Picture this..,

by Bob McElwain

Picture a pink elephant dancing the two-step in a bright blue skirt. Got it? Are you sure? If not, reread this paragraph.

If you really have it, you won't be able to forget it if asked to do so. Pictures in our minds are simply too powerful to be erased on command.

We Think In Pictures
If I ask you what you had for breakfast, you'll bring up a memory of your plate, then tell me what you ate as you "watch" yourself doing so. While some think in the abstract, just sort of rattle off a list, most of us will picture ourselves eating breakfast, then hold that image long enough to answer the question.

If I ask what you did last summer vacation, and you had a great, fun-filled time, you may become so overwhelmed with pictures, you kind of shrug, maybe grin, then say something inane like, "I had a real good time."

But if I can get you to talking about that vacation, the pictures will roll out in front of you one by one, and you'll describe them in grand detail. Swimming in the ice cold stream. How that sudden thunder shower forced you to dash for cover. About the campfires, and the very long tales shared over the coals. And that bear. That for sure is something you'll remember!

Now if I ask what your three favorite websites are, what's going to happen? Are you likely to rattle off the URLs? Or will you first remember the image of the site, then maybe plug in that URL? For most, it's the latter. Because we think, and remember, in pictures.

The Image Of Your Website Must Be Memorable
To the degree possible, you want the image of your site to remain as clear in your visitor's mind as that ice cold stream, that sudden thunder shower, the campfires, and that bear.

Three elements need to be blended with precisely the proper mix to make this happen.

  1. The headline and subheadings must bring a quick answer to your visitor's question: What's in this for me? And, of course, they must demonstrate, almost in a glance, that there is in fact something here of great value to them. To the degree these collective elements create a positive mental image of your offer, they contribute powerfully to your site.

  2. The body copy under each subheading must also draw a great picture. In this case, a "picture" of benefits to the visitor. Seek to create an image for your visitor in which he or she can see themselves enjoying this benefit.

  3. The art work is secondary to the above, but absolutely critical. All must enhance the presentation, but in a quiet, non-intrusive manner. Bold images fail because they have a thrust, a push, unappealing to most. Soften these elements. Blend them into a simple, attractive, pleasant, and supportive background. Let the art work complete the task of creating a memorable image of the site.

Sell With Images Drawn With Words
We must picture ourselves experiencing the benefits of a product before buying it. There's nothing new in this. Copywriters have known it for years. We need to listen to these people, and study their work with care.

If we are selling tickets to Tahiti, we do not attempt to do so directly. First we show our reader, a man in this case, the beautiful beaches, with nicely tanned people cavorting about and having a grand time. And, of course, the hula dancers for which the island is famous. We show our prospect what he will feel on this beach under the tropical sun, with the drink of his choice in hand, and a lovely woman close by.

Only when we are certain he has this picture clearly in mind, do we begin leading gently toward a sale. Maybe: We can get you on a plane, into a great hotel, then out onto that beach in just a few short hours. Then maybe: Isn't it time you did something for yourself? Or maybe just for the heck of it?

By Contrast, ...
Picture a site that slaps you in the face with images up top which are slow to load. As to our needs, the comments are limited to, "We're the best," "Cheapest rates," and so forth. All followed by a confusing, jumbled array of options that are virtually unintelligible at least at first glace. And maybe later as well.

Which site will you chose to work with? Which site will you remember?

Pictures Matter
Not graphics. That's not what I mean at all. What matters is the pictures you are able to create in your visitor's mind. And that's pretty much all that does matter.

I continue to be awed at how delicious those hamburgers from Jack In The Box look in the TV commercials, particularly after just finishing a great dinner. And only $0.99? Wow. Where do I sign up? Problem is, I tried one once. Spoils the image for me, that's for sure.

I love the idea behind, "Sell the sizzle, not the steak." But underneath it all, you'll do better if there's a great steak.