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Timeless Truth #8: You Are the Sunshine of Your Life

What is it about “you” that’s so powerful? 

“You” is arguably the most effective word in advertising—and has been for years.  In fact, marketers should remember the importance of “you” in every piece of communication they prepare. Let me explain.

Decades ago, John Caples—the legendary copywriter who helped pioneer A/B split testing—said that the most powerful word in advertising is “you.”  Today, the power of “you” lives on.

Earlier this year the Dove Real Beauty Sketches video went viral.  It became the most-watched video ad of all time.  The message of the clip is, “YOU are more beautiful than YOU think”—a powerful notion for women who have been subjected to an idealized, narrow definition of beauty for years.

In prior decades, “you” proved incredibly compelling, as well.  Consider the power of these campaigns:

Be all that YOU can be.  The U.S. Army used this slogan from 1980 to 2001. This was the post-Vietnam period, when joining the Army was certainly not “cool.”  But to maturing teenagers, the promise maximizing one’s potential was compelling. In fact, the idea of achieving one’s potential might have been so compelling that it was even worth risking one’s life to attain it.

YOU deserve a break today.  In 1971 McDonald’s launched this campaign. This was a time when more meals were cooked at home, more baby boomers were young and living with their parents, and more women were joining the workforce. As a result, the idea that YOU deserve a break—and can have an affordable meal at McDonald’s—was motivating.

This Bud’s for YOU.  In 1979 inflation was running rampant. Energy prices were skyrocketing, and GDP growth dropped from more than 4% to about 1%. Hardworking, blue-collar workers were struggling. Budweiser hit the spot with their “This Bud’s for YOU” campaign. 

From an “accountable marketing” perspective, the power of “you” has also been borne out.  In fact, Caples evaluated word use in some of the most successful direct marketing campaigns and identified “you” as the most compelling word.

Yet the importance of “you” in marketing shouldn’t only be taken literally. Marketers must never forget that focusing on their customers’ needs first—rather than their product features—is the formula for delivering a solid ROI. 

Furthermore, the power of personalization certainly speaks to the importance of a you-centric  approach.  Research conducted by Responsys suggests that 61% of consumers have a more positive brand sentiment when marketing messages are personalized. 

Life is a journey.  It’s a quest.  And if you’re like most humans, you’re intrigued by information and products that will make you happier, healthier, wealthier, wiser, or more attractive. Your customers are no different. Give them what they want, and they’re more likely to want you. 

 “Free,” “guaranteed,” “new,” “save,” and “results” are all powerful words in marketing. But you can never go wrong by focusing on “you,” if you know what I mean.

Lawrence M. Kimmel is executive director of hawkeye and a frequent keynote speaker at marketing conferences around the world. Follow him @KimmelsCorner.
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