The Grayson Report

What Closes a Sale? It’s More than an Ad!

July 6, 2007

The  less noteworthy the product, the more Permission to Buy comes into play. Our March 2007 column introduced a term we called permission to buy, as an adjunct to the pretty basic requirement for an effective ad—Permission to Believe.  

Permission to Believe involves “support” for the claims/benefits in the ad —those which are necessary for the consumer to trust that the claims will be as advertised when the product is actually used. Okay, that’s good, but not good enough.  Now the need is to provide a differentiating stimulus for the actual purchase of the product; i.e., making it easier for her to mentally and emotionally commit to the purchase. We call that Permission to Buy, nearly all of which translates to added-value, real and imagined.  

We have created five positioning categories for Permission to Buy, as shown in the chart below.

Permission to Buy

 Category  Example  Rationale to Buy
1. Reduction of Risk A. Guarantee
B. Free sample
C. Trial size
“We’re so sure you’ll
 like this product...”
“Try before you buy...”
“So inexpensive, I’ll try it...”
 2. Doing Good  A. Charity
B. Environment
C. Not tested on animals
Enhance self-esteem
Green initiatives
 3. Recommendation  A. Direct    
    1. Authority
    2. Friends
    3. Best-seller

B. Reference Group
    1. Celebrity
    2. Respected figure
    3. Peers
"They're in the business, they must know.
"She loved it!"
"Must be good if it sells so well.

"I want to use what she uses..."
"I want to be like her..."
Pressure for acceptance
 4. Promotion incentive  A. GWP/PWP
B. Price promotion
"Look what I got for free..."
"If I don't buy it now, it will cost more later..."
 5. Availability
(copyright, Grayson Associates)
 A. Broad distribution/mass displays
B. Build it and they will come
"It must be good...I see it everywhere..."
Starbucks, nail salons, Dubai 

Roles of Permission to Believe & to Buy


Heirarchy of a Sale




 Permission to Believe

 Permission to Buy*

 Awareness, degree  Graphics/Copy    
 Interest, degree  Claims, perceived need/benefit                    X                   
 Persuasion  Claim support                    X                  
 Consideration  Believability/brand authority                    X                    X
 Conviction  Degree of emotion/passion                    X  
 Action/Purpose                      X

 In store/other


                   X                  X
*Permission to buy is dependent upon one or more of the permission categories presented to consumers in advertising and/or in store.

Obviously, even if a product has most of the Permission to Buy segments, they can’t all be included in an ad.  However, the more powerful the ultimate conviction to purchase can be fostered—especially if the product or ad does not have enough Permission to Believe—the more important it is for some Permission to Buy to be incorporated into the ad.  The higher the conviction, the more likely the ad will translate into a sale. A look at the chart on the next page shows the very strong role of Permission to Buy creating added value and driving the sale. In addition to TheBrandAudit, which appears every other month in Happi, we are now field testing TheAdAudit.  The two “permissions” cited play a decisive role in the scoring of good vs. bad ads. More next time.

Alternative Media?

Everyone knows that there is a never-ending quest for ways to reach potential consumers, but achieving that goal is easier said than done.  What makes it challenging is that being different is not necessarily the same as being both different and significant.

The image below is from a ladies’ room. Not just an ordinary ladies’ room but rather the restroom in a mega-mall (read: shopping mecca) in Dubai. There are about 10 of these 11x16 posters affixed to the over-the-sink mirrors. The part that looks black in the photograph is actually a cut-out to reveal the mirror underneath.  Some posters are in Arabic and some are in English.  The headline is “Get the
 The Graysons found this innovative Olay ad in Dubai.
complete picture on fairness.”  The copy reads “natural white SPF 15 (that’s the product name). Get fairer, softer skin and don’t let the sun spoil your fun.”  Simple idea. Just look in the mirror to compare your complexion to the model’s fair look. There was not a woman in the room who didn’t do that! When friends came in together, the conversation was a gabfest. The comparison of the viewer’s face with the model’s is a very powerful “demonstration” of benefits. In total, Olay “owned” the restroom. Considering that the population is very well-heeled, what a wow way to reach consumers. Kudos to Olay.

