We’ve all heard of advertising icons like David Ogilvy and Mad Men’s Don Draper. But what about Elmer Wheeler? Long before there was a hamburger menu, he was the salesman who coined the phrase, “Sell the sizzle, not the steak.”

Wheeler’s point was that buyers are moved by their senses and emotions more than facts or features:

“Sell the bubbles, not the champagne. Sell the pucker, not the pickles. Sell the whiff, not the coffee. Sell the freshness, not the eggs.”

As corny as it sounds, his principle still holds true today. But in the digital world, we can’t actually smell, taste or touch that beautiful burger. We have only images, words and (sometimes) sounds to whet a customer’s appetite.

So how do we create the kind of mouth-watering content that entices people to click, share, and buy?

Have it Your Way

You can start by swearing off that bland, canned “filler” content. Sure, it’s easy to stuff an Instagram feed with stock photography and copycat captions. But how does that dramatize or humanize the real-life benefits that only your product provides?

Lesson #1: Shoot original photography that puts your customer in the picture (instead of that same cheesy model they just saw in some underwear catalog). This gives you the power to tell your own, authentic story.

And what could be more authentic than the photos your customers share of themselves, enjoying your burger (or burrito, or bike, or buffed-out new t-shirt)?

Lesson #2: Take a cue from NatGeo’s #yourshot campaign, and curate a stellar stream of user-generated content. Done right, this is a win-win-win. Not only do your customers feel appreciated and share with their friends, but you also get a steady supply of compelling content.

Finally, remember that man does not live by images alone. Your words matter — a lot. Sure, that “Got Milk?” slogan was brilliant … for milk. But how many lazy marketers have tried to rip it off? (Got tires? Got grout? Got jock itch?) Please make them stop!

Lesson #3: Find your own voice, and make it sing. From your tagline to your headlines to your social media posts, speak with words that reflect your unique personality and ring true to your customers.

Whether it’s a bucket list of beautiful images or a video that transports customers to their dream destination, it pays to create an emotional connection.

In the end, the key to winning your customer’s heart (and mind, and stomach) is simply to keep it real.

Leave a Reply