January 25, 2012
The concept behind a preemptive claim is pretty simple. I have a product. My product is virtually identical in features and benefits to every other product in the category. So how do you distinguish your product from everyone else? By preemptively taking ownership of one of those benefits. In the world of parity products, this is the modus operandi.
Here is a great illustration of the preemptive claim from the pilot episode of "Mad Men":
Now, in the case of "Mad Men," it is a fictionalized version of reality. Lucky Strike did claim that its product was "toasted" for half a century, but long before they had to worry about cancer. The king of the preemptive claim is Claude Hopkins and his product, Pepsodent. In the 1920s, he claimed Pepsodent could remove "film" from your teeth. What he didn't say was that all toothpaste could remove the film on your teeth. The preemptive claim is all about claiming the mundane, the ordinary, as unique to your product. Or, as Hopkins explained it:
"We tell simple facts, common to all makers in the line--too common to be told because the article is not unique. It embodies no great advantages. Perhaps countless people can make similar products. But tell the pains you take to excel. Tell factors and features which others deem too commonplace to claim. Your product will come to typify those excellencies. If others claim them afterward, it will only serve to advertise you."
That is the preemptive claim; making something unique to your brand that is inherently ubiquitous to the category. In the above quote, Hopkins is referring to everyday consumer goods, or what are called "Fast Moving Consumer Goods." However, this technique extends beyond parity products. Think about the competitive world of smartphone technology. With the release of its iPhone 4S, Apple claimed, "It's the most amazing iPhone yet." What Apple doesn't say is, "of course it is the most amazing iPhone yet, it is an upgrade to all the previous iPhones." Also not mentioned is that it won't be as amazing as the next iPhone.
How do you pick the right claim? In Hopkins case, he analyzed coupon redemption rates to determine the claim that resulted in the strongest response. (He also created a problem--"film" on your teeth--for people to be concerned about.) In Apple's case, the company identified what might be most important to anyone that doesn't own an iPhone 4. And, at the same time, those who might be disappointed it wasn't an iPhone 5. The claim says, "Rest assured, this isn't just an iPhone 4 redux."
The key for the claim to work, as with any advertising, is identifying an aspect of the product that drives purchases. Or, as is the case with removing film from teeth, make that claim seem important.
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Jeff Francis is a marketing geek who would never refer to himself as a guru. He is that weird sort who enjoys watching commercials and analyzing communication strategies. He is also available for hire and would love to hear from you. So, head on over to the contact page and get in touch.