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Don’t think of a bucket full of cash…

(a.k.a.: The power of a mental image)

By Brett Lloyd Abbott, MYM Austin Inc.

If you’re standing at the sink, brushing your teeth, and your significant other says “Don’t think of a bucket full of cash,” what’s the first thing you do? Of course, you’ll visualize a bucket full of cash.

What about when you read that first paragraph – what’s the first thing you did? Could you help but visualize yourself standing at the sink, brushing your teeth, and trying to communicate with your spouse about a bucket full of cash?

Sure, it’s an old trick. “Don’t think of a purple elephant.” But do you know why it works? It’s because the brain thinks in pictures, not words. Why do we care? Because to sell more products and make more money, we want your prospects to visualize themselves using your product. Easily and often, and preferably with a smile on their face.

I’m sure you’ve heard the old motivational cliché, “What the mind sees and believes, it can achieve.” It behooves us then to promote the visualization of your product in the minds of your prospects every chance we get.

And how do we do that? With words.

Oh, sure, photographs are a nice shortcut for visualization. There’s no doubt that a prospective pool buyer wants to look at photographs of beautiful swimming pools. But that’s just so they can mentally transpose that image into their own yard, and mentally place themselves inside the image. But here’s the problem with most swimming pool photographs: There’s no inherent emotion.

DVD’s are an improvement over simple photographs, because you can add music, people and a voice over to tell a story. But unless it’s a killer photograph, or a killer DVD with outstanding actors and a script, you’re going to need words to drive home the emotion and complete the mental image.

Take this famous and highly successful radio commercial from marketing great Roy Williams:

“You’re standing in the snow, five and one half miles above sea level, gazing at a horizon hundreds of miles away. It occurs to you that life here is very simple: You live, or you die. No compromises, no whining, no second chances. This is a place constantly ravaged by wind and storm, where every ragged breath is an accomplishment. You stand on the uppermost pinnacle of the earth. This is the mountain they call Everest. Yesterday it was considered unbeatable. But that was yesterday.

“Rolex believed Sir Edmund Hillary would conquer Mount Everest, so for him they created the Rolex Explorer. In every life there is a Mount Everest to be conquered. When you have conquered yours, you’ll find your Rolex waiting patiently for you to come and pick it up at Justice Jewelers. I’m Woody Justice, and I’ve got a Rolex for you.”

No photo. (This is radio.) Yet you can see the mountain, gaze at the horizon, and feel the cold wind biting at your face. And ultimately, you see yourself enjoying the advertiser’s product with immense pride and satisfaction. All this is accomplished with nothing but words.

Do I expect you to write radio commercials like Roy Williams? Probably not. It’s a challenge for me, and I do this for a living.

But here’s what you can do. First, recognize that when people read the words in your advertising and on your website, they’re trying to create mental images for themselves. (That’s just the way our brains work.) You should therefore take another look at your website and your ads, and consider what mental images you’re creating.

More likely than not, you’re failing to create any tangible mental images. (Hey, don’t feel bad – it’s not like someone told you this stuff before, right?) Instead, you’re probably leaving your prospects and readers scratching their heads, wondering what it is you’re really trying to say.

Platitudes are notorious for this problem. Let’s take a look at a few platitudes I grabbed from pool builder websites off the Internet, and try to imagine what sort of mental image we are creating with these clichés. (My apologies in advance if I’m making fun of your personal tag-line or cliché.)

Swim Smarter (Blue Haven).jpg

Swim Smarter.” Hmmm… sorry, no realistic mental image coming to mind there. Except maybe Poindexter in a swimming pool. Which doesn’t make me want to buy a pool.

Art in engineering (Natural Springs, FL).jpg

Art in Engineering.” Sorry, once again too conceptual for me to visualize.

we can prove the difference.jpg

We Can Prove the Difference.” The idea is good, but as for a mental image, I’m not finding it.

Backyards have the WOW factor (Georgia Classic).jpg

Backyards we design have the “WOW” factor and they are fun.” OK, I appreciate the attempt here to convey excitement. But do you see how simply saying it doesn’t necessarily create a mental image? “The WOW factor” is obviously a desirable concept, but it’s vague and undefined. You leave people struggling to imagine what that really means. The same is true for the word “fun.”

Let me give you one more example of a written headline with a vivid mental image. This one was written for business owners in the commercial video gaming industry:

“We Had The Biggest, Fattest Guy We Could Find

Jump Up & Down On Our HS-27 Control Panel For 12 Minutes…

Just To Make Sure It Could Endure Any Punishment

Your Customers Could Dish Out.”

Surely you’ll admit that you don’t have to know what an HS-27 Control Panel is to get a sense that this must be a fairly well-built product. It’s no stretch to imagine that a long-lasting video game cabinet is more likely to provide the business owner with a bucket full of cash.

Which is the whole point of this newsletter. I want you to make a bucket full of cash too. So start thinking about this stuff!

Best regards,
Brett

2009 Brett Lloyd Abbott / MYM Austin Inc. May not be used without permission.

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