A Non-Existent Study Has Bolstered this Claim for Years — Meanwhile Leonardo da Vinci Leveraged the Power of You Over 500 Years Ago
For years, “experts” have claimed that you is the most powerful word in the English language — or, at the very least, one of the top five to 12.
But recently that standing was debunked when it was revealed that the “Yale research” many of these claims are based on never happened.
Still, that doesn’t negate the power of the word you in marketing.
Consider these two sentences:
Business owners benefit when they use persuasive words in their content.
You benefit when you use persuasive words in your content.
Which sentence is stronger?
Most people would pick the second version, because you sounds more personal and direct — which is always good.
What Would da Vinci Do?
I’ve known the power of the word you for decades, thanks to an article I read in the 1980s by Bryan Mattimore in a publication that no longer exists.
I’ve kept a copy of the article all these years in my marketing research folder. It’s that good.
Now I can share it with you.
In 1482, Leonardo da Vinci was in a fix. Times were tough at court, and he needed to drum up additional business (patrons).
But how? It’s not easy telling the world you’re talented — much less a genius.
DaVinci decided to write to his Excellency Ludovic Sforza to promote his considerable talents.
Interesting enough, the style and substance of his letter exemplified three important (and timeless) rules of advertising creative services.
Rule 1 — Present Your Talents in Light of a Current Market Need.
Did DaVinci say that he was a great artist? Or that he was the best “mirror writer” in all of Italy?
No, he identified a pressing need, and offered to fill it: Namely, to design and build “instruments of war” for his Excellency.
Rule 2 — Be Specific About Your Creative Point of Difference.
DaVinci’s letter noted that he had studied the work of other masters and inventors of instruments of war — and found that their work “did not differ in any respect from those in common practice.”
He went on to outline how his unique, and easy-to-transport “unassailable armored cars, and catapults of wonderful efficacy” were superior to anything yet invented.
Rule 3 — Use More “You’s” than “I, Me, My, or We’s” in Your Copy.
This is the acid test for Rule 1.
Make sure you’re focusing not on yourself — but on the needs of your potential clients.
DaVinci’s opening paragraph, for instance, had four “you” and “your Excellency’s” and only three “I, me, my, or we’s.”
It doesn’t take a fake research study — or a true genius — to know that, when it comes to powerful words, you will always be a contender.