Drew Eric Whitman shares the little-known secrets that the best advertisements use and explains why they work as they do in “Cashvertising.” In his well-structured and useful book, Whitman uncovers the truth behind usual consumer behavior, describing the specific psychological techniques that will help you develop advertisements to touch your customer’s deepest desires.
As Daniel Pink and Seth Godin taught us, selling is one of the most fundamental and fundamentally human interactions. Yet, so many people are bad at selling, even when this is the job which pays the bills for them.
It’s simple: they do not know how to advertise their product properly.
To sell successfully, it is crucial to know people’s primary drivers and desires. And that is precisely what this summary is about.
Cashvertising is a rather short but extremely useful book by Drew Eric Whitman, a guy who describes himself as “a dynamic consultant and trainer who smashes old advertising myths like a china-shop bull.”
True to this description, Cashvertising challenges the most common beliefs in the world of advertising and uncovers the truth behind usual consumer behavior by providing keen insight into our basic biological and psychological nature.
Read on if you want to learn how to push people’s “buying buttons” properly and how to beable to sell almost anything to anyone.
Advertising is not an art—it’s science
Effective advertising does all sorts of magic tricks. The greatest one: it is capable of motivating people to start buying products or services that they may not even need!
However, most advertising experts tend to forget this: instead of focusing on their job (i.e., to make people spend their money on the products they advertise), they focus on being clever and cool so that they can win a creative award or two.
Awards are great for the image, of course, but, in the long run, they don’t increase sales. And if that is the case, then why the hell are we having this discussion? Why are so many marketers bound to make the mistake of preferring appearance and art to science and selling?
Simply put, it is because they just don’t know any better.
Here is the good news: there is such a thing as “scientific advertising,” meaning there are a bunch of experimentally proven techniques of consumer persuasion that work 9 out of 10 times.
How is that possible you ask?
Look at it this way: as unique as all of us are, we are all essentially the same species, and we all share the same biological structure of the brain which is, in turn, triggered by pretty much the same things.
Understanding the basic principles of human psychology—older than humans themselves—is the first thing one should do if he/she wants to become an advertiser or a seller. You can’t answer the needs of other people if you don’t learn what they want, how they feel about what they want, and what makes them act in a given way.
What people really want
Advertising and marketing, persuasion and selling—they all boil down to a pretty simple truth: all human beings, regardless of race, sex, or gender, share eight basic desires.
Dubbed “The Life-Force 8” by Whitman, these desires are what makes advertising possible in the first place; creating an ad which combines some of these wishes, inevitably generates a reaction in the customer’s brain.
These are the eight desires in question:
- Survive and have a pleasant life.
- Enjoy food and beverages.
- Be free from “fear, pain, and danger.”
- Have “sexual companionship.”
- Live in a comfortable environment.
- Win and keep pace with their neighbors.
- Care for and protect their loved ones.
- Gain social approval for their actions.
Of course, humans are complex beings and, in addition to these eight primary (biological) needs, have acquired, throughout their evolution, nine other, learned (secondary) desires:
- Be informed
- Cleanliness of body and surroundings
- Expression of beauty and style
However, these secondary, learned desires are not as powerful as the biological ones. That’s why focusing on the Life-Force 8 makes much more sense and yields better results.
It is especially so when you are specific and use vivid imagery: in addition to personally satisfying the 8 biological needs, we are also very interested in learning how others have satisfied them as well.
Now that you know what people really want, it’s time you learn something about how you can use this knowledge to get inside their heads.
The 17 foundational principles of consumer psychology
So, basically, to create effective advertisements, you don’t really need to get to know your customers: most of their needs and their feelings about the most important stuff are quite known from the very fact that they are people.
This is the reason why all of the 17 foundational principles of consumer psychology listed below are basically laws of human behavior.
Learn them and use them to convert more prospects into regular customers via effective advertisements.
#1. The fear factor: selling the scare
Fear is one of the most powerful motivators. Create stress by alerting your customers to some possible danger, and then offer them a solution which should relieve the tension.
