What A Painted-On Bikini Can Teach You About Writing Words That Sell

One of the best ads I’ve ever seen was for an Epson printer. It ran years ago, and while I vaguely remember the printer, I vividly remember the ad.

The ad was great, but most importantly, it did an excellent job of illustrating what an ad is supposed to do to make people buy.

As bloggers, this matters to you because you’re in the business of selling…

You might be selling products or services or ad space. You might be selling yourself on your about page. It doesn’t matter, there are lessons in there for all types of people that use words to sell.

Now let me tell you about the ad…

The Best Printer Ad I’ve Ever Seen

Let me set the stage…

High-resolution color printers were fresh on the scene, and Epson had the task of educating people about what that meant, and why it mattered.

They could have talked about DPI (dots-per-inch), but who knew what that really meant? Probably no one. The marketers at Epson had their work cut out for them.

What did they do?

They created the best ad I’ve ever seen. The ad showed a series of images, one after the other. Each image was the same, but the first was blurry, and in succession, they gradually got sharper and crisper.

Each image also had a caption, and that’s what made it great. Here are the captions they used from start to finish:

  1. At this DPI, you see a woman on a beach.
  2. At this DPI, you see that the woman is wearing a bikini.
  3. At this DPI, you see that the woman is wet.
  4. And at this DPI, you see that the bikini is painted on.
  5. Details matter!

Brilliant, right?

Now I’ll tell you why the ad works.

Why the Ad Works

There are two reasons.

The first reason is the progression from features to benefits, with each benefit conveying a greater sense of urgency.

At the time, the audience may have been thinking: “So the image is a bit sharper – so what? I’ve been doing fine with my old printer, why should I want to change it?”

You’ll notice that the ad doesn’t talk about dots-per-inch (features), or how sharp and crisp images will be (description of benefits). Instead, the ad uses the right pictures to illustrate the benefits.

The second reason is the triggering of loss aversion.

If you’re unfamiliar with that, you’ll know that people tend to work harder to prevent “losing out” on something compared to “gaining” something new.

In this ad, you’ll see that it makes you think “am I missing out on the details with my printer?”

See how that works?

Good.

Now let’s talk about how this helps you learn how to sell more stuff.

Showing Why the Benefits Matter

When you write pitches, it’s easy to fall into the trap of listing off bullets of features, or adjectives about you, your service, or your product, but smart bloggers know that you can’t do that…

You need to show why the features matter—benefits if you will.

But still, that’s not enough.

Yes, you need to know your features and your benefits, but you also need to know and describe the ideal outcome of those benefits.

In the example of the Epson printer, the higher resolution (feature) allows for crisper and sharper images (benefit), which allows you to see that the bikini is painted on (ideal outcome).

This little formula can work for almost any product or service if you use it right. For ease of rememberance, look at it like this

[Feature] -> [Benefit] -> [Ideal Outcome]

This will work for almost any product or service when you use it right. Here are a few examples:

  • When you write your about page, you might list off your credentials [feature], and why they matter to your readers [benefit], but you’ll shine when you tell people what results you can give them [outcome].
  • If you’re a dry cleaner that offers 30-minute service [feature], that means you offer quick dry cleaning service [benefit], and the result? Now you can get that mustard stain out of your shirt [outcome].
  • Or let’s say you’re selling the MacBook Air. It’s light [feature], which means it’s easy to carry [benefit], but most importantly, you won’t be sweaty when you reach your clients, and your back won’t hurt [outcome].

So that’s the first step: show why the benefits matter. Next, we trigger loss aversion…

Triggering Loss Aversion

As I mentioned earlier, all things being equal, avoiding potential loss is a stronger motivator than acquiring potential gain.

This is a fact, so let’s be aware of it. It can help you sell more stuff, and it can also help you get your articles read.

How do you trigger loss aversion?

You need people to imagine their life without the ideal outcome of your product or your service. You need people to wonder whether they’re missing out on something they need.

It’s a nuance, but an important one. It’s not about getting to see a painted-on bikini, it’s about whether your printer is good enough to capture those kinds of details (potential loss).

Here are a couple of examples…

Our insurance package will protect you against fires, floods, and other natural disasters. So, you can rest easy knowing that no matter what happens, your family is safe and secure. Does your insurance do that?

And here’s another:

With our satellite access, you will get all 7,000 channels in HD. So that whatever you want to watch will be on when you want to see it, in exquisite detail. No waiting, and no fuss. Or do you prefer to channel surf through static and keep adjusting your bunny-ear antennae?

And another:

With our web design service, you’ll get a beautiful web design that you can be proud of… and a web design that will leave your competitors jaws on the ground. You will no longer be invisible. Can you say the same amount your current web design?

Get the idea?

The more of these you do, the easier it gets. So take twenty minutes and write out a handful of them, just to practice. Your bottom line will thank you.

Over to you, have you seen ads, blog posts, or product pages structured this way? Did you find them effective? Do you have a favorite ad that you can describe to us in the comments?

About the author: Danny Iny (@DannyIny) is an author, strategist, serial entrepreneur, expert marketer, and the Freddy Krueger of Blogging. Together with Guy Kawasaki, Derek Halpern and Mitch Joel, he wrote the book on how to build an engaged audience from scratch.