Over the past week in Business, I have learned a lot about advertising. The book recommended by Mr. North during this week was The Irresistible Offer by Mark Joyner.
In it, he explains what the most effective possible ad is by ripping it to shreds and examining each minute piece. What he calls this kind of advertisement is a “touchstone offer,” and the example he used as such is the old Dominoes Pizza ad, ad the FedEx slogan. The Dominoes ad was “hot, fresh pizza in 30 minutes or less, or it’s free.” The FedEx (Federal Express) motto was, “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.” Joyner said that those were two of the best advertisements ever. Based on this offer, I could grade some other ads from the 1900s 1-10 by their closeness to a touchstone offer.
Let’s start with the M&Ms commercial. The grade this one gets, depending on how close it is to a touchstone offer, would be about a 3. It has proof because there are “Now two different types to choose from,” so the M&M was already proven. However, there isn’t very much ROI for the buyer. A couple moments of delicious chocolate? Maybe. But that’s not very much for (in today’s currency) a dollar and a half, sometimes even two bucks. The four criteria are:
1.) What are you trying to sell?
2.) What will it cost?
3.) What’s in it for me?
4.) Why should I believe you?
The first one is satisfied. Everyone knows what an M&M is. The second one is not satisfied – there is no mention of cost in the ad. The third one is somewhat satisfied: a few moments of good taste. The fourth one is not satisfied directly, but everybody knows what M&Ms are.
Let’s move on to the second one – the TRS-80 from Radio Shack. (Too bad they’ve recently gone out of business!) This one gets a 6. The product is a color computer. It gives a straight price at around 25 seconds of $399, and it certainly piles on benefits and uses like there’s no tomorrow. However, the fourth requirement is not satisfied. There is no proof, other than 2-second clips of people testing the computer. So this one’s close, but it isn’t quite the fit.
How about the Commodore PC commercial? This one is the winner – with a perfect score of 10. The product is immediately introduced, a problem is stated, and a solution is given. Then the price is named, and they pile on extra benefits – they add a monitor and OS in the deal – all for basically half the price as usual! And at the time, a thousand dollars was worth a good bit more than what we have today, in 2020. Plus, Commodore was the leading brand in computers at the time of this ad, so everybody knew who Commodore was unless they hid under a rock for 50 years.
What about the last one? The American Express ad? This one did even more poorly than the M&Ms commercial – this one gets a 1. It is kind of confusing, the card is only flashed a few times, there is no cost given, and there is no proof! The only thing that they got spot-on was the third condition. The benefits were particularly blatant. If people didn’t know what they were looking for, they’d miss the entire point of the ad.
What makes it a touchstone offer? Let’s use the FedEx slogan. It satisfies requirements 1 and 3 and gives a number for more information. But what really makes this ad powerful is that it can be read incredibly quickly. In three seconds or less, specifically. That is the proven amount of time a consumer looks/reads an ad: three seconds. That’s how long a seller has to hook the buyer. If the seller doesn’t manage to do that, the consumer is gone. No sale. However, if they can catch the consumer, it’s almost certain there will be a sale. In the case of Domino’s Pizza, the ad isn’t as short, but there is another key to a touchstone ad. Who doesn’t like the word “free”? That is the key to the Domino’s commercial. “Or it’s free.” Those three words are the hook. Hey, there seems to be a pattern showing… The rule of three, maybe? The key to all advertising is the rule of three: three seconds, three words, or three repetitions. Repetition is also critical – the more times a consumer hears an ad, the more likely they are to remember it. It helps if it’s a really annoying earworm like that “Kars for Kids” jingle. Who doesn’t know that one? But after seeing the ad about three to four times, a consumer is much more likely to buy that product.
In conclusion, there are many parts of a touchstone offer. The Rule of Three, the Four Requirements, the hook, the “Act Now” statement, and many other things. Based on some of those criteria, grades can be assigned to some ads; for instance, the M&Ms commercial from 1957, Radio Shack TRS-80 commercial from 1980, Commodore IBM PC ad from 1987, or even the American Express TV commercial from the late 1960s.
PS – Stay safe, and don’t die!
~ Danger S.