Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The "Other" Four Letter Word

One of my favourite newsletters comes each month from Ivan Levison
at and a recent issue talked about the "other" four letter word.

Let me have Ivan tell you the story.

This "magic word" still has its power

I was walking through our local shopping center and noticed that something out of the ordinary seemed to be going on at the Ben &
Jerry's store.

Instead of the usual handful of customers inside, a long line of customers of all ages snaked out the door for about thirty yards!

What the heck was going on?

I asked a woman what the long line was all about and she answered, "free ice cream."

Sure enough, on the store's window, a big sign announced "Free Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Cones Between 1-4 pm."

Here's what instantly struck me about the scene . . .

The shopping center is in an affluent area. There is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that any of the people on line could have easily
afforded an ice cream cone. After all, we're talking about small change. Yet, here were men, women, and teenagers lining up to get
something they could easily afford, merely because it was free. They simply couldn't resist the offer. (And the ice cream.)

As a direct response copywriter, I have long known that "FREE" was one of those magic words that can boost response. I routinely encourage clients who want to generate leads to make a "free offer," and I use the word in my copywriting work just about every day.

Yet here, right in front of my eyes, was living proof of the awesome power of the free offer.

Why would people pass Ben & Jerry's by on a Wednesday, when they could easily pay for a cone, but line up for thirty minutes in the
hot California sun for a free cone on a Thursday?

The answer is hard to come by. Were those people waiting on line all involved in some kind of mass regressive return to the maternal breast, where they could be fed, symbolically by an indulgent, loving
mother? Or were they just a bunch of cheap skates?

Hey. I don't have a clue. But I DO know what I saw, and what I saw says that "FREE" still has the ability to get people moving. Or standing in line.

The takeaway message this month? When you're creating an offer for lead generation, don't reject the power of offering somebody
something for nothing.

"Free" is one four-letter word you can use ANY time!

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