The important thing is for the customer to believe that he/she can perform the recommended action and that this action will overcome the threat.
Advertise fears that are widely recognized and specific: it’s easier to sell mosquito killers than squirrel exterminators, isn’t it?
#2. Ego-Morphing: Instant Gratification
You can influence your clients’ behavior by making them see your product as a missing part of their identity, a technique called ego-morphing.
Appeal to people’s vanity, by focusing on desirable traits such as intelligence, attractiveness, and sexual prowess.
The best way to put this method into practice is by using spokespeople (celebrities or big-name customers) that people related to, regardless of your product.
If Beyoncé advertises a scarf, people will want to buy that scarf by way of proxy. If I own this scarf, they unconsciously think, I look a bit like Beyoncé, don’t I?
#3. Transfer: credibility by osmosis
Being credible is crucial in advertising: prospects that don’t believe you will never become your customers.
Fortunately, it is not that difficult to trick people into believing you by using the transfer method. It works in much the similar way as #2: if I respect something unconditionally, why should I doubt their endorsements?
So, use the authority and the status of an otherwise trusted institution or individual (a church, a hospital, the government, a former president, a famous scientist) to promote your
product. You’ll inevitably turn many more prospects into customers.
#4. The bandwagon effect: give them something to jump on
All people need to feel like they belong somewhere—even the ones that say they don’t want to belong anywhere (in their case, the group they want to belong to is “the misfit
Advertise your product accordingly: give people a bandwagon to jump on:
- In the case of aspirational advertising, your product helps one to join some group (just like Beyoncé’s scarf mentioned above);
- In the case of associative advertising, your product keeps one in a group (the new iPad);
- Finally, in the case of dissociative advertising, your product lets the world know that the buyer doesn’t belong in any of the popular groups (a Che Guevara T-shirt).
#5. The means-end chain: the critical core
Instead of selling the present, you can always try to sell the future. “Don’t buy my product for what it does today,” you say in this case, “but for what it will do for you tomorrow.”
In other words, advertise a nicely ornamented garden if you are selling shovels, or a clean apartment if you are selling a vacuum cleaner.
#6. The trans-theoretical model: persuasion step by step
The most significant challenge you will ever face is selling something to someone unacquainted with your product or service.
The trans-theoretical model claims that people learn about new products in five stages:
Pre-contemplation: unaware not only whether your product exists, but also if they need it;
- Contemplation: thinking about using it;
- Preparation: thinking about buying it, but in pursuit of some more info;
- Action: buying it!
- Maintenance: the product becomes a part of their life.
As you can see, only in the final stage do a prospect becomes a loyal client. Create tailored ads that match each step of the familiarity process if you want to address a bigger audience.
#7. The inoculation theory: make them prefer you for life
You know how vaccines work, right?
They don’t contain a medicine, but the virus they are fighting against in a pretty weakened state.
The body chases away these weakened attackers and develops an immune system capable of defending itself against a potential future threat coming from the same virus in all of its strength.
Well, you can use this same method in advertising!
Simulate or warn of a weak attack against your product (“They will tell you that our product is…”) and refute it at once (“…but what they won’t tell you is that…”).
This way, your customers will become immune to attacks on your product in the future, even if they are much more serious than the first one.
#8. Belief reranking: change their reality
Changing people’s beliefs is pretty difficult. So, take the easier route and work on reshuffling the importance of their existing views.
In other words, try to strengthen the ideas that support them buying your product, and weaken those that don’t.
But whatever you do, let your customers think that the final decision was 100% theirs. It is essential that you remove the need for critical thinking from the start.
#9. The elaboration likelihood model: adjust their attitude
According to this model, there are two ways to influence the attitude of a buyer.
Ads that target people’s “central route processing” appeal directly to their reason and logic, whereas those that aim at their “peripheral route processing” persuade them to buy using pleasant images and other “cues.”
People use central route processing when considering big purchases, such as a house or a car, and peripheral route processing for small purchases, such as a grocery item or a bag.
