Bring out the WOW in You

The simple process to create powerful advertisements and sell more product

The “Mad Men” era produced two giants of advertising with completely different philosophies:

• Leo Burnett: “Use logic and reason to convince buyers of the value of your product.”

• Bill Bernbach: “Advertising must connect on an emotional level.”


Today, marketers recognize the value of both a logical approach and the emotional connection necessary to persuade.

Good advertising – whether online, on paper or on the air – can be created using a simple three-step process:

  • Primary benefit
  • Appeal
  • Tone

First, find the inherent value, the point of differentiation, the primary reason a customer should want your product. Among academics, this is called the augmented benefit.

The augmented benefit

For instance, you buy shampoo. You put down your money and the clerk gives you a plastic bottle containing a viscous liquid. But you don’t buy it because of the pretty bottle and the colorful liquid.

You don’t buy the core benefit either: it gets your hair clean. But any shampoo will get your hair clean.

The augmented benefit is the reason you buy the shampoo. You choose it because it controls dandruff, cures split ends, tames flyaway hair or whatever.

Airline tickets, architectural drawings or electronic circuit boards – it doesn’t matter. The augmented benefit is the primary reason your customer buys your product. Not for the pretty package. Not because it does what every other product in its category does. No, your customer buys your product for the augmented benefit.

Frequently, the augmented benefit is expressed in terms of quality, service or price.

  • Quality includes strength, dependability and features (e.g., a variety of colors or sizes).
  • Service could include speed, convenience, warranty or return policies.
  • Price means you are the low-cost leader, or you offer the best credit terms or discount rates.

The five appeals

Once you have determined what your product’s augmented benefit is, you next need to find the logical appeal (Leo Burnett) that will convince buyers to choose your product over your competitors.’ There are five ways to appeal to your customer:

  1. Testimonial
    It’s the second-best form of advertising (after word-of-mouth). The testimonial shows a customer just like you (or perhaps a celebrity you admire) endorsing the product. The logic: if it’s good enough for that person, it will be good enough for you, too.
  2. Demonstration
    Often, demonstrating the product in action will convince the prospect of its efficacy. Even showing a slumbering couple on a mattress demonstrates the comfort of the product. The logic: you actually see how you could use it to satisfy your need.
  3. Comparison
    Show your product’s benefits in direct comparison with the competition. But beware – naming the competitor, rather than simply labeling it “Brand X,” may cause a negative reaction from your customer. The logic: what better way to convince your customer your product is better than by showing it?
  4. Slice of life
    Show your product in everyday use. Another form of demonstration, it also allows you to show the happy results one gets using your product. The logic: understanding how it makes your life better leads to a sale.
  5. Unique Selling Proposition
    A tag line or critter that embodies the brand message. “Nothing Runs Like a Deere” embodies the primary benefit: dependability. The Marlboro Man embodies the maverick image of the smoker. Jolly Green Giant, Charlie the Tuna and the Keebler Elves all add a little fun and create memorable icons that embody the brand image. The logic: the USP symbolizes the brand’s primary benefit and conveys it succinctly.


An advertisement’s tone helps the company connect with customers on an emotional level (Bill Bernbach). The most common and most effective methods are staid, sex, fear and humor.

  • A staid approach, sometimes called “teacher” or “talking head,” features a spokesperson or a doctor in a lab coat touting the benefits of the brand.
  • Sex sells. Buy these slinky pumps and get the guy. Wear this cologne and get the girl.
  • Fear is frequently used by security firms, insurance companies and car makers. “If you don’t buy this product, terrible things could happen!”
  • Humor sells best. People prefer to buy from people they like. The easiest way to create humor is to exaggerate the primary benefit to the point of ridiculousness (Think: Jimmy John’s freaky fast service).

You can tap your creative juices by following this simple strategy: Identify the primary benefit, choose the appeal that works best for your target audience, and make an emotional connection with the tone of your ad.

We may not consider ourselves particularly creative. But by following this simple process, we can bring out the WOW inside us, create powerful advertisements and sell more product.

-Robert Grede, author of “Naked Marketing – The Bare Essentials,” is president of The Grede Co., which offers marketing and strategic planning consulting ( He can be reached at

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