The column wide advertising tactic

Coming up with a great messaging is a sure shot way to make your ads memorable- think Patek Philippe.

But what if you don’t have the bucks to splash in ads?Even worse- what if people don’t connect with your messaging.

One of the best ways to overcome this is through repetition.

Here are two brands that made repeatability an enjoyable process for the consumers.

Example- 1

I came across this while listening to a podcast, where Dave Dye interviews Evan Stark (print ads genius)

Evan was writing ads for a Danish wine, Bandour in the 1960s. He calls these “one column wide, 2 inches deep”, the ads were written in the ‘smallest’ ad space available.

Here are the ads he wrote.

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If you’re someone from India, you would know Amul ads. For others, the ads are commentary on domestic and international issues. They have done this since 1967, and have 4000+ ads to date.

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Consistency can be a superpower. It’s the brand’s way of building atomic habits.


The free giant billboard

Think of the best brands on social media. List out why you like them.

  • witty feed
  • valuable content
  • topical commentary
  • empathetic responses
  • Because they’ve asked you to DM 😛

Chances are- you have listed one or more of these reasons.

What are the odds of you succeeding with none of these? ZERO.

Unless you’re Apple.

A breakdown of Apple’s twitter presence.

  • @apple has 4.5 million followers
  • 0 tweets
  • Follows 0 people.
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The only interaction they have is through promoted tweets.

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Why do you think Apple does that?

  • Maybe they think maintaining a ‘premium’ experience is easier in channels they’re comfortable (stores, website)
  • They don’t want to be chatty.
  • A firm grip on their communication. Why bother, if you cannot control the narrative?

Most importantly

  • Because they’re Apple.

It’s like Apple is looking the ‘other way’ while its competitors are coming up with an ‘engaging’ plan.

Twitter is Apple’s FREE billboard. 4.5mn+ people wait for the ads to change.


5 ways to make your typical copy more persuasive

Good content needs to convince and elicit action. But, how to do it convincingly?


Proof? Through what?

  • through Testimonials

Case studies, logos, influencer and celebrity approvals. These make prospect go “It works for them, it could for me as well”

An example for Ahrefs. This is from the biggest SEO influencer. Social proof at its best.

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  • through Guarantees

Money back guarantees, Try before you buy, makes one think

“Well, I’ve nothing to lose”. Works for high-value purchases.

An example from Seth Godin for his podcasting workshop

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  • through Third-party validations

Reviews on neutral platforms where your customers know you don’t have any influence. Why not use these validations? Example from Freshworks.

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  • through Demos

Seeing is believing. Think infomercials, no-form signup, free trials etc.

  • through Teardowns

Offering your product for a teardown on a public forum showcases prowess and transparency. Example by Document 360

Why do proofs work?

Because it’s the one thing you cannot ‘make-up’.

Genuine appreciations are hard to get

Guarantees and teardowns showcase confidence


“But that’s what our competitors do”

An agency trying to decide an ad for their a client selling child health drink

“That’s what our competitors do,” said the account manager in a condescending tone.

“They promise their health drink will make the kids stronger and healthier.”

“But it’s going to be tough to stand out with a similar message. We should look for something different” said the copywriter disputing the account manager.

4 hours, 9 coffees later- the account manager gave in.

“Let’s have it your way” she said

Any of us could have been in this fictional situation.

To mimic the messaging of a competitor which is tried and tested, or go take an alternate route albeit with a bit of risk.

Look at what the copywriter did

“Another ad on benefits would have made us indistinguishable. A creative trend will be hogged by everyone. Our best bet was to look the other way. Doing that will make us unique

she concluded as everyone stood up in applause.

Eugene put it succinctly

The ugly thing in a world of beauty stands out.


The focus word

What’s the most expensive piece of real estate?

The prospect’s mind.

Any other answer wouldn’t count. Al Ries states “owning a word” in the prospect’s mind is the “most powerful” concept in marketing.

I thought of some famous brands

  • Sensodyne- Sensitive tooth
  • FedEx- Overnight
  • Salesforce- CRM
  • Dominos- Home delivery
  • Marlboro- Cowboy

I started to see this as a pattern across all famous brands. Owning a word can be your key to beat the law of leadership.

Do you observe something?

  • Extraordinarily simple words

These are everyday words. No matter how complicated the product/market, the association words are simple.

  • The word is identical to brand’s DNA

Words are either related to benefit (Sensodyne), service (Dominos), or audience (Malbaro). Those are the brand’s DNA.

  • They all have an opposite proponent

FedEX went after delayed parcel deliveries , Salesforce against on-premise and so on.

Brands become stronger when they narrow their focus to ONE thing.

