WARNING: If you simply scroll down to the question, you'll get only a fraction of the possible benefit from this article. Read every word (there aren't many), because doing so will give you precious context. With that said let's jump right in -- and start with the King of Lipstick, Mr. Charles Revson, who once said:

"In the factory we make cosmetics. In the store we sell hope."

Why did Mr. Revson say this? Because he knew the true purpose of his product.

It's something every business owner needs to understand: The true purpose of their product...

Let me give you several examples:

  • If you own a dessert stand, you're not selling frozen yogurt, you're selling a first date.
     
  • If you own a luxury car dealership, you're not selling a Ferrari, you're selling an unmistakable status symbol.
     
  • If you own an outdoors shop, you're not selling a fishing rod, you're selling lasting memories with the grand kids.

You get the idea...

So why did Mr. Revson say he's selling hope?

Because he knew that people buy on emotion and rationalize their purchase with logic. 

Because he knew that women weren't trying on his lipstick and looking at themselves in the department store mirrors; they were looking at themselves through the eyes of their crushes, boyfriends and husbands (at least in his day they were).

Because he knew what he was actually selling...

And there you have it folks -- the one question you should ask yourself if you want to write devastatingly creative and effective ads:

What am I actually selling?

Ask yourself this one question before you sit down to create any marketing materials and it will instantly help you:

  1. Look at your product through the eyes of your target consumer, and
     
  2. sculpt ad copy that triggers an emotional reaction before rational thought, which is what you need to do if you want to explode your response and sell people quickly.

Asking yourself to identify what you're actually selling is a deep-thinking exercise, which isn't easy and may not come naturally... at first. With practice, however, I promise that this line of thought will become second nature and completely change the feel of your copy.

For example, watch this clip (excuse the quality) to see what asking "What am I actually selling" did for a fictionalized version of Mr. Revson's product in Mad Men.

So go ahead, take a moment and think deeply about what your business is actually offering people. What you come up with might just change the way you market forever.