Do the numbers have it?

Numbers Numbers can be a compelling sales motivator.  No matter what we’re buying, as consumers we like to see some data. 

It validates our choice and either helps us feel like part of the crowd  –"4 out of 5 dentists recommend Trident" or in an elite group of special customers —  "only one in every 2,000 applicants will be invited to join."

But use them with caution because numbers alone don’t convince most people to actually buy.  They need something else.  They need the story.

When we show consumers a bunch of number or a comparison chart – they see the data but they don’t always see the relevance to their life or needs.  But when your marketing materials tell a memorable story and put the numbers into a rich context, your potential buyer understands why the numbers matter. 

When you wrap the numbers into a testimonial or a before and after story, you’re bringing whatever you sell to life.  You tap into the emotional needs or wants of your potential consumer by helping them envision just how your product or service will help them.  You paint a picture that makes them want what you’re selling.  Then, the numbers validate their desire.  It turns a want into a smart buying decision.  You have now appealed to both sides of the buyers’ brains.  And both sides can see, in the way it processes information best, the value of your product/service.

Next time you’re writing copy for any of your marketing materials, make sure you blend the power of numbers with some good old-fashioned storytelling. 

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6 comments on “Do the numbers have it?

  1. Eamon says:


    Just like to say that your blog is one of my favourite four blogs from Adage at the moment (along with Godin, Copyblogger and one other). The reason why I like your blog is that your posts are both interesting as well as useful – and enganging.

    This is a spot on post in my view. Just to add to this, I have just finished fast-reading Rirchard Branson’s short version biography (Screw It, Let’s Do It). Branson has focused an important part of his career on story-telling – but with him playing the major role in the story – i.e. he famously took on (representing Virgin Atlantic) Lord King of BA, where he played David (to King, the Goliath). So story-telling is crucial (although, of course, a brand has to be authentic and do what it says it does).

  2. Eamon,

    Thank you — that’s lofty company to keep. I’m glad you’re finding value in the content here. I hope you’re digging into the comments as well. That’s where a lot of the learning comes, I think.

    I’m curious — why do you think Richard Branson has such an engaging brand? What has he done right because it sure seems like he is one of the most often mentioned when this topic comes up.


  3. Eamon says:


    ‘Why do you think Richard Branson has such an engaging brand’

    Virgin has the following brand values (although not as black and white / exaggerated as my comment may suggest) that appeals very much to a contemporary, modern British audience (as well as to people from other countries, as well, I am sure):

    – Virgin the Underdog (The British love underdogs) – i.e Virgin taking on Lord King of BA
    – Virgin the David (Branson taking on Lord King of BA, The Goliath)
    – Virgin: Non-corporate – Virgin likes to be seen as the champion of ordinary people against the big conglomerates such as Sky (Branson is in the midst of a big spat with Sky at the moment – and then, of course, his spat with BA). Branson the Robin Hood figure.
    – Virgin: The hip / cool / fun / rock ‘n roll brand, in tune with the times (his advertisements / web pages use informal / contemporary / everyday lingo). Plus think of Virgin products: travel, holidays, wine, music, books – the choice of products, also, make his brand values more possible.

    Branson is a genius at understanding what makes ordinary (in non-derogative sense) people – and in particular, ordinary British people – tick!

    Branson is very much a child of the sligthly anarchic version of 60’s Britain. This appeals to lots of people both young and old. He has wrapped his brand in this.

    Branson is a genius at publicity. And he has expert PR people working for him in his marketing department. Where publicity, PR and marketing are all cleverly blended together. Branson the master story-teller, playing his own big part, in a very interesting brand story.

    Branson is an expert at employing the best people to ensure that his products / services carry out exactly what the Virgin brand says they do.

    Branson spends a lot of money on research and advice. But at the end of the day he is not afraid to take risks. Although he is not brilliantly academic (he went to a very good school, but left it aged 16) he has lots of natural, raw intelligence – with his nose very much close to the ground.

  4. Eamon,

    Fascinating…thanks for the thorough description. As you can imagine, we see far less of him than the UK does. How would his brand compare to Apple and Steve Jobs?

    One way that it sounds like they differ is that in most ways, HE is the brand, rather than the company. I wonder how he’s planning on dealing with that down the road?


  5. Eamon says:


    ‘How would his [Richard Branson] brand compare to Apple and Steve Jobs?’

    – Relative to what I know about Branson, and to what I should know being a marketeer, I don’t know that much about Steve Jobs.
    The words that spring to mind when I think about Jobs are the following: cerebreal, technical, designer, quirky. And, in kind of contrast, Branson: intuitive, non-technical, flamboyant.
    Naturally some of these are going to appear in their brand values in one shape or another / to one degree or another.
    Although both are entrepreneurs, and cross-over in terms of both being involved in enterntainment and technology to one degree or another (and lots more), Jobs seems a bit more about the experience of the physical product, and Branson a bit more about the experience of the service. Jobs comes over as a bit more of a detailed thinker. Branson comes over as someone who comes up with big, broad ideas (that need filling in, perhaps, by others). Branson comes across as someone who better understands consumers in general, Jobs as somone who understands his core audience base very well.

    Comparing these two entrepreneurs / marketeers kind of demonstrates to me that one is better off chasing products / services(to work with) that one likes / would do well in (I can’t really see Branson wanting to focus too much on computer software, for example, and I can’t see Jobs really wanting to focus too much on selling, for example, ice-cream). And that one’s personal traits can kind of have a bearing on the sort of brand/s you create.

    I don’t know. Just thinking aloud!

    What do you think?

    ‘I wonder how he’s [Richard Branson] planning on dealing with that down the road?’

    As far as I am aware, Branson kind of franchises out the Branson name a lot: a lot of his companies / brands – are co-owned by others to one degree or another. And these people do a lot of the management and innovative work too. I am not absolutely sure though. I think Virgin Atlantic is his main focus of work at the moment. Someone out there might know more about this than me – ?

  6. Eamon,

    Wow…it’s fascinating to look at these two brilliant marketers side by side, isn’t it? Both incredibly successful but at least on the surface, very different.

    I think you’re right…Jobs is very focused on the consumer’s relationship with Apple’s products. But he’s outside that relationship. Where it sounds like Branson/his people are a part of the relationship consumers have with the Virgin products.

    There’s a lot to ponder in that comparison — thank you.


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