I was studying this sales letter that is said to be one of the greatest of all time. (You can see the text here if you don’t mind seeing all the promo around it.)
It really is brilliant, and it is not always clear exactly why. One thing I am starting to notice about really great writing is it is not always clear just why it works so well. Because it does not hit you over the head and make you run away, it slowly builds up the space it wants to create. So then when there is a real “zinger” of an idea, it is softly so. Pushy sales copy does not do this. It is lazy, and tries to hit you over the head.
He uses sense details to pull you into a lived experience of a lifestyle of being an angler. And although the aim is to reach fly fishing enthusiasts, he is able to feel so knowledgeable as to create the feeling that you are hanging out with really knowledgable guys who will teach you more than you already know.
“In a world where most men seem to spend their lives doing things they hate, my fishing is at once an endless source of delight and an act of rebellion.”
On the first level, I saw the brilliance of the way he pulls you into affiliation and belonging.
But then I saw: he’s not just exciting you about taking the next action; he is training you in how to think about the product. He is giving you a first impression, a story around which to wrap all later experiences with the product. He is creating an invitation into a tribe. A place where you will belong, a space that will allow life life to be richer. This is my big point here:
- If your marketing is aimed at just getting people to take the next action, you have brought them along, but you have not brought them in.
- The magic here is in giving people a rich, full value story that lets them 100% live into a biggest-possible world of why this thing matters to them, and fills out their own world in a special way.
You can apply this anywhere. The point is that people need a story, and the story you give them can be pedestrian, or it can be transcendent and elevating.
Of course the story must relate to them, and is really all about how they are better because of this thing. So you had better mean it, and you had better understand how they relate to your world (your offer should really be built around them).
However, we are always providing new context for our customers and our clients. If we make websites, we have to provide the pedestrian functions they are seeking. But we should know more about what a website can truly do for a business, and what it can really become (that is our art). So it is up to us to craft a story that elevates what is possible here. If we well floral design, it is up to us to craft the story about how a masterful work of floral design can elevate an entire event into another realm (we’re talking about mastery here, so of course you have to be able to do that).
But there are a few points here about how to apply this idea:
- You must have a clear, compelling story to weave about the bigger, deeper, and more transcendent meaning of your offer.
- This has to be a kind of transcendence that your clients or customers would truly love.
- By conjuring this vision for them, you are a creating for them a mental first impression that they will forever after be able to associate with this offer, and allow it, in their minds, to be imbued with this transcendence. (The raw thing itself is never what anything is fully about. The story has to come with, and the offer can be wrapped in the story.)
This is why branding matters. People want to understand how to transcend. I don’t even really believe it is a “lie” we want to tell ourselves, as Seth Godin says. I think it is more that our minds operate in stories, and certain kinds of stories elevate us to a transcendent and supra-rational place. We can do this for our offers, if we know how to weave this magic spell. And spells are real; they are somehow part of the way our minds work.