What Five Guys can teach you about imagery to sell more than mere words
Why “Today’s Potatoes come from Brown’s Farm” says more about freshness than Subway’s stale “Eat Fresh” mantra.
While I enjoy the country lifestyle in The Cotswolds, I still trudge in to London to do freelance IT consulting work.
On a recent trip in I snuck into the Five Guys hamburger joint in Islington to get a cheese burger “all the way”.
Standing in queue I noticed a sign next to the register that said ‘today’s potatoes are from South Farm Nottinghamshire’.
Immediately I concluded that each day, Five Guys got their potatoes from a different local farm to make their hand-cut fries.
Hey, their potatoes are fresh!
It was simple. It was implied. And I got that drawing my own conclusions.
They didn’t have to scream it like Subway’s “Eat Fresh” tagline.
So why it that important?
The Importance of Word Imagery in Your Marketing
The first reason is stickability (that’s a real word; promise).
Professional negotiators and persuasion specialists will tell you that any conclusion you reach yourself is more powerful and compelling than one that is pressed upon you.
And because humans tend to be stubborn creatures, we’ll defend ideas or concepts born from our own rationale and conclusions than those which are thrust upon us.
When Subway feels compelled to tell us to “Eat Fresh” not only are we more likely to raise our natural defense barriers, we’ll place the onus on Subway to prove their claim and view everything with a skeptical eye.
After I plonked myself down with my cheese burger I noticed another sign:
Telling me “there isn’t a freezer in the joint” again paints a picture of freshness. If there’s no freeze, then everything must be in the fridge.
Again my conclusion (having worked at Pizza Hut I know a lot of ingredients are dehydrated or canned) but the inference is there.
Make Your Words Memorable
The next reason is memorability.
If you’ve ever tried to develop your memory skills, you’ll know that many of the techniques rely on using vivid imagery to recall things.
We find it easier to remember things we can visualize.
And we tend to remember things more easily if that imagery is vivid and unusual.
Remember Seth Godin’s Purple Cow?
Cow’s aren’t remarkable – and therefore memorable – because there’s so many of them. And because there were so many, none of them stood out.
But a purple cow?
Now that’s different. A purple cow stands out in the crowd.
The other reason these visual descriptions are more memorable is they make you think.
You can see Subway’s “Eat Fresh” and forget it again in a second.
But the moment you have to think about a descriptive claim, you’ve engaged a thought process and made it more likely to stick.
Make Your Words Different
If you want your marketing to stand out in an ever more competitive landscape you’ll need to look different and sound different than your competitors.
There’s faster way to look invisible to your customers than having “me too” marketing.
Take a look at the logos below.
Notice a problem?
Subway’s tagline is not only bland, it’s unoriginal.
The last thing you want is people confusing your brand and marketing for another business or product. It’s even worse if people have a negative perception of that other brand.
Don’t sound like everyone else.
Let Others Brag for You
The other sales technique that Five Guys employs with gusto is to let others do their bragging for them.
The walls are plastered with full page excerpts from magazines singing the praises of Five Guys hamburgers.
This is the next best thing to live customer testimonials.
The lesson here, where-ever you can collect and mercilessly promote what others are saying about you.
In marketing this is called “social proof”. You see it all the time on Amazon with customer reviews, with ratings or when they tell you there’s only 5 left in stock.
Even more powerful is the fact that you get to choose which of these testimonials you’ll display to convey the brand image you want your customers to perceive.
Use Words that invoke imagery
Here’s a few more examples.
Not only have Five Guys let others do the bragging for them, they’ve been very selective in the quotes they show you.
Look at the imagery this quote invokes.
How many fries do you get?
An enormous pile. Can you see ’em?
What kind of fries?
Hand-cut. Made with love and care.
And what about this one?
For cheese burger aficionados a “multi-level meat and cheese monstrosity” paints quite a picture.
There’s multi-levels of each.
And it’s a monster.
If in doubt, take a leaf from a Stephen King novel
Have you snuggled up to a good Stephen King novel lately?
Okay, I don’t know if Stephen King is a hamburger connoisseur, but his writing is a great example of how to use word imagery to convey a concept.
Here’s an example from Salem’s Lot:
The house itself looked toward town. It was huge and rambling and sagging, its windows haphazardly boarded shut, giving it that sinister look of all old houses that have been empty for a long time. The paint had been weathered away, giving the house a uniform gray look. Windstorms had ripped many of the shingles off, and a heavy snowfall had punched in the west corner of the main roof, giving it a thumped, hunched look. A tattered no trespassing sign was nailed to the right-hand newel post.
But nowhere in that description did King say “the house was spooky”.
With a description like that, it’s easy enough to reach that conclusion yourself.