Advertising is not a topic I normally worry about, but somehow the topic of Seducing Strangers: How to Get People to Buy What You're Selling by Josh Weltman seemed to be more than just about advertising. And it's a fairly fast read (assuming you don't leave the book in the seatback pocket on a flight and have to acquire another one) - each chapter is a short bite of an idea or concept or rant around advertising. And I like to think that this topic can be thought of beyond purely advertising into other areas where one might need to get people to "buy."
The basic role of advertising, as Weltman sees it, is to address one of four questions. Each of these can be done in different ways, but mixed messages often don't work very well.
- What is it? (Draw people in. Incite curiousity.)
- Why do I need it now? (Trial offers. Limited-time specials.)
- What makes it different from other things? (Special features. Memorable taglines.)
- Who else thinks it's good? (What is the tribe? How are they connected?)
He mixes these questions throughout the book in various ways, depending on the topic. It's a nice framing structure.
Toward the end, he talks about how online world changes advertising (not much in the fundamentals) and how the messages get confused (a lot) because the control of the medium has changed. Now it is the people who might buy who are in control, instead of the the media. While the above questions still need to be answered, the context in which it happens is very different and could be different for each person. Weltman suggests that the story needs to change from the story of the product or service to the story of the person sitting in front of the screen - how will the product fit into their life? Even deeper, how will this product/service get them closer to what they want to be? I don't know that the internet is unique in dredging up this question, but it brings it closer to the top from the nature of the way it works. Individuals at the center of their own media empires - at the center of their own stories. Advertising has to work within that context more and more.
And what book on advertising and selling wouldn't be complete with a formula for "going viral" online. Weltman's version has to do with changing people's perceptions of what's possible.
Cool, funny, cute, and painful doesn't do it. ... If what you've got is more death defying, faster, more profound, cooler, funnier, cuter, more painful, or weirder than someone thinks or thought possible, your message is on its way.