What’s your focus word?


Booksplanation- 22 Immutable laws of marketing

If there’s one book that has principles around positioning, branding and messaging with anecdotal examples- That’s this. Ignore these laws at your own peril.

Some of my favourite laws-

Law of leadership– It’s always better to first, than be better. Ex- Coca-Cola in Cola, Hertz in car renting.

Law of category– If you can’t be the first in a mind, be the first in the marketplace. Create your own category.

Law of perception– Marketing is not a battle of products, its the battle of perceptions. Marketing should alter perceptions.

Law of diversion– Eventually categories divide.Each niche requires a different brand. Think VIVO,One plus, Realme all owned by BBK

Law of exclusivity– Two companies cannot own the same niche. If you see someone owning the niche, move on.

Law of duality– Every category becomes a two horse category. Hence, it’s pivotal you keep climbing the ‘mind ladder’ of your prospect.

Law of line extension– The most violated law. When you try to be everything for everyone, you end up being nothing for everyone.

Law of singularity– It’s the ONE bold move that will propel you ahead. Find that.


1 timeless copywriting example

Copies in landing pages, emails and websites should sound like conversations with peers. They rarely are

As Eugene Schwartz puts it,

“Copy is not written. Copy is assembled”.

They are assembled through research. Empathetic listening. Asking the right questions.

That’s exactly what Design academy did with their prospects. On sign-up they would receive the following email


The answers were populated in a google sheet


This means

  • Design academy didn’t have to guess what to write on their landing pages.
  • Didn’t have to write a catch-all copy with words like ‘Transform’‘Struggling’. They could exactly pin-point their customer’s problem.

Here’s an example-


A lot of us think copywriting as a ‘skill’ of putting together fancy words, and making them stand out. In reality we need to show we empathise with customer’s problems.

What better way to do it than using their own language? All design academy did was- Listen


But, is the messaging memorable?

An advertisement should compel you to take action. The action could be direct (screaming ‘buy’) or indirect (brand recalls etc).

While there are scientific ways to elicit direct responses, not much has been said about indirect advertising. Indirect advertising is rarely about urgency, and more about memory, stickiness and experiences they deliver.

A few examples from a favourite brand- Patek Philippe





Guess the timeline between Ads 1 and 4?

24 years. That’s right- Patek Philippe has run ads with the same messaging for 24 years.

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These ads depict an idealized world. Relationships you wish to create. They give you a sense of disconnect, a longing aspiration.

Among the beautiful ads, lies one timeless lesson-

Repetition is a powerful marketing tactic when you want to drive an indirect action. It takes time to create a brand recall, even when you have a memorable message. It’s a bonus if you can be creative about it.


How do you compare against competition?

Irrespective of which industry you’re in, you’re always answering

“How do you compare against competition?”

Companies go all out against competitors with guerrilla campaigns, feature comparisons and price undercutting. These are tried and tested tactics until I read this in Scientific advertising

Campaigns against competition shows messages like “I don’t want this offer”“I am happy with lesser conversions”. You feel that you’re committing a mistake by choosing competition.

Until, I came across two examples.

Example-1: Drift

  • Positively acknowledges competitor
  • Seeks out their target audience and shows value
  • Talks about foundations on which the product was built (except one feature comparison)

Example-2: Basecamp

  • Sets up basecamp favourably
  • Creates a direct comparison
  • Makes the user aware of the higher price

Both of them pitted themselves against competition. They showed a brighter side, the happy and attractive side, not the dark side of things. Give the carrot, not stick.

That’s 150 words!


Can you come up with a unique story?

Client– Can you come up with a unique story for our coffee brand?

Copywriter– Can you please describe your coffee making process?

Client– The plantation happens under a shaded environment. The hearty seeds are then picked and planted.Depending on the variety, it takes 3-4 for the cherries to ripen.

CW– 4 years?

Client– Yes. Only the cherries on the peak of ripeness are picked, and sun-dried for a few weeks.

CW– Why do you do that?

Client– So that the moisture is exactly at 11%. Then we run various processes like Milling, hulling to ensure only the purest seeds make it. Seeds are roasted at 700°F, before testing for taste. They are then packed and shipped.

CW– Very interesting. I will deliver the copies in 2 days.

The copywriter then set out to write the blurb that will be printed on every packaging of the brand. He came up with

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Client– I asked for something unique. The entire coffee industry uses this process.

CW– But you’re the only one talking about it. The process is interesting and you’re teaching coffee lovers an illuminating process, your competitors don’t.

Sometimes presenting the universal facts clearly is all that a brand needs to be unique.

Client– Yeah, never thought so.