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FREE is No Longer the Most Powerful Word in Advertising
 by: Brett Curry

For years ad execs and marketing experts made the claim that the word FREE was the most powerful word in all of advertising. I admit that it was probably in the top 2 or 3 in terms of power to grab attention….but, in today’s business climate it’s lost a lot of it’s appeal.

Think about it.

When you see something advertised as FREE do you immediately get excited and think, “wow something that genuinely won’t cost me a dime,” or do you think, “yeah right, what’s the catch?”

I’m guessing that your immediate reaction and the reaction of most people is the latter. Now that’s not to say that the concept of FREE doesn’t work. It’s still very effective when used properly. Free trials, free samples, free bonuses etc. are still very lucrative when handled properly and they will probably always be successful.

However, there is one concept that has immerged that is even more important, more powerful, and more effective at getting people to leap out of their chair and say “I want that!”

Before I tell you what the concept is, let me share with you why FREE has lost some of it muster.

First of all, as consumers, we are severely over-marketed. We don’t have time to pay attention to the 1,000+ advertising impressions we encounter everyday (from billboards, radio ads, TV, signs, promotional cups, logos on clothing, etc.). Not only that but we’ve all fallen for the FREE offer that really cost us $19.95. Or we’ve read the fine print and realized that the FREE offer was only valid for people with one leg who live in Vermont or something like that.

We aren’t stupid. You can trick us one time, and maybe trick us two times, but eventually we are going to be skeptical…..

So what is this new concept? It’s the concept of “FOR”.

I’m sure that created an instant, “huh?” so let me explain.

You want to construct your ads and marketing pieces is such a way that prospective clients feels like you are talking directly to them. That you are addressing their wants, their needs, their frustrations and their desires. They want to be convinced that your product or service is right for their unique situation.

It’s a strange phenomenon that almost all of us think that our situation is unique. Our business is different. Our lives are different. Our family is different, etc.

Long ago before I opened my own marketing firm I sold radio advertising. When I was out prospecting I ran into the “my-business-is-different” mentality all the time. I can’t tell you how many people said, “oh sure, I believe radio is an effective medium – it just doesn’t work for ME. My business is different, blah, blah, blah.” Now admittedly some of them were right – radio wasn’t for them. But most of them that I talked to (I pre-selected them) were right for radio, they just didn’t see it. And they never would have seen it had I not crafted my pitch in the right way.

If I talked to a restaurant owner he or she wouldn’t give a rat’s back side if I had helped a cell phone dealer grow their business, they wanted to know if I had any success with other restaurants.

I was much better off to approach a restaurant with a specially tailored “restaurant program” that was designed just for restaurants to tackle their frustrations, and to meet their needs, objectives, and goals. Then I would talk their lingo using such terms as table-turn, average ticket, whether it was lunch or dinner traffic that they needed, etc.

You and I as marketers have to let our prospects know that our product or service is FOR them. That it was designed to meet their unique situation and needs.

Everyone wants to feel understood, but very few people do.

If I wanted to sell a weight loss product I wouldn’t show slightly overweight people who lost weight. I’d try to show REALLY overweight people who lost weight. Otherwise big people wouldn’t believe that my product was for THEM.

Unless you go out of your way to show your prospect that your product is FOR them – they will just think it’s another product that won’t work for them. And if they don’t think your product is FOR them, it won’t matter what kind of FREE offers you come up with – they won’t buy.

Yes, FREE still has its place, but the concept of FOR has replaced it as the most important concept in marketing. You must learn to use the “for” concept or suffer mediocre results as a consequence.

About The Author

Brett Curry is the president of Curry Marketing, Inc. a direct response marketing agency. Brett is a skilled marketer, public speaker, and is the author of the Marketing Muscle Newsletter. For more tips, ideas, and money-making strategies visit

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This article was posted on November 24, 2005


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