Basics of All Advertising and Selling: Verisimilitude!


If your story doesn’t look, feel, sound or smell like the truth, it ain’t got VERISIMILITUDE. *

Assume you’re selling a weight loss regime with pills, dieting, exercise, DVDs and the whole bit. And let’s say that a person could in fact really do 15 full military push-ups after the first week. Does it sound true? Would most people believe that? Does it have the appearance of truth? Does it have verisimilitude?

Nope. It sounds like sales hype even if “documented” and absolutely true. In another word, this story lacks VERISIMILITUDE—the appearance of truth. A sales story has to be absolutely, positively believable to most people because (remember Ms. Bee Cause?) if there’s any doubt, they’ll throw you out and your story out.

Now, in the sales story above, even assuming that the 15 push-outs is true, wouldn’t it have much more believability or verisimilitude if you had said 5 push-ups after the 2nd week? Wouldn’t most people think that just might be doable? In a sense it doesn’t matter what the truth really is, because if it doesn’t sound right, smell right, look right and feel right, most people just won’t buy into it and they won’t buy what you’re trying to sell them.

There’s another aspect to this business of believable promises. In “Hi-5 Eternal Truth #1” we asked, “To whom are you selling what ultimate benefit that will improve their business or lifestyle?” Remember? I wish I could claim this one, but a famous ad man said “Making a believable promise [of a benefit] to the right audience is the heart and soul of advertising.”

If you want to at get people to read your sales story, make sure it has verisimilitude.

* credibility, the appearance of being true or real.



Lewis R. Elin
Lewis R. Elin Consulting
Lewis R. Elin spent most of his working career selling work uniforms and flame resistant safety clothing via direct mail and catalogs. He is a recipient of the DMMA “Direct Mail Spokesman” award and participated in panels and lectured for the DMMA and the DMA. He co-taught a course on Direct Mail Basics at the Indiana University extensions in South Bend and Indianapolis. He has also lectured at the Merit Direct Business Mailer’s Summer Co-Op. Mr. Elin is best known for his “Hi-5 Eternal Truths of All Successful Direct Mail Advertising.”

About Nate Marks

We live and work in a world of visual images.
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One Response to Basics of All Advertising and Selling: Verisimilitude!

  1. Mike Willett says:

    Once again, Nate has hit the proverbial “nail on the head”! Now that we are in full swing on the internet, it would
    appear that most internet marketers think they can make most any claim, and get away with it, no matter
    whether there is any truth to their advertising or not. The temptation to exagerate is overwhelming, and
    many current providers on the net seem unable or unwilling to avoid it.

    The result of exagerations and rediculous claims tends to make the buyer beware…all the time on almost
    anything, including what may even be the truth. Then add to that sin #2, let’s all make rediculous claims
    and the entire market will become fearful of using that very market, to say nothing about being skeptical
    of most anything that appears on the internet.

    Number 3? Make sure you give the store away, then upsell the hell out of the original product with even
    more unbelieveable claims. I wonder why the return rate on the internet is so high? Exageration, outright
    dishonesty and claims that can never truthfully be proven will kill an internet business and hurt many
    others. None of us needs that kind of abuser on the internet!

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