When it comes to writing to advertise a product or a service – one of the key things that companies target is a customer’s social standing. Us humans, by and large, want to be liked.
We want to look good. Take for example personalised number-plates, there’s a huge market for them – and, contrary to popular belief, one of the reasons why they’re so popular is because they disguise the age of the car…at least to the untrained eye.
Fancy that, ey? It’s not just to have your nickname on the front/rear of your car. It’s so the Jones family next door don’t realise that your car is actually ten years old.
But going back to those on the wrong side of the law, one of the best anecdotes on using social pressure to get what you want concerns a debt collector.
As you can imagine – the life of a loan shark can be pretty tough at times. Common sense is a gift not divided equally, and those who borrow money tend to not want to pay it back.
So the first thing this debt collector would do – he’d find out the address of his payment dodger’s mother or close family member. And he’d send them a postcard. Addressed to the payment dodger but going to the family address.
And, as postcards aren’t in envelopes, the family member would have to have the willpower of a Spartan not to read the back of the postcard.
Then they’d get in touch with the person that the card was meant for. Exerting social pressure.
Because no one wants to look bad in front of the family, right?
(image credit: Hemingway Design)
If this method didn’t work (or if he couldn’t find a relevant family member) – the loan shark would send another postcard.
It would again be addressed to their client, but it would be addressed to the house next door. Instead of to the client’s actual house.
So, as you can imagine, the Smiths next door would read the postcard and find out that their neighbour owed money to the wrong people.
Presumably they’d then deliver the card to the addressee…and he or she would be served a massive dose of social embarrassment.
Manipulating the natural human instinct to care what others think can get you want you want.
It’s the same with getting models to wear clothes and showing lots of happy, cool people using an electronic gadget.
If we think it’ll make us look or feel a certain way, we’re likely to be more interested in it.
(I believe I first read about this anecdote in ‘How to write sales letters that sell’ by the enigmatic Drayton Bird – one of the greatest living copywriters, who I was luckily enough to meet at his seminar a few years back)
(featured image credit: www.sharkdiver.com)