Whether you’re writing an email, an ad, a video script, or anything else meant to persuade, you can employ one or more of these “hooks” to improve your results:

  • Us vs. Them
  • Status
  • Scarcity
  • Exclusivity

Let’s begin this series with:

The Us vs. Them Hook

Remember those “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” commercials from the early 2000s?

apple vs pc us vs them example

The idea behind those Apple ads was not just to pick a fight with Microsoft, but also to make you and I choose sides. It’s us against them, so whoyawith?

When it’s done right, it can subtly communicate to your prospects and customers that you’re on the same “team” with them, which can be an incredibly valuable asset for marketers.

Consider using your marketing to pick a fight with:

  • A competitor — As Apple does above and Hint Water does here.
  • An issue — As Uber Eats does here.
  • An organization — As H&R Block subtly does here.
  • An idea — As we (theCLIKK) have done with one of our Facebook ads:

theclikk us vs them example

Don’t invent something to fight about; picking fights isn’t a good look, and besides, you can often find a worthy fight somewhere in (or tangent to) your company’s core values and mission.

Answer these questions:
What does your company stand for?
What does your company stand against?

Use your messenging to force the market to take sides… hopefully, to take yours and join your team.

The Status Hook

You won’t want to admit this, but there’s very little on Earth you care about more than your Status. Like all people, you care what others think of you: how they judge you as a friend, spouse, parent, employee, or entrepreneur.

You care about your appearance, how you look and seem. You like to win trophies and plaques. You’re encouraged by kind words or a pat on the back.

And if none of this describes you, you’re either a liar or you’re Ron Swanson. (Honored to have you as a reader, Mr. Offerman. If you’re reading this.)

This is all to say: we’re all influenced by marketing that speaks to our Status.

A potion that elevates you

As we’ve said before, all products are potions. When your prospective customer drinks your potion, they are (supposed to be) transformed. Take a moment to picture the clear, tangible transformation that takes place when someone experiences your product or service.

Ask yourself: does your product or service improve a person’s status in any way? If so, consider using Status as a marketing angle—and bear in mind that your version of Status might not be on-the-nose obvious, as NyQuil shows:

NyQuil copy hooks image theclikk

Some products and services are obvious fits for the Status hook; bougie buys like sports cars, expensive clothes, and McMansions come to mind.

But when you think outside the box a bit, you’ll realize that the Status hook can be (and has been) used to sell everything from grass cutting to gummy bears.

Here are a few more not-so-obvious uses of the Status hook:

  • Kajabi, a software platform that makes it easy to build and sell online courses, refers to its customers as Kajabi Heroes.
  • Here at theCLIKK, we have a high-performing Facebook ad that uses this copy: “Her clients and co-workers are shocked. She has transformed from a wallflower who never contributed in meetings into a digital marketing BOSS seemingly overnight. Her secret weapon? A 3-minute daily email newsletter called theCLIKK.”
  • National Car Rental’s Go Like a Pro ad campaign makes excellent use of a Status hook:

The Scarcity Hook

Things tend to become more valuable when they’re less available.

Scarcity is among the most powerful principles of persuasion and is, not coincidentally, probably the most abused principle of persuasion.

On the surface, Scarcity seems like an easy hook to execute. After all, the only real requirement is that you communicate a limited quantity or a deadline of some kind. Right?

Not exactly. For scarcity to persuade reliably, the “thing” must be desirable AND it must actually be scarce. It does not usually work, in the long term, to manufacture scarcity as a strategy.

Having said that: if what you sell has true scarcity, you’d be crazy not to leverage it in your marketing, as you’ve seen a gazillion times from brands like Wayfair:

Wayfair Scarcity Image

Some businesses are constantly running sales with deadlines. You know, like that International Chicken Wing Day sale (July 1st, FYI) at the mattress store around the corner from your house.

But here are some less-obvious uses of the Scarcity hook in marketing:

(A) Immediately after selling a monthly subscription, make a one-time offer to pay for the entire year at a discount.

(B) For live events, be sure to communicate any limited seating capacity, and used tiered pricing with price hikes from Super Early Bird to Early Bird to door pricing.

(C) Add scarcity to an offer by adding some bonus for those who take action by a deadline. For example, offer a free hour of consulting for anyone that hires you to design their website this week—or offer a second (discounted) Doohickey if someone buys a Doohickey from you this weekend.

The Exclusivity Hook

Everyone wants to be behind the velvet rope.  

Meet one of the most powerful persuasive hooks in marketing: Exclusivity.

Exclusivity is one of Scarcity’s closest relatives. Both are sharp persuasive hooks because they present implicit value—everyone wants to have special things (Scarcity) and everyone wants to be part of a special thing (Exclusivity)—and yet, at the same time, they “threaten” your access to that implicit special value.

The difference is how they (persuasively) threaten you. Scarcity threatens you on the back end; it says “you could have this now, but it won’t be here later.” Exclusivity threatens you on the front end: “you have to somehow qualify before you can have this, but you’ll be special once you do.”     

As with Scarcity, it’s not wise to manufacture Exclusivity as a strategy. That said, if true exclusivity exists (or has a reason to), you’d do well to use it in your marketing. Just remember: true exclusivity requires that you become picky about who can and can’t have access, so consider your standards carefully.   

Here’s an email promotion from Time for Me which uses the Exclusivity hook:

time for me exclusivity hook theclikk

The application of Exclusivity in retail is more obvious, like the above—but those of us selling software, services, information, and more can use this hook too. The only hard requirement is that you have genuine (i.e. meaningful and enforced) qualifications for access to what you’re offering.

Have a look at these examples of the Exclusivity hook:

  • The Baby Bathwater institute offers a high-priced invitation-only event.
  • American Express offers the Black Card by invite only. See how they use the packaging to communicate Exclusivity in this unboxing video.
  • Harley Davidson offers their H.O.G. (Harley Owner’s Group website), some events, and their magazine only to Harley owners.

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