The History of “You”

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One of the most exciting aspects of creating effective advertising for our clients is the vast amount of foundational research, and now, compelling brain science, for us to use in our efforts. We don’t have to fly by the seat of our pants so to speak.

Throughout the history of advertising, advertising agencies have relied heavily upon psychologists and other behavioral experts to help develop effective advertising campaigns that can stimulate the parts of the human brain in order for the advertising message to reach working and long-term memory.

But somewhere along the way, testing the effectiveness of an advertising campaign became less important. “In the real world of making ads, it often comes down to a creative person saying ‘I like this’ or ‘I like that,’ without much reliance on research,” says Curtis P. Haugtvedt, PhD, an associate professor of psychology and marketing at Ohio State University. “

Maybe that’s why there is a joke in advertising about half of the company’s advertising is wasted, they just can’t tell which half.

A professional advertising salesperson cannot afford to deal in 50/50 chances. You need to do everything you can to ensure your commercials are more than a 50% effective.

John Caples was a legendary advertising executive and copywriter. He is the author of many books on effective advertising techniques. He worked for BBDO for 40 years, eventually rising to Vice President before retiring.

Caples was a fierce advocate for a scientific approach to advertising research. He was very much concerned with learning how to make his copy more successful, and he took active steps to ensure he could do this by evaluating it in quantifiable ways.

Testing enables you to guard against an advertising manager or copy chief whose pet ideas may be hurting your advertising. Testing enables you to guard against an advertising agency whose idea of agency service is merely to turn out pretty layouts and stereotyped copy. Testing enables you to guard against mistaken ideas that you yourself may have in regard to advertising. And finally, testing enables you to keep in touch with trends in advertising. What was good advertising a few years ago may not always be good advertising today.

Caples once did a study of 100 of the most effective advertisements ever written. He wanted to know which words were used most frequently in the headlines. Here’s what he found:

  • You: 31
  • Your: 14
  • How: 12
  • New: 10
  • Who: 8
  • Money: 6
  • Now: 4
  • People: 4
  • Want: 4
  • Why: 4

If you combine the score of the word “you” with the score of the similar word “your,” there are 45 mentions, which is almost as many mentions as the other words combined (52).

“The words ‘you’ and ‘your’ are very effective,” Caples said. “Every copywriter should remember the value of hammering away at you, you, you, both in headlines and in copy.”

Here are some well known advertising slogans that use the word you.

Be all you can be. – Army
You’re eating good in the neighborhood. – Applebees
It gives you wings. – Redbull
Because, you’re worth it. – L’Oreal
You’re In Good Hands – Allstate
Your World. Delivered. – AT&T
This Bud’s for You – Budweiser
Have It Your Way – Burger King
What’s in Your Wallet? – Capital One
You Know Us – Farmers Insurance
When You Care Enough to Send the Very Best – Hallmark
You Can Do It. We Can Help. – Home Depot
What Would You Do for A Klondike Bar? – Klondike
You Deserve A Break Today – McDonalds
Nationwide Is on Your Side – Nationwide Insurance
This Is Your Brain, This Your Brain on Drugs – Public Service Announcement
You Could Learn A Lot from A Dummy – Public Service Announcement
How Do You Spell Relief? – Rolaids
What Can Brown Do for You? – UPS
Can You Hear Me Now? – Verizon
Let Your Fingers Do the Walking – Yellow Pages
Melts in your mouth, not your hands. – M&Ms
A little dab’ll do ya – Brylcreem
Double your fun, double your pleasure – Doublemint Gum
Once you pop, you can’t stop. – Pringles

Scripts with content that appeals to people’s self interest is by far the most emotionally engaging. Not only does it easily engage the consumer, but it is consistently effective.

When your script targets a specific audience with something they need or want, you will hit the right emotional cords that open the gateway to the frontal lobe, and that is advertising success.

Do a good CNA and get started.

Talk to you soon.

Spike SanteeThe History of “You”

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