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Why You need to Show not Tell If You Want to Build Customer Trust

Burger King Ad

I've been home in the UK for 3 days and while I know it's supposed to be summer the temperature hasn't gone over 14C and everyone's wearing jumpers and jackets and I'm beginning to doubt the weather person's prediction for a heatwave

That's not to say it won't happen but I'm not sure how much trust to put in their words

Similarly, the UK is currently in election campaign overdrive (Don't worry - This isn't going to be a political post) and it's hard to not notice the way words are used to frame different candidates. Words like "Incompetent"; "Out-of-Touch" and "Corrupt" have been splashed on newspapers as a way to instill fear about the competition.

And it's the same in copywriting - Companies often draw comparisons with their competitors as a way to make them sound better than the alternatives.


But here's the thing.

Using the "We are Better than...." framework comes with a few pitfalls.


Pepsi's "Taste OK" campaign pointed out a design flaw in Coca-Cola's logo and packaging: Highlighting the phrases 'OK' and asking Why settle for 'OK' when you could choose Pepsi Max?


Unfortunately, this type of ad gave a lot more free exposure to their rival brand in this case Coca-Cola appears more visibly than Pepsi and many even thought the ad was for KFC rather than Pepsi.

Burger King on the other hand, who most notably often presented itself as No2 to McDonald's, created one of the most eye-catching and impactful campaigns by doing something different

It leaned into the Show Not Tell framework. Where rather than telling customers they didn't use artificial preservatives (as a reference to photographs by Karen Hanrahan who in 2008, published a photo on her blog, Best of Mother Earth, featuring a McDonald's hamburger she'd purchased in 1996. The burger appeared nearly identical to a freshly made one despite being 12 years old. She concluded that the food item had no nutritional value and was essentially "chemical food.") 

BK showed a time-lapse of their burger rotting.

So, what does it mean to "show, not tell" in copywriting? Simply put, it's the practice of using vivid language, sensory details, real-world examples, and concrete language to evoke emotions and convey information.

Rather than merely stating facts or making claims, the goal is to paint a picture in the reader's mind, allowing them to experience the benefits of your service on a more visceral level.

Here are some strategies to help you apply the "show, don't tell" technique in your copywriting:

1. Use Sensory Actionable Details

Incorporate sensory language to create a more immersive experience for your readers.

You can describe the look, feel, taste, smell, or sound of your product. You can place an image of your product being used in their lives.

Instead of "We help automate your emails" Try "Throw away your spreadsheets and celebrate inbox zero from Day 1"

2. Share Stories and Examples

Real-life stories and examples are powerful tools for illustrating the benefits of your product or service.

Case studies, testimonials, and anecdotes help readers understand how others have experienced success, making it easier for them to trust similar outcomes for themselves.

Remember customers trust what others say about you more than what you say.

3. Anchor Your Reader using the Power of Metaphors and Analogies

Metaphors and analogies enable you to communicate complex ideas or concepts in a way that's easy for readers to understand and relate to.

By likening your product or service to something more familiar, you can help potential customers grasp its value and relevance.

4. Tap into Emotions

Emotions play a significant role in decision-making.

Consider how you want your readers to feel after they've read your content. What will lead them to take action? While fear creates urgency in their decisions, a positive emotion helps them overcome any potential objections.

5. Be Specific

Provide concrete details and examples to support your claims. This approach lends credibility to your copy and helps them apply your benefits to their real-world applications.

Don't use valueless vague words. Use your customer's words when they describe their problems and desired outcomes.

Incorporating the "show, don't tell" technique into your writing builds trust. There's something about seeing that leads to believing rather than being told.


Think about how your copy shows your customers why they should use you.


I'm off to chase some sunshine - if you liked this please share it with a friend who wants to become a better business writer.


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