A while back, I stumbled across the following advertisement:
“Pina coladas are fresh. Your marketing isn’t.”
Which is an awful ad, but it got me thinking.
Comparisons are one of the most used tactics in copywriting. Take A, compare it to B, and voila! You’ve got copy.
So I figured I’d lay down the ground rules for what makes a great comparison—and what makes an absolutely awful one.
1. The two need to have something in common
This is the problem with the Pina coladas ad. What do marketing and an alcoholic drink have in common?
Saying one is fresh and one isn’t is no more meaningful than saying, “Bouncy castles bounce. Your marketing doesn’t.”
The Exception: A Contrast
But like everything in copywriting, there’s an exception.
Dogs and internet have nothing in common.
And that’s exactly the point.
2. The comparison can’t be too extreme
A while back, I was writing an early draft for an advertisement for a camera bag that doubled as a day pack (a regular bag). The draft went as follows.
“Hercules carried a gate on his shoulders,
The Hulk lifted a mountain.
Good for them.
For everyone else, here’s a camera bag that’s also a day pack.”
I didn’t like it, but I couldn’t figure out why.
Until I realized that the comparison was too extreme.
The average man may not be able to pick up a mountain or . . .
But he can carry a camera bag and a day pack. People do it all the time.
Rather than having the desired effect of people comparing B to A and realizing that just like they can’t do A, they can’t do B . . .
The ad would make people realize that they can’t do A but they can do B—which means B can’t be too hard.
3. They need to add something
And this is where comparisons work.
A comparison on its own is just a comparison. It’s not a message. It’s not a pitch. It’s just two things juxtaposed to each other.
Comparisons work when they add something.
Something that wouldn’t be there without them.
Take a look at this Seamless ad.
This is one of the best comparisons I’ve ever seen.
Without it, Seamless would just be left telling people that they don’t want to wait in line. To which people will shrug and say maybe I don’t, maybe I do.
But with it, people realize that Seamless is right. They don’t wait for the light.
Why should they wait in line?
That’s a comparison.
Eli Landes is one of those weird writers who just can't get enough. A marketing writer by day and a fiction writer whenever he can squeeze in the time, he spends his spare time working on his novel, writing short fiction, or daydreaming (I mean, researching). His main genre is Jewish fiction, but he's been known to dabble in the weird, the absurd, and the truly dark.