Don’t cannibalize your own response

May 01, 2009 9:30 PM  By

Which of these headings for a $39.95 lighted, fogless mirror is more likely to generate a response?

Inside the cover of the company’s printed catalog: “NEW! Our lighted Fogless Shaving Mirror is big and bright, with a razor holder — it’s perfect for shaving in the shower.”

On a splash page in the company’s Web site: “NEW 9″ Lighted, Fogless Shower Mirror 9″ Lighted, Fogless Mirror is big and bright — for the perfect shave.” Fairly parallel, aren’t they? The razor holder may be a minor feature; and the online version covers it in body copy.

Now, here’s a question generic to the individuality of the two media: The printed catalog may include other illuminated mirrors. I followed it to page 24 and didn’t see any.

The Website has four similar mirrors, plus a floor mirror and a car mirror, immediately adjacent. Of that bunch, two share so many descriptive points that a prospect has to reread them multiple times to decode the differences. (Here they are with headings only, for our purposes.)

One, for $99.95: “10X/1X Fluorescent Mirror The bright, even light of our Fluorescent Light lets you see every detail.”

One, for $149.95: “10X/1X Natural-Light Mirror The 10X/1X Natural-Light Mirror gives you a better look.”

And just to be sure the options are complete, flanking those is a mirror for $60: “Ultimate Makeup Mirror This ultra-bright 10X mirror folds flat for easy travel.”

The ancient question this procedure tosses back onto the 2009 table: “Does a multiplicity of similar items enhance or dampen the buying impulse?” I don’t know whether someone interested in a makeup mirror knows what 10X/1X means.

But I have considerable background, as you do, in concern over two descriptions that cloud product differences but have a $50 differential in cost. This marketer didn’t need an eagle-eyed copy chief to take a quick look at “gives you a better look” and say to the copywriter, “Replace that with a specific benefit.”

A rule of salesmanship older than any of us or our grandparents: Confusion is the enemy of salesmanship.

Clarity counts for b-to-b too

Since the origin of the computer — and it goes way, way back (the Salamis tablet was used in Babylonia around 300 BC, and the Greco/Roman abacus wasn’t far behind) — computer users have separated themselves into four segments.

Segment “A” spouts tech-talk and poo-poos shortcomings of Windows Vista. Segment “B” is reasonably adept but may have problems with LAN networking and some of the more exotic ramifications of Excel.

Segment “C” can handle e-mail and word processing but needs help converting PDF files to Word. Segment “D” is bewildered at any step beyond “Click here” (and for our purposes, not a worthy prospect).

Now, here’s a b-to-b “Service Solutions” catalog from a major source. Side-by-side offers are two desktop “packages,” one for $1,622.95 and one for $1,126.95. The difference may be clear to Segment A but not to B or C.

The more expensive package includes “1GB/4B (max),” Intel “Core 2 Duo E6550,” and an 80GB hard drive; the less expensive package has “1GB/8GB (max),” Intel “Pentium Dual-Core E2220,” and an 80GB hard drive. Both have Windows Vista Business. Below each of these units is the wording “+ Desktop Package includes…” But for each of these extra items a separate price is stated, and except for an unclear listing of the “DVD-RW Super Multi LightScribe Drive,” one of which is listed at $94.95 and the other at $214.95, the difference seems to be in favor of the less expensive package. Uhhh….

Obviously, other elements are involved and may be included in auxiliary descriptions, but those elements aren’t obvious and the two units are given equal play on the same page with no comparatives. This marketer is no dummy, so what’s the answer?

Beats me.

If your own reaction is, “You’re not a logical target for this catalog,” my riposte is, “It was addressed to my wife. She’s a High-C.”

Herschell Gordon Lewis is the principal of Lewis Enterprises in Pompano Beach, FL.