Heart of the matter

by Tom Albrighton 14 February 2011 Copywriting reviews

In this blog post, top US copywriter and marketer Jim Mitchem critiques the ProFlowers banner ad shown in the image. Approving of the layout and placement, he homes in on the headline as the weak spot. In place of the inert, passive, so-what line ‘Her friends will be jealous’, he proposes the active, imperative ‘Make her friends jealous’.

Jim’s version certainly improves the original dramatically. But I still question the selling power of the ad, even with his input. For my money, the whole concept shoots wide of the heart of the sell – because it doesn’t target the emotions that would drive a purchase.

Doing an Old Spice

It’s fashionable right now to use headlines and concepts that accentuate something a little ‘different’ in emotional terms – a quirky take on a familiar scenario. The copy can speak a truth rarely spoken, or perhaps highlight a cynical or selfish sentiment that the reader will recognise and acknowledge with a wry smile or a sad nod. Or it can address a different group from the usual target audience for the product, and say something they’ve never heard in an ad before. Done well, this approach produces a truly memorable ad that really connects.

Perhaps the most high-profile example of this recently was the famous Old Spice campaign, predicated on the tagline ‘The man your man could smell like’. Ostensibly addressing the partner of the purchaser, rather than the purchaser himself, it positioned women as lusty, fickle, materialist and disillusioned in love – but it was done with such cheek that the whole thing just worked.

I think that’s what is being tried here, but with much more mixed results. We’re being invited to agree that the envy of friends might be the big emotional pay-off for a woman receiving flowers. ‘That’s right,’ we think. ‘It’s all about status for women. If I buy some flowers, she’ll get some of that envy she craves so badly.’

Old Spice was funny because it was true – women wanted Isaiah Mustafa and men wanted to be him. But is it really true that women want to make their friends jealous with Valentine’s gifts? Because if it isn’t, this ad ain’t gonna sell petal one. My gut feeling is that it might be true for some people, some of the time, but by no means all. And it still feels too negative for this product – and this occasion.

Convince me

However, in a sense, the emotions of the recipient aren’t the point. If I’m buying flowers for my lady love, I’m the one who has to be convinced, not her. Gifts are sold to givers.

Let’s assume I’m a male consumer who doesn’t think very deeply about women’s thoughts and emotions (not a huge stretch, let’s face it). So I buy the ‘flowers/envy’ concept. In other words, the headline rings reasonably true for me. But do I really care that ‘her friends will be jealous’?

Nope. To be honest, it doesn’t impact me very much at all. Obviously, I’d like her to be happy (by humiliating her friends, or whatever), but ideally I’d like a little more for my $19.99. What, exactly, is in this deal for me?

If we’re being mercenary and transactional about it (and it seems that we are), what I’m really after is to be loved a little more in return for an easy purchase that doesn’t require me to think or make a big effort. That’s the emotional heart of the transaction for the purchaser. (In fact, that’s what drives the whole Valentine’s concept: emotionally blackmailing your partner to give you commitment and affection by showering them with expensive gifts. Yes, I’m a cynic, sue me.)

Therefore I’d propose something like:

Who knew she could love you more?


Who says money can’t buy you love?

Cheesy, I know. But it’s a cheesy occasion, and a cheesy product. So bringing the cheese isn’t a problem as long as it expresses the transaction ‘buy flowers, get love’. (You could even use that as a headline if you were feeling brave.)

Whatever happens, Mr Flowerbuyer must understand that he’s buying a ticket to gratitude and affection – not something as cold, remote and negative as the envy of some woman he doesn’t even know. Love is the heart of the matter, and that’s where the copy should be aiming its arrows.

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