How To Double Or Triple The Effectiveness Of Your Print Media

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Oprah Winfrey publishes a remarkably successful magazine dedicated to the home environment. It is titled O AT HOME. It's successful because women have a passion for creating a beautiful home. They do not have a passion for sofas, loveseats and mattress sets. No payments until 2011 does not set their hearts aflutter. Label headlines and copy, and print ads that have confusing, glaring graphics won't hold their attention. Oprah succeeds because she hires top writers and art directors who do not destroy the story with graphics that make the copy unreadable. Invest a few bucks on a copy of Oprah's magazine and get a lesson in how to use print mes sages to attract and sell readers.

First of all, study the cover of Oprah's O AT HOME magazine. The writers and the editors know that the cover must work or they will soon be out of a job. So every cover is loaded with benefit headlines. The benefit headlines have one primary purpose: to get the reader to open the magazine and keep reading. This is close to what a headline and the subheads on a home furnishings direct mail piece, flyer or ROP ad must accomplish: get the reader to want to read more. Here are a few samples from Oprah's recent issues:

  • quot;No Hassle Makeovers ...
  • BLAH to WOW! In One Hour, One Day, One Weekend"
  • quot;YES YOU CAN! Do it Yourself, Get Exactly What You Want, (AND SAVE BIG)"
  • quot;How to Live Large in a Small Space"

The reader or subscriber who opens the magazine will not be disappointed. They will be treated to a rich array of ideas, carefully crafted spreads that are easy to read and embroidered with beautiful illustrations. This is the stuff that women crave, and will not find in the clutter and glut of print

Ad Secrets Updated advertising produced for retail furniture stores. I have a stack of ads and flyers in front of me from the best and brightest of the big box advertisers. What kind of headlines is the lady greeted with when she picks one up? Here are some samples.

Message From Big Box #1:


NO... In the corner I read: "THERE IS A DIFFERENCE." [Oh yeah? Then why don't you tell me what the difference is?] This is one of those throw-away slogans that any business could use.

Message From Big Box #2:

•"NO INTEREST - NO PAYMENTS - NO DOWN PAYMENTS 'TIL NOVEMBER 2008!" [What do I care? You haven't sold me anything yet. Imagine a sales person greeting a customer with this tired phrase.]

Message From Big Box #3:

•"NEW DESIGNS. FRESH NEW LOOK." Not a bad start. But where are these new designs and fresh new looks ? Why are you showing me a huge illustration of a woman on a mattress ? Wait a minute! This is a mattress ad! The illustration takes up the entire full page. The only other information on the ad are label headlines on three Simmons Beautyrest king sets with prices. And of course: "ONLY $1 DOWN. TAKE 5 YEARS TO PAY!" No benefits or product features. Hey, do you guys sell only king size sets? Do you have a selection of mattress sets in different sizes and firmnesses ? Are your sales consultants trained to sell me the right mattresses? This big box has a great story to tell, but you would never know it. Ads like this can be slapped together in twenty minutes and are a colossal waste of co-op and the store's advertising dollars. Finally, there is a total absence of interesting, informative selling body copy in all these pieces.

A long-standing mantra for one-on-one selling is: Never point out a product point without tying it to a benefit. For example, don't talk price without talking value. Don't make comments about merchandise that can be responded to with "So what? What's in it for me?" Label headlines and nuts and bolts copy put people to sleep. Here is a sample label headline and nuts and bolts description for the front page feature item for one of the big box flyers:

•"THE GREGORY SECTIONAL" "Rich brown leather-like fabric with beige Microfiber super plush cushions." [What does leather-like mean? What is Microfiber? What does it do for me?] "Loose pillow backs."[I can't see this?] "Matching chair available. Left arm facing sofa & right arm facing chaise." [But there is no right arm facing the chaise. There is no right arm at all.]

Compare the lazy big box efforts with the "Perfect Chair" ad in the Sharper Image flyer exhibit. Compare it to the benefit headlines and compelling copy in the Sky Mall catalogue exhibit. Why do the copywriters for Sharper Image and Sky Mall work so hard on small space ads? Because the cost-effectiveness of their efforts are constantly measured. If they don't get response and sell merchandise in the expensive space allotted to them, they will not have a job for the next issue.

Millions and millions of dollars of research have established a core of basic advertising principles that make advertising effective. These foundational principles are not a matter of opinion. They have been distilled and tested over and over again by men like Bedell, Ogilvy, Caples, and modern marketers like Gerber, Abraham and a dozen others. It is appalling that so much wasteful furniture advertising is created today by people who are unaware of this body of knowledge. The top pros in the best ad agencies apply proven principles to double or triple the effectiveness of their print media or they would not have jobs. I adopt these principles for modern readers and use them faithfully in the national marketplace almost daily, and I know they still work.

Within this big box incompetence lies your opportunity. I don't want to belabor the need for advertising knowledge and expertise in the furniture industry. If you want to know more, check out the marketing article archives on FURNITURE WORLD Magazine's website and search for "Advertising Principles - Parts 1 &2". These articles will enlarge upon the issues of advertising professionalism, and how to acquire it. If you think that you don't have time to research this, consider the football coach. He also has a large number of hats to wear. He must be an astute psychologist and motivator, trainer, strategic planner and so on. He must find time to study his competition and create new tactics. It

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