B.O.S.S. – Benefit-Oriented Storytelling Science (How to Sell Anything)
I once worked for a creative director who would open his creative presentation this way:
Creative Director stands up with boarded concepts. He drops them onto the table, dramatically spreading them out into a “fanned” look.
CREATIVE DIRECTOR: I think the work speaks for itself.
Creative Director sits down and crosses his arms. Copywriter sitting to his right dies a little on the inside.
This man is no longer a Creative Director. I called him the “Reverse Magician” and here’s why. If you’ve ever watched Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige, you’ve heard of The Pledge, The Turn and the Prestige. If not, here you go:
Every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts. The first part is called “The Pledge”. The magician shows you something ordinary: a deck of cards, a bird or a man. He shows you this object. Perhaps he asks you to inspect it to see if it is indeed real, unaltered, normal. But of course…it probably isn’t. The second act is called “The Turn”. The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. Now you’re looking for the secret… but you won’t find it, because of course you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to know. You want to be fooled. But you wouldn’t clap yet. Because making something disappear isn’t enough; you have to bring it back. That’s why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call “The Prestige”.
If you are in advertising and marketing, you are a magician. Never forget this.
Your job is to take something ordinary (research, marketing problem, creative brief, product launch, whatever) and turn it into something extraordinary (SuperBowl TV spot, banner, logo, PPC campaign). More importantly, you have to have a connective tissue between the ordinary and the extraordinary (which is called strategy).
The most successful ideas and campaigns bring the strategy to life into an unexpected, unique way.
Absolut. Nike. Got Milk?
Your job is to find a story that ties to the strategy, and offer a benefit to the consumer. Here’s a useful acronym I’ve created that sounds really boring and stupid but helps my writing:
The science is this:
- Start with the problem.
- Find a hook (hopefully from a smart, insightful strategy).
- Incorporate the hook EARLY (a twist, story, confession, truth, quote or case study).
- Fix the problem.
- Tie the hook to your company or product (with grace, not a sledgehammer).
- Add a benefit-oriented call-to-action.
B.O.S.S doesn’t just pertain to writing. It should be used in the following:
- New business pitches
- Important emails
- Marriage proposals (it worked for me!)
Simon Sinek had a killer TED Talk on “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.” He talks about how Apple is king of the presentation and how the Wright Brothers defeated the War Department’s big bucks. The genesis of his thesis is this:
Never forget this. It’s the most important sentence you’ll read this month.
Explaining the “why” is B.O.S.S. – part art, part science. In fact, I would say it’s 90% art, 10% science.
Don’t get bogged down in the 6 steps above. Don’t get lost in the “what.” Worship the “why.”
I’ll wrap-up with my favorite moment in “Dead Poets Society,” when Robin Williams’ character addresses the science of poetry:
CLICK ON THE IMAGE ABOVE FOR BRILLIANCE
Here’s my call-to-action: put B.O.S.S. to work and watch it improve your selling. And let me know what happens.
Here’s another call-to-action: download a FREE CHEAT SHEET on how to write copy by David Ogilvy and yours truly.
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