It's All About You

I thought I'd end the week by reminding you how selfish you are.

All you really care about is yourself.

I don't mean this as a criticism; I'm just stating a fact. It's the cold, hard truth.

And if you're going to write great copy, you'd better deal with it – and fast.

You see, I'm the same way. We all are. The world is filled with people who care mostly about themselves.

It's certainly not a new revelation.

In fact, it's the conclusion Daniel Starch (1883 – 1973) came up with many years ago in his publication "Starch Advertising Readership Reports."

Starch is widely recognized as one of the pioneers of marketing and consumer research in the early 20th century.

Starch discovered early on that people don't care about the actual product. They care about what the product will do for them. How will it make their lives better and more fulfilled? How will it make them happier?

Now, of course, in today's day and age you'd think that this is pretty much standard stuff.

Or so muses Drew Eric Whitman in the first chapter of his book Cashvertising: How to Use More Than 100 Secrets of Ad-Agency Psychology to Make Big Money Selling Anything to Anyone.

But he says it would be foolish of us to think so.

To prove it's not the case, he says, all you have to do is look at some of the advertising that surrounds us.

Whitman says flatly that "Most (yes, most) advertisers still haven't learned the basic lesson: people don't care about you, they care first about themselves."

So what do we really want?

He reminds us of the eight key biologically programmed desires (that he calls "The Life-Force 8"). These are eight desires in life that we can't escape from. They are:

  1. Survival, enjoyment of life, life extension
  2. Enjoyment of food and beverages
  3. Freedom from fear, pain, and danger
  4. Sexual companionship
  5. Comfortable living conditions
  6. To be superior, winning, keeping up with the Joneses
  7. Care and protection of loved ones
  8. Social approval

Anyone who makes their living persuading people with their words, of course, needs to be keenly aware of their eight biological desires.

He adds there are also nine learned secondary human wants:

  1. To be informed
  2. Curiosity
  3. Cleanliness of body and surroundings
  4. Efficiency
  5. Convenience
  6. Dependability/quality
  7. Expression of beauty and style
  8. Economy/Profit
  9. Bargains

These 17 needs and desires make for a pretty good "persuasion checklist."

If you'd like to learn more about how Whitman recommends you can become a more successful marketer, check out an article I wrote about Whitman's 17 ways to get inside your reader's mind.

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Published: April 8, 2011

5 Responses to “It's All About You”

  1. Great post John. There's too much feature-centered copy. I call it "so what" content. "So what" if a product or service is the greatest this or that. Bottom-line: what's in it for me? Thanks for reminding that we must get inside the mind/heart of prospects.

    Eddie S

  2. When I finish writing copy, I always put it through the 'my toughest sell' test.
    Imagine the toughest customer you might sell to in your mind... Your Mom, a sister or a Buddy -- someone you know that NEVER would buy it...
    Would they be tempted to put their credit card info in and BUY this?
    If not, review, rewrite with that person in mind and put more sizzle in it.
    But if you think they WOULD be TEMPTED to then... it's time take a break. But don't pat yourself on the back until the sales come rolling in for a job well done!

    Guest (Jennie )

  3. John: I have more family things to adttend to and a Consulting business to manage. I have a mentally disabled son who refuses to accept the fact that he needs to continue to take his medications. Personally, I don't have the time to worry about myself. In addition, I lost the love of my life when my wife for 53 years passed away. So please don't tell me I'm spending my time selfishly. Charles J.


  4. Hi Charles, It seems John proved his point by your are busy, have lots of things to attend to and don't have time to deal with things which aren't relevant to you. So when reading you want to know there is something of value for YOU--something you can apply to your own life. I think John did a great job of reminding us that as writers' we need to remember people potentially have lots on their plate and want to know what's in it for them so they don't waste their time.

    Cindy Cyr

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