Selling the sizzle not the sausage

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in Copywriting

The concept I’ll be discussing today was introduced to me with this phrase when I first started out. It’s a vital thing to grasp whenever you’re writing marketing copy because it’s what persuades your audience they want to buy whatever it is you have.

Selling the sizzle and not the sausage sums up the concept of features vs benefits. The sausage itself (i.e. the feature) isn’t interesting; the mental picture of a banger sizzling on the barbecue (i.e. the benefit) is mouth-watering and enticing. Going out to buy sausages isn’t exciting; going out to buy sausages so you can have a delicious barbecue is.

Let’s take another example. Here’s an extract from some copy selling an HD television on the Currys website ((it’s no longer being featured on the website, unfortunately, otherwise I’d give you the link so you could see it in context)):

“With Full HD 1920 x 1080p resolution …”

Now, if the writer had stopped there, your response would probably be, “So what?”. But they didn’t. The sentence carries on:

“… you’ll be able to catch your favourite programmes in crisp detail and vivid colours for a completely immersive televisual experience.”

And so you think, “Wow – that sounds cool – I want one of those.”

Here’s another example from the same product: 

“Boasting 100 Hz BLB technology …”

To which you think, “OK, whatever.” But then you read the rest of the sentence:

“…the [TV] will ensure smooth on-screen motion with reduced motion blur and great picture clarity, even if you are watching fast paced action movies or sport.”

And you think – “Great – that sounds amazing – I want one.”

The simple rule of thumb is if you’ve written anything to which the reader’s response could be, “So what?” you’ve just written a feature. If the response is “Ooh – I need that” you’ve got the benefit.

In short, focusing on the feature means your reader has to work hard to understand why something is important (and, let’s be honest, they probably can’t be bothered to work hard). Focusing on the benefit makes it easy for your reader to understand why they need what you’re selling (meaning you’re more likely to make the sale).

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