What Is Good Advertising?

Ah, if it was easy, every ad would be good; with good defined as the “ability to move a body to the store to make a purchase.” In this column and the next nine, we will examine some of the basic “rules,” which, when violated, lead to bad advertising. Unfortun-ately it is easier to find bad examples so that’s what we’ll be showing. If you have a good one, please send it along. Emotion is the first.

I. Emotion/Excitement

Emotion has many faces: happy, sad, angry, wow!, yearning, oops!, worry. There are more, but you get the idea. Emotion serves as the connector between the advertisement and the viewer. Unless you can
 What's the point, here?
convey this, the viewer is likely to “ho hum” and move on. You can think of it as a blind date—some work, most don’t. When reporting to a friend that “he (or she) was nice” means that there was no connection.  How many “nice” ads have you read—or worse yet, approved? As luck would have it, we found an ad that is devoid of every emotion.  Even the convoluted headline, “what’s your beautiful?” can’t get a rise.  We classify this Kohl’s ad as a catalog page. (In the interest of space, we have not included its typical pretty face.) Can you picture a woman reading this ad and then getting to the store at 10 a.m. so as not to miss out?  Not a wise use of the vendor’s money. (Note: Missing in Action—Permission to Believe and Permission to Buy—to go the extra mile.)  

Wish we understood this

Tone, an exfoliating body wash by Dial, positions its product “For women who are tired of getting a sexy glow the old-fashioned way.”  Gee . . . we thought that women weren’t tired of the
 Tone deaf?
old-fashionedway.  Most all advertising tells you how to get it!  We have so many other things to say, that we’d best leave it alone.  Looks like they are going for the buzz—but buzz without product relevance is a waste, that is, if you actually get it.

Buzz that works

One of Charles Revson’s ongoing instructions to the advertising agency was “for heaven’s sake, don’t be literal, don’t show frosted nail enamel with pearls!” However,  if literal is executed creatively, it can work very well.  Our example is L’Oréal’s Matrix ad with the headline, Volume Busts Out. Sure it’s literal. But the memorability factor is terrific, and that ties right to the product name, Bust out Body...with Maximum Body, Ultimate Lift. Plenty of Permission to Believe while the
 L'Oréal Matrix
paparazzi in background subliminally urge Permission to Buy (reference group). Makes you wonder what came first, the ad or the product name? Wonder if people will write in for the name of the augmentation surgeon.
    Note the sly, come-hither look.  Sinatra called that witchcraft.  

Glad we didn’t do this

What’s the story here? S-factor by TIGI (above, right) is supposed to mean something, (S..ex factor?) but where is anything else? Are attitude and boobs enough? A little “star product factor” would be helpful, with a little Permission to Believe or Buy.  What a waste of money. The art director wins again! But wait, this is meant to be a serious ad.  It gives credit to the two photographers, the makeup artist, the stylist, and hair stylist.  There are 10 products shown but no reference to
 No sex-appeal for TIGI.
the one (or more) that account for her hair, let alone yours.  Still, it would be a fitting ad for the augmentation surgeon left over from the Matrix ad above.

Darn-it! Wish we’d done this

L’Oréal’s Age Perfect Pro-Calcium is just about the perfect ad. Great personality, (relevant celebrity/reference group) magic ingredient, test results, end benefits described for the targeted consumer, and so low key that it’s all believable, all in gold with a smashing package to boot. The semiotics of gold to represent the best. How can you resist? We didn’t, but couldn’t find the gold package at retail! And we’ve been looking for months. Demos in CVS have said consumers are confused—looking for the gold package—with some leaving without a purchase.
 L'Oreal has a winner.
You’re shaking your head, aren’t you?
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