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When you have a strong claim to make in advertising, the impulse is to offer a chest-pounding declaration for all to see and hear. But the world is a cacophony of chest-pounding claims. So how do you make your voice heard above the rest? One effective device is to shape the claim in the form of a question, essentially asking if the claim is true. This can provoke extra curiosity and, with it, readership.
That's what's going on in the Nature Made vitamin ad shown here. The heading could have simply said, "Reduce the effects of stress with Super Vitamin B-Complex" or other words to that effect. Instead, the company's ad agency, Williams-Labadie in Chicago, posed it as a question, partly to educate the reader. The ad asks, provocatively, "Can a vitamin really reduce the effects of stress?" It's a question that attracts people dubious about the benefits of taking vitamins as well as those who assume prescription drugs are the only solution. And of course, inside the question is the claim that vitamins do reduce the effects of stress.
Of course, Nature Made has another large challenge in this ad: differentiating its Vitamin B from that of other credible vitamin makers. That's hard. Every maker hypes guaranteed potency as its ace. But by providing a bit of education on stress and Vitamin B, which the copy does, Nature Made appears to be an expert on the subject and, by extension, a good source for the product.
As you consider whether your own product or service claim would benefit from a questioning headline, there's another benefit to this approach. Let's say you believe your product to be better than others, but you can't offer proof positive. By asking in a headline "Is our air-conditioning system really the most efficient in the world?" you infer that it is, but the question ensures that you won't be censured for overstating. You can, however, argue your case in the body copy and then conclude by answering the headline: "Compare and decide for yourself." It's a way to plant the notion of superiority in your prospect's head-but without backlash for false claims.
More examples of so-called questioning claims: "Can you really get half-off on all patio furniture this weekend?" "Is it true our database software is twice as fast as theirs?" You get the idea. Make a claim you can argue, but pose it as a question to ratchet up curiosity and readership.
Jerry Fisher (www.jerry-fisher.com) is a freelance advertising copywriter and author of Creating Successful Small Business Advertising.