When I was 18 years old I met this guy that was a direct mail advertising expert. He was working for the gym I was working at and he was interviewing members as they finished their workouts. Having read a handful of marketing books and being the curious kid I was — I made it a point to try and understand what he was doing. Looking back this guy was no ordinary marketing expert that simply whips up an ad out of his own imagination. This guy started everything by going deep into the psychology of the people he was marketing to. I got to see him often and I only recently realized through helping someone else with their packaging how much of a profound influence that guy had on me.
I remember him saying that images will pull you in but that the words you use are the secret to selling anything. He explained that when you buy a soft drink, you buy the can not the beverage that’s in it.
To illustrate his point, he pointed down to a bottle of fish oil I was carrying in my hand. He asked me why I had chosen that particular brand. Which I replied it was the highest quality brand on the market. He asked me if it was the most expensive which I replied yes. “What makes it the highest quality” he asked and I replied that each capsule contained 1500 milligrams where most cary 1000 milligrams. He replied can’t you just take two of the cheaper ones?
It caught me off guard, I guess I hadn’t thought of it that way. I responded that the one of the people I respected as a strength coach also recommended this product so it had to be good. He then asked me if it was possible perhaps that strength coach is being paid to support that product.
He made me question every feature, every response I had and though he made me feel stupid on the spot — he made me realize that marketing is a storytelling.
And though there is such a thing as the highest quality product, we more often than not believe what we want to believe, and once we believe something, it becomes a self-fulfilling truth.
Originally published at Jean-Luc Boissonneault.