If we’re being persuasive with our messages, we must make it easy for our readers.
One of the keys to this is making your idea, or whatever it is that you’re selling, easy to picture.
No matter how abstract your concept, unless someone can see it concretely in their mind’s eye, you’ll never get them to ‘buy’.
A pictureable image, well described, is a shortcut to understanding. It subconsciously allows a person to think “I see what you mean”.
But how do you make ideas, especially abstract concepts easy to picture?
The answer is that it requires simplification. That is, reducing the product or service to its central truth. This in itself may be pictureable.
If not, you have the theme to be described – as a picture.
And don’t be afraid to use a metaphor as the describer. If it was good enough for Aristotle to describe the use of metaphor as a sign of genius. In his view a good metaphor implies an eye for resemblance.
The following extract, from Secret SAUCE, pages 14 and 15, gives a brilliant example of the power of a pictureable message.
“Social psychologists Anthony Pratkanis and Elliot Aronson were asked by a local power company to help sell the advantages of home insulation. The utility offered householders a free energy audit. A trained auditor would go through each consumer’s house identifying the requirements to make it more energy-efficient. The utility even provided an interest-free loan.
The benefits seemed obvious. Energy savings of 40 percent were common and power savings following the installation of insulation would quickly pay for the cost of the loan.
The puzzle was while large numbers of home owners requested a home audit, only 15 percent of them actually followed the advice of the auditor – even though clearly it made excellent financial sense.
Why? Researchers interviewed several home owners and discovered that most had a hard time believing that small cracks under a door or the lack of insulation in an attic could result in such a large energy loss.
To solve this problem, Pratkanis and Aronson trained the auditors to communicate their findings and recommendations with words that could be pictured. They advised the auditors to tell this to the homeowners.
“Look at all the cracks around that door! It may not seem much to you but if you were to add up all the cracks around each of these doors, you’d have the equivalent of a hole the circumference of a basketball. Suppose someone poked a hole the size of a basketball in your living room wall. Think for a moment about all the heat that you would be losing from a hole that size – you’d want to patch that hole in your wall wouldn’t you? That’s what weather-stripping does.
“And you attic totally lacks insulation. We professionals call that a ‘naked attic’. It’s as if your home is facing winter not just without an overcoat, but without any clothing at all! You wouldn’t let your young kids run outside in the winter time without clothes on, would you? It’s the same with your attic.”
When homeowners heard this speech they signed up in droves. Where previously only 15 percent of the householders signed up, now 61 percent signed up to have their houses insulated. Vivid, pictureable language had turned barely visible cracks into holes the size of basketballs. The idea of running around naked in winter also grabs attention and strongly encourages you to take action.”