Skip to content

Advertising in the 70s seemed to work like magic. Or at least that’s our perception of it.

These ad men, stuck in their office day and night to come up with their big ideas. Almost like math geniuses nobody can understand.

But in reality they followed a very formulaic process.

At least the pros, the OGs. Like Eugene Schwartz.

In his legendary book, “Breakthrough Advertising” he goes into two of the most powerful ways of framing and selling a product.

First, intensification. Taking what your product does and expanding on it, using social proof, showing how it works, making your guarantee as powerful as possible etc.

But most of the big ideas of the time were based on the other principle.


It’s about turning your product from a mere tool, to a portal of sorts. Allowing your customer to identify themselves with a character or role they aspire to be. The product being the bridge that took them there. This is how advertising was able to expand markets and even resurrect defunct ones.

But going deeper, a really good mental model for thinking about how you extract as much value out of your product as possible is to divide it into 3 areas.

  • The appearance
  • The components and structure
  • The background and “making of”

Go look at any of the most popular ads for physical products of the 70s, and you’ll find they picked one of these 3 areas. Then dug as deep as possible to extract as much ooomph they could out of the products they were trying to sell.

This made me wonder: can we apply this strategy or way of thinking to modern products? What about software for example?

Does software have an appearance? What about the components? We might do something with the background. The founder’s story and the hustle.

But a lot of this model only takes into account physical products.

I think we can still use it. We just need to adapt it.

For example the appearance for software could be all around branding, visual identify, but also the UI, the interface. Is it minimal? Is it easy to use? Is it complex on purpose because you’re catering to high sophistication experts? Your appearance today might be called “visual impact”.

What about the components then?

Back in the 70s they used to create rich persuasive stories around where materials were sourced from, or what chemicals a product contained. You had departments whose only job was to research these facts (and make sure they weren’t fooling people).

With software I’d say the components is the tech behind it.

Not the physical tech (unless you’re talking about cloud infrastructure maybe), but mostly its features. What did you build into your SaaS that makes people’s lives easier, more productive, smarter, more efficient etc.?

And most importantly how do those features bridge the gap between where prospects are and where they aspire to be? How do they help them identify themselves with their “dream role”?

An example with note taking apps.

A lot of them focus on the vision that productivity nerds (like myself) have of, one fine day being on top of every single task, remembering every line from books they read and reaching all their goals.

The more vividly you can make your potential customers visualize that promise, the easier it will be for them to identify with the image you gave your product.

Anyway, it’s an interesting thought experiment to try and apply timeless lessons to modern times. And thing is most of these lessons still apply because they’re based on human behavior. Which hasn’t changed.

Hopefully this gave you a different lens to look at how you view your product.

Need help figuring out how to stand out in your niche? Get in touch.

brain dump?

Every week I write about what I’m learning at my copywriting/UX desk ,with fun, insightful and quirky stories.

Let’s nerd about decision making, persuasion, habits, and conversion optimization.