Audiolytics Key Component #5 – Substantiation

The Audiolytics™ Master Class continues. Here’s where we’ve been so far:

Audiolytics™ Master Class Overview & Introduction

Audiolytics™ Key Component #1 – Setup

Audiolytics™ Key Component #2 – Value Prop

Audiolytics™ Key Component #3 – Positioning

Audiolytics™ Key Component #4 – Demonstration

Now, for Audiolytics™ Key Component #5 – Substantiation

Why should anyone believe your ad?

Cialdini says it’s the use of Social Proof and Authority. Aristotle posits that one must use Logos (reason) and Ethos (the credibility of the speaker). Jason Harris, author of The Soulful Art of Persuasion, says great advertising is emotional, not rational.

Regardless of the argument, this problem isn’t new. In his 1944 tome on advertising, Diary of an Ad Man, James W. Young mentions the centrality of this issue to advertising and offers a solution:

“Every type of advertiser has the same problem; namely, to be believed. The mail-order man knows nothing so potent for this purpose as testimonial, yet the general advertiser seldom uses it.”

If someone close to you were to go on and on about how great a product or service was, wouldn’t you be inclined to take note? Have you ever asked friends, family and associates if they’ve used a product or service themselves? The same sort of credence we give to those close to us is what we lend to celebrities, the hosts of shows we know and trust, and even respected professionals or experts. The “Doctor” endorsement may not be as trusted as it used to be, but even the word  “Scientist” is enough to gain most people’s confidence.

Whether it is a testimony from someone you know personally or not, as long as you trust them you are much more likely to be persuaded. Testimonials are only one of several “prove it” facts, as outlined by Victor O. Schawb in How to Write a Good Advertisement, that can be used to substantiate the claims in an advertisement.

Victor O. Schwab’s List of Prove It Facts*

(an amplified version of the list first compiled by G.B. Hotchkiss…we’re all standing on the shoulders of giants, aren’t we?)

  1. Construction Evidence includes facts about materials and manufacture of the product.
  2. Performance Evidence includes the achievements of the product in actual use.
  3. Testimony of Others includes Customers, Experts, Awards Won, and Sales Records.

*Schwab includes one other item in this list: Test Evidence, which includes Guarantees and Free Samples. This is located in Audiolytics™ Key Component “Offer,” which is to be covered in the next installment in this series.

Whether it is mentioning the number of customers, media mentions, or other meaningful evidence, like Ogilvy’s famous ad for the luxury car brand, “At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock,” the function of all of these elements is to give the audience confidence in your claims. The more specific the better. How many of these burgers have you sold? Over 1 Billion. So, how big is your network? It’s America’s Largest 4G LET Network. How many Presidents love your sheets again? Three.

Though there may be a certain cynicism amongst advertising professionals about the use of facts and figures in an advertisement, without them how can anyone make a truly informed decision? If we utilize emotions ONLY, how are we advertisers any better than the Snake Oil Salesmen of old? Who, when their “snake oil” was examined, after selling quite successfully at the Chicago’s World’s Fair, (where they even killed snakes in front of the audience) was found to have ZERO snake oil in it1

That doesn’t mean there is no place for spectacle when it comes to Substantiating your claims. Take Krazy Glue’s TV Commercials, showcasing to the world the strength of their glue. There are plenty of ways to talk about and show why your product or service can do what you say it can do, and how it has done it for thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of people. And it doesn’t hurt if some of those millions are a podcast host the audience trusts or someone else they trust as an authority. One of the greatest promoters of all time understood this and used it to great effect when selling his patent medicines:

“Barnum started out as a patent medicine salesman, shouting the benefits of his concoctions by the use of wild, typographic displays to attract attention. He filled these ads with agonizing testimonials describing the painful symptoms his medicines would cure, and followed all of the above with dignified endorsements from crowned heads and members of the U.S. Senate attesting to the effectiveness of his cures.”

One final thought on Substantiation as it relates to Marshall McLuhan’s practically sacrosanct phrase, “The medium is the message.” The level of “polish” of your ad matters. It may not matter as much as some may want, especially those peddling big production budgets. But the very quality of your ad can substantiate, in the audience’s mind, the quality of your good or service. If you see a sponsor all over a nationally televised major league sporting event, you’re going to assume, even if subconsciously, things about that advertiser.

All too frequently, advertisers use superlatives all day long. But they don’t use meaningful facts, figures, or even testimonials to assure their prospects that they can actually keep the promise they’re making in their advertisement. So, let me leave you with a couple questions…

Did you buy your last cellphone based on the facts about the performance of their network?


Based on how their ads made you feel?

1Advertising in America, The First 200 Years by Charles Goodrum & Helen Dalyrymple

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