My big “secret” as a radio commercial copywriter is to keep asking basic, naive questions until I understand:
1) What problem the advertiser is promising to solve for the consumer
2) Why their customers or clients chose to become their customers or clients.
Until I understand those two points, I can’t write anything worth writing.
Here’s an oblique example of this (i.e., I’m deliberately withholding enough information to enable anyone to guess who the client is):
In interviewing the client, I kept asking why someone would want what the client was offering.
What’s the Advertiser’s Value Proposition?
I wasn’t being sly; I simply didn’t understand what you might call the Value Proposition.
When the client would reply with boiler plate, right-off-the-brochure answers that didn’t add to my understanding, I’d repeat my question.
Again and again…because I still didn’t understand the Value Proposition.
Finally, with considerable frustration, the client replied “Because ___________!”
The Results of Doggedly Repeating that Question
1) At last I understood.
2) I wrote the entire campaign around that “Because ___________!”
3) To my surprise and delight, “Because ___________!” actually became a catch phrase in Southern California.
You can ask someone, “Are you familiar with (Company)?”
If they are, usually they respond, “Oh, you mean the ‘Because ___________!’ people.”
Inasmuch as “Because ___________!” explains precisely why you’d want to do business with this company (rather than being something that’s just catchy or cute), I’m delighted whenever I hear that.
Frankly, it never occurred to me that I’d ever create a catch phrase.
The Importance of Asking Naive Questions
For my technique of asking naive questions, you need to resist the temptation to nod and say “uh-huh” after the first few times you don’t get an answer you comprehend.
In school, I never could understand why when the teacher would ask, “Does anyone have any questions?” nobody but me raised their hands.
If I didn’t comprehend something we were being taught, surely at least one other kid in the class didn’t get it, either.
I realized that some other students must be equally puzzled but were too embarrassed to admit it publicly.
But if I don’t understand something, I don’t blame myself. The other person hasn’t successfully explained it to me.
So I keep asking “But why…?” until at last I understand why the targeted consumer wants what the advertiser is offering.
At that point, the hard part is done. Now I’m free to devise whatever type of story I think will sell that “But why…?”