Why Marketers Need To Stop Calling Their Customers ‘Stupid’

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“The American consumer isn’t stupid; she’s your wife.”- David Ogilvy

Most marketers and sales copywriters know the rule about writing to sell using fifth grade language. So if you see ad copy that looks like it was written by a teacher’s pet to ace a vocabulary test, it’s badly written copy. The writer deserves to be smote with the teacher’s ruler.

Never use “smote” in an ad, by the way. That was just for effect.

I have worked with clients pitching all kinds of B2C stuff such as diet supplements, skin creams and even payday loans. Lots of them assume their customers are stupid, and I generally said nothing to counter this assumption. It could be the marketer realizes the offer likely isn’t so great, and they have to run copy written for a 10-year-old to get the damn thing sold.

Intelligence, they has it!

Intelligence! You has it, they has it!

Excuse me, but most of your payday loan customer aren’t idiots.

He or she probably knows that predatory loans are crap, and they’ve not fooled by your writer’s smooth, reassuring copy. People who do these offers have probably been down this road before, and they get on with the loan application so the light bill gets paid before power is shut off.

Likewise, your diet supplement customer could be a chubby investment banker or partner in a law firm. She may be a PhD, however your ad shouldn’t be written to appeal to her intelligence.

She’ll buy the pills if your writer did a sufficient job of selling her hope and the possibility of receiving sex.

Why 5th Grade Language Works For Ad Copy

Big words are often hard. People don’t like to work hard. Selling to customers’ intelligence rarely works well for B2C. Selling prestigious goods to flatter egos is another matter that’s worthy of a separate post.

It’s all about preventing reader distraction and talking to the lizard brain, the ancient part of the human brain that attends to mating, feeding, protection of offspring and basic survival. Big words and difficult phrasing are just a distraction from your pitch to the lizard brain.

Instead, you need to make them feel good, hopeful they’ll find a mate, money or scared that XXX will happen if they don’t buy your XXX. Your ad should never require intellectual heavy lifting on the reader’s part, or worse, a dictionary (gasp!).

I Finally Sorted Out The ‘Stupid’ Thing

I felt people probably weren’t as stupid as assumed, but it took me a while to sort this stuff out. I think it’s a pretty good explanation of why we write ads the way we do. Or should write them this way.

I also know that some people really are stupid, but stupid people have cash and a lizard brain, too, so writing for humans’ most primitive desires does a good job of selling things to everyone.

From My Lizard Brain To Yours

Put my lizard brain to work and get your XXX sold. CLICK HERE to contact me for a free quote.

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