Over time, beliefs that consumers form through rational analysis are much more likely to stick.
Decide which one of those routes is best for your product.
If it is the central route, use facts, studies, testimonials, evidence, reports, case histories. If it is the peripheral route, then start making ads with pleasant and colorful images, preferably those that appeal to the eight primary human needs.
#10. The 6 weapons of influence: shortcuts to persuasion
If you are using the peripheral route to persuasion, use one of these 6 weapons of influence, rightly dubbed “shortcuts to persuasion”:
- Comparison: the power of their peers. Use peer pressure to inspire someone to buy something: activate their reflex to belong to a certain group.
- Liking: balance theory. Attractive people are much more likable and trustworthy. If you are an attractive girl, you are probably able to sell anything to a man; however, interestingly, even more so to a woman.
- Authority: cracking the code of credibility. As we explained above, people are much more likely to buy something from a guy in a white lab coat than from someone they don’t trust.
- Reciprocation: what goes around, comes around—profitably! Give your customers something of value as a free gift; they’ll reciprocate eventually.
- Commitment/Consistency: the “Four Walls” technique: ask your customers a few questions, with each “yes” answer leading logically to the next. People want to be consistent, so if the last answer means that they should buy your product, they will feel ashamed to back out of the deal.
- Scarcity: get ‘em while they last! You can push anyone to buy by making that something looks scarce or limited. Even when he/she knows it’s a marketing trick.
#11. Message organization: attaining critical clarity
When was the last time you heard somebody taking Shakespeare or Tolstoy with him to read on the beach?
People don’t like to read complex books, let alone watch/listen to complicated commercials.
So make them simple and clear, well-organized and easily and perfectly comprehensible. Everything else is bound to fail.
#12. Examples vs. statistics: and the winner is…
Depending on the product, people like to hear/see both examples and statistics.
However, examples are always the better choice, since until one can’t imagine using something, he/she wouldn’t be able to buy it.
That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use statistics as well. But unless you combine it with examples, they will probably not do much.
#13. Message sidedness: dual-role persuasion
A great way to persuade one to buy your product is by presenting it next to your competitor’s.
Demonstrate why your product is better through charts, figures, and examples.
It shows both your confidence and your determination to win. And people like to see that.
#14. Repetition and redundancy: the familiarity factor
They’ve done the math: on average, people barely notice what’s on your ad until they have seen it at least 7 times.
So, make them see it at least twice as that.
Make multiple variations of any single ad, and, unless they see it too many times (which is good in itself), most people will start believing that it’s a new ad and/or you are running a huge campaign.
Either way, you win!
#15. Rhetorical questions: interesting, aren’t they?
Rhetorical questions work because they stifle critical judgment, don’t they?
Use one or two at the beginning of your ad when people are still unprepared. Use them in quick succession, and most viewers/listeners will take their claims at face value.
Example: “You’ve craved for the smell of a new car ever since you were a child, haven’t you? Don’t you wish to recreate that feeling once again?”
#16. Evidence: quick! Sell me the facts!
Your customers want to know the value they will get out of your product.
Providing facts, testimonials, research, or other types of evidence is a great way to convince them that your product is just the right fit for them.
Remember: your customers want to believe you and want to be convinced. Find enough evidence to convince them that your product is the best.
#17. Heuristics: serving billions of lazy brains daily
“Quantity,” reminds us Whitman, “has a quality of its own.”
The more satisfied customers you use in your ad—the better. The more facts and figures there are—the more credible you sound. The more reasons you list for your customers to buy your product—the more clients you’ll get.
And isn’t this the main goal of advertising?
Filled with a bunch of lists and numerous actionable bits of advice, Cashvertising is—to quote Roger Dawson, author of Secrets of Power Negotiating— a virtual blueprint for persuading the consumers mind.”
Well-structured and packed with “practical, nuts & bolts techniques,” Whitman’s book is a must-read for all advertisers out there. Like it or not, the bottom line is that it will probably help you make more money.