As a modern example from an unnamed large corporate computer retailer, the focus on pricing, numbers, features, and specifications in this ad define it as a sell.
Even their name implies a hard sell.
A Brief History of the Hard Sell
When advertising became a thing in post-industrial America, companies promoted logical, outside-in appeals. Everything from Coke to cars were marketed in this manner - defining for consumers what makes their product better than the other guy.
Marketers, however, quickly discovered that talking about concrete features could only go so far. As more players entered their respective industries, features were no longer a differentiator as all their products began to look the same on paper.
Take, for example, the aforementioned corporate leaflet. When it comes to specifications and pricing, it's hard to differentiate between those computers.
So, with the help of Bernays and his dear uncle Frued (who Bernays promoted as such in a genius meta-marketing scheme, but that's another story) , American advertising attempted to make the shift from selling to...
Focus solely on the abstract intent behind concrete products or features, inspiring is an appeal to emotion.
Take a look at this Coca-Cola ad from the 1950s. Are they selling soda, or umbrellas, or suits, or a beautiful family? The answer is simply yes.
Or, take this 1950s Ford Thunderbird ad about kissing your cousin.
Both ads mention nothing about the features of the products they are advertising - a far cry from the early days of bullet points and unsubstantiated claims.
By focusing on the lifestyle behind the products, generally by showing attractive people using them, marketers realized their message was no longer limited. Differentiation from competitors was no longer tied to concrete logic but to abstract feelings.
Imagine me and you, and you and me
Imagine if Starbucks actually talked about coffee. That sure would get old fast. And on top of that, there are many places you can buy coffee - for a lot cheaper and, quite frankly, a lot tastier.
However, people don't go to Starbucks to buy coffee. They go to Starbucks to engage in a lifestyle.
Just look at these people - they are youthful, relaxed, attractive, and they're even wearing Ray-Bans. Who wouldn't want to be them?
This abstract lifestyle affects our emotions.
In our imaginations, we are those people in that photo - Starbucks has promised us that we can be. And it's true. The enlightened thing about Starbucks is that you really can be one of those people in that photo. You see people do it everyday, set up shop in Starbucks with their laptops, walking around with their lattes.
Starbucks could literally go around snapping photos of their customers to serve as advertisements - and sometimes, that's exactly what they do.
They are an honest, intentional company. Their advertising isn't just derived from the intent of why - because if your advertising is truly derived from why, your entire company must be derived from why.
And that's why we face dissonance in the marketing / consumer psyche, or why some companies just aren't good. But more on that later.
I'm building a course.
It's about bringing intent to your marketing by applying narrative theory and other underlying principles like the one discussed above.
Sign up for updates as well as a few free lessons on finding your intent.