottles at the store had to present them to the cashier as a “proxy for a body.” There was shame associated in purchasing a shape that does not fit the commercial body ideal this campaign was attempting to subvert.
Dove’s promise that these six bottles would release consumers from their self-consciousness was too extreme and turned out to be false in fairly immediate ways. In an effort to make customers feel free of body shame, Dove inadvertently thrust that very shame into their faces.
Ian Bogost, a contributing editor at The Atlantic, wrote an article in 2017 about this failed Dove campaign, and their misrepresented promise. “It’s advertising’s job to lie,” he claimed, “but it’s only when consumers can see the lie that the dissimulation becomes palpable enough to offend.” At Oxford Road, we disagree with the concept that advertising’s job is to lie. We tend to align ourselves with David Ogilvy, the man who launched the original Dove campaign over 50 years ago who said, “The consumer isn’t a moron; she is your wife. You insult her intelligence if you assume that a mere slogan and a few vapid adjectives will persuade her to buy anything. She wants all the information you can give her.”
So how does it work? How do you go about constructing a promise that connects to your audience without a) boring your customer base by underselling, or b) triggering an offensive or dismissive response by going too far in the other direction?
At Oxford Road, to determine the most effective Value Prop, we apply the second Audiolytics™ Key Component, using our scoring model. Grading the presence or absence of eight sub-components—based on everything from Aristotle’s Rhetoric to Cialdini’s Influence to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs—we can objectively determine the ability of each advertisement to introduce its product and make the largest promise possible.
The essential mission of your promise is to showcase to each individual the best available outcome your product can offer them. They are ready to hear these outcomes, their imaginations are literally primed for them because we grabbed their attention with our 1st Audiolytics™ Key Component The Setup.
Now, with our second Audiolytics™ Key Component, we will use the eight sub-components of Value Prop as a filter to identify if an advertisement’s promise is clear and effective. If the promise undersells or oversells, we can instantly reveal which elements need to be tweaked for instant growth results, guaranteed. Things like features or benefits that can only be claimed by the advertiser—expanding the benefit to the greatest degree possible—and, believe it or not, clearly defining just what it is the advertiser’s product or service does and how it will make the audience’s life better.
It is the rare individual who doesn’t spend some time each day envisioning ways their lives could be improved…be it relief from stress and pressure, added confidence in their looks, more financial freedom, or one of the thousand other avenues toward lightening the load.
Every powerful advertisement ever made has shown customers their fantasy of personal happiness is not only attainable but a valid and legitimate reflection of who they are. In the now-famous words of Mad Men’s Don Draper, “[Happiness] is a billboard on the side of the road that screams with reassurance that whatever you’re doing is okay. You are okay.”
Last year, for instance, Nike’s Colin Kaepernick Campaign showed us a wildly effective example of a company building its Value Prop into the promise it made to its customers. By associating the brand image with Kaepernick’s famed social and political protest against systemic racism in America, Nike instantly—and without overselling the promise—communicated that owning and wearing its products represented the act of rebellion against adversity and provided a vehicle toward overcoming the odds.
The wisdom of this branding position exists both in its association with a ubiquitous social topic and its ambiguity of demonstrative specifics. In other words: Everybody knew what it meant, and nobody knew how to say it. You can’t point your finger at what the tagline means precisely, but it promises strength, power, and most importantly a tacit association with the righteous, clear-eyed underdog. And who hasn’t envisioned themselves in exactly that way?
Large Promise is the soul of your advertisement. It is the spiritual center that inspires your customers and builds a connection between them and their secret fantasy of happiness, of ease and contentment, and of an improved plane of existence that is somehow better than the one they are currently on.
Though today’s consumers are savvy, and possibly jaded from their exposure to 10,000 ads a day, they are still always listening to hear the magic words that will inspire a feeling of hope. For all of us, deep down, are willing to believe in a Large Promise.
And when we do, we take action.