Tip of the month for March

Creative writing classes often preach the mantra of, ‘don’t tell – show’, in order to produce more interesting, engaging and persuasive narratives.  The same is true for marketing propositions, communications and advertising. Showing is more effective than just telling.

In simple terms, rather than say ‘We produce a high quality product,’ for example, it’s far more effective to say, ‘Our product is used by XXX companies in the YYY sector, including company A, B and C.’ You are not just making a statement but demonstrating a fact. At the same time you can make a claim, and give the evidence to support it.

You will avoid the old ‘prove it’ trap. A good way of assessing any claim you make about your product or service is to imagine a customer saying, ‘prove it’. Focusing on that proof will give you the basis of a story which shows and demonstrates.

Where you have the opportunity to show and demonstrate you can go much further and develop complex brand stories. This is the technique used by savvy TV advertisers of course. It makes use of semiotics, using various cultural cues as signifiers.

Demonstrations become stories

In a TV ad showing someone purchasing or using a product, there may be multiple cues such as the consumer’s age and gender, how they are dressed, the location, sound cues and theme music. All of these go to build the brand narrative. Crucially we have communicated a range of emotional values without having to spell out the whole proposition – we have shown, rather than told.

This semiotic approach is not limited to TV and video. In a press ad or web page, radio commercial or podcast, we can build a story to demonstrate benefits and values.

‘Showing’ prompts us to focus upon customer benefits rather than features. ‘Telling’ is about what products or services are – showing is what things do.

So, before you sit down to write a description of your offer – think of how you can ‘show’ what it’s all about. You have a great story – it could make you a best-seller.