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How 'Al Bundy' Can Boost Your Advertising Results!

By Dan Lok
Posted Wednesday, August 4, 2004

Dear Friend,

Are you familiar with the advertising campaign, *Reading is FUNdamental*? Well, here's something less *FUN* that the ads don't mention:

90% of the people in North American have the reading skills of a 12-year-old.

*So what,* you say?

*Who cares,* you mutter.

*What does the reading level of North Americans mean to a high-powered, soon-to-be living in the lap of luxury marketer like me,* you ask?

Get with the program! This is big, REALLY BIG stuff. If most consumers are at a seventh grade level, it means:

* Your sales writing must be SIMPLE
* Your sales writing must be CLEAR
* Your sales writing must be EASY ENOUGH for AL BUNDY TO UNDERSTAND

Don't think of your average consumer as a discerning, highly educated person who just loves to crunch numbers and sift through dense information. If you do, you'll be on the copywriting road to hell.

Instead, put an image in your mind of Al Bundy. (You know... the lovable, if not too bright, guy from the TV series *Married with Children.*) Believe me, there's a *little bit o' Bundy* in all of us -- a pinch of Al, a hint of peg, Peg, a touch of Kelly, and a smidgeon of Bud).

When you sit down and write a sales pitch, envision your customer stretched out on a plaid sofa with a brew in one hand and the TV remote in the other. He's taught his dog to *fetch* the TV Guide from across the room. When the phone rings, he's too lazy to get off his butt to answer. When a commercial urges, *Call NOW,* he thinks, *Maybe later.*

How motivated do you think this *Bundy* is to place an order for whatever it is YOU might be selling? You're right -- not very.

To appeal to all the *Bundys* out there -- to get them off the couch and onto the ordering process -- you'll need to use words, sentences and paragraphs that are easy-as-pie on the eye (and the mind) of the consumer.

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The *Al* Factor
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Every time you write a word, sentence or paragraph, ask yourself this question...

Would Al *get it*?

If the answer is yes... if Al understands it... your customers will be able to, as well.

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Playing By The Rules When There Aren't Any
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Are there any hard and fast rules? Wouldn't that be lovely? Sorry -- no rules in knife-fights and short-and-sweet marketing copy.

No rules... but many excellent guidelines. Here's a sample:

Forget What Mrs. Grammarpants Told You

You know all those rigid rules that you learned from your high school English teacher? Forget 'em! You're not writing for a language scholar, you're writing for Joe Schmo, the guy who was sitting behind you in English class trying to figure out how to give the nerd sitting next to him a hot foot.

Joe Schmo doesn't mind putting on his glasses to read, but please don't ask him to put on his *thinking cap.* Use plain, easy to understand language that's so simple and so direct that even a 6th grader -- or someone with a 6th grader's reading level -- can understand.

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Writing is *Speaking* on Paper
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When you read your copy aloud, it should sound pretty much as if you were talking to a buddy face to face. Don’t use fancy, overblown words and phrases that are hard to understand. Use words that paint clear and immediate pictures.

One way to remember this is the word KISS --

Keep It Simple, Stupid
(or more gently, *Keep It Simple, Sweetie.*)

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Put Your Writing on a *Budget*
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As far as words, sentences and paragraphs go... don’t use a ten-dollar word when a 25-cent *bon mot* will work just as well.

Less is more. Keep your sentences relatively short... say, 14-17 words or less. And if you have longer ones, break them up with ellipsis (...) or dashes ( -- ).

As a general rule, paragraphs should not exceed 6 lines. However, I usually stay around 2 to 4. And it’s a good idea to mix it up... have some one sentence paragraphs… even one or two word paragraphs...

...exactly what I've been doing in this letter to you!

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Learn from the Masters to Earn Like the Gods
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Actually, one of the best ways to learn how to write clearly is to study proven sales letters. Keep the ones that *sold* you and the ones that were easiest to read and then model their layout/style.

If you’re not already collecting sales letters, get started now.

RUN, don't walk to add your name to these mailing lists:

* Agora Publishing - (
* Phillips International – (
* Boardroom - (
* Rodale Books - (
* Nightingale Conant - (

Shell out a few bucks, buy one or two products from each of these information *motherlodes* and you’ll get more good, good-er, GOOD-est sales letters, magalogs, bookalogs, etc., than you can shake a stick at.

And here's something for the *Al* in YOU -- everything's delivered right to your front door! (Have your spouse answer when the postman rings!)

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Are You Using Your Tools?
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Did you know that you have a *marketing analyst* build right into your computer? If you use Microsoft Word, you can test the readability of your ads and sales letters using one of the functions in the Tools menu.

Here’s what you do:

1. Click on the Tools button at the top of the screen.

2. A menu will come up. In that menu click on Options.

3. Then you’ll see a Spelling & Grammar button…click that.

4. Do you see a box at the bottom that says, “Show readability

5. Check that box.

Now whenever you spell check your document, you’ll get a box that displays the information you need. In general...

You should aim for a grade level of 6 or lower. You should aim for a reading ease of 70 or higher.

Neat, huh?

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It's Time for LCD
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Are you worried about the non-Bundy readers that will receive your *Simple Simon* (*Simple Al*?) sales message using LCD (Lowest Common Denominator) language? Are you concerned about turning off the *Braniacs* with your pitch?

Don't worry ahout the Brainiacs. First of all, only about 10% of the people that read your message fall into this category -- a clear minority. Second, if you're offering something the Brainiacs want to receive, they'll appreciate the simplicity and clarity of your message (which the rest of your audience will also be able to understand.) Third, Brainiacs LOVE to feel smart, and they'll feel like big-cranium, super-smarties because they'll understand your message perfectly.

Even if every consumer you contact is a Dr. or Mrs. Einstein, or even a little Einstein in diapers, they're still going to be busy little beavers, with lots of things on their minds and 1000’s of advertising messages vying for their attention everyday. If your message isn't a SUPER-AD -- faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to jump over the competition's message in a single bound -- consumers will just
ignore it!

It's human nature to look for shortcuts and find the easiest way to our destination. So why would you want to make a consumer WORK to understand your message's *endpoint?* It's one of the reasons that the new rash of *cute-sy* corporate identity ads (for ING, let's say) are much more than just puzzlin... they're ineffectual. It takes a university professor to figure out what the heck they’re selling)

Dumb... Dumb... Dumb...

So always remember to read your copy with the eye of the world's favorite everyman and you'll never talk over the heads, but will go straight to the consuming hearts of your average *Bundys.*

Your marketing sifu*,

Dan Lok

P.S. Here's another little *golden nugget* to make sure the *eyes have it*: People read 25% MORE SLOWLY from a COMPUTER MONITOR than they do from paper. Don't cause eye-strain or brain drain. Be EXTRA-clear and as easy to understand as
A-B-C when creating content for your online sales materials.

*A *sifu* is a teacher (See, you learn something new every day!)

About the Author
Dan Lok is the World’s First Quick-Turn Marketer, with a proven track record of selling over $ 17.3 million dollars of merchandise and services. He’s the rebel copywriter who’s created hundreds of money-making ads and sales letter for over 39 different industries. And now you can get inside the head of one of the world’s top copywriters without paying a dime at (


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