It’s an unforgettable opening to a movie:
A shot rings out, and we see the gun barrel in close-up…
Next, a close-up on the face of the man who’s been shot…
(Wait, isn’t that – Al Pacino?
Isn’t he supposed to be the star of this movie?)
Another shot is fired, again the smoking gun seen up close…
Al slumps to the floor on the train platform…
(Yep, he’s definitely been shot. Already?
It’s Al Pacino for sure. What the -?)
He looks up to the camera slowly as the movie’s title appears:
A sad, sweeping score begins on the soundtrack…
The emergency services arrive, as Al’s eyes glaze over…
(It’s really not looking good for Al, and we’re only seconds into the movie where he’s the lead character.)
Eventually, we hear Al’s voiceover speak the movie’s first lines of dialogue:
“Somebody’s pullin’ me close to the ground. I can sense, but I can’t see…”
(Seems like it’s all over for Al, but he’s the star – he plays ‘Carlito’ in a movie called Carlito’s Way, for cryin’ out loud…
So what the heck is going on?)
(Fun fact: Al Pacino is TERRIFIED of escalators)
Hey, if you haven’t seen Carlito’s Way, don’t worry…
I’ve not dropped any spoilers here.
This is the opening scene, not the end. There’s plenty more action to come.
But the opening feels like the end of the movie when you watch it, and you’re instantly hooked as a result.
Carlito’s Way is one of my favourite films, and much of that is down to this first scene.
It’s surprising, instantly engaging, and crucially: it creates a strong desire to see what comes next.
This tactic is called a ‘pattern interrupt’, and it’s a great way to make your marketing ‘stickier’, and ultimately increase conversions.
A sticky message is one that (surprise!) sticks in your prospect’s mind…
It’s the signal in the noise.
Think of all the hundreds of different marketing messages competing for your target prospect’s attention every day…
Yes, most of them are just forgettable ‘meh’ marketing – but you’re competing with the sheer volume. You need to avoid being bundled up with ‘the rest’ in your target’s mind.
If your message isn’t ‘sticky’ it’s gonna be ignored.
To get your message noticed, understood and acted upon, it’s gotta have stickiness…
Chip & Dan Heath – The Heath Brothers – first outlined these principles in their bestselling book Made To Stick – a book that’s gone on to influence thousands of marketers, persuaders and communicators since its first publication in 2007.
In it they discuss the six ‘SUCCESs principles’ that make up ‘sticky messages’:
(I personally believe the missing ‘S’ on the end of ‘SUCCESs’ can be filled with a seventh principle:
Sell – because in marketing, the message has to do that too.
Sticky marketing that’s memorable but doesn’t show your prospect how to become a customer has failed.)
The opening to Carlito’s Way is a great example of using Sticky Messaging principle #2:
The power of the Unexpected
Now, marketers talk a lot about “grabbing attention”, but what many forget is this:
Simply getting attention isn’t enough to move your prospect towards conversion…
You can grab attention with a shocking statement, but if it’s not relevant to what follows, you’ve just alienated your readers with what is basically just clickbait.
And they may not come back.
The trick is not to demand attention, because it won’t stick…
Instead, you should attract attention in order to keep a reader or viewer interested in hearing your pitch…
And if you can tie in that unexpected opening to your product/service, even better.
That’s when conversions happen!
In Carlito’s Way, we’re intrigued by the fact we appear to be watching the lead character’s death right at the start of the movie…
…but the pay-off is that this scene’s deeper relevance is gradually revealed during the movie.
It never feels like a ‘cheap shot’ attention-grabber, and the audience doesn’t feel tricked.
So, how do you avoid clickbait remorse and create powerful ‘Carlito moments’ in your marketing?
One effective way to use the unexpected in your sales copy is to start with a little mystery, and create a need for closure that’s resolved later in your message.
Full disclosure: I just did this with my own ‘pattern interrupt’ opening in this post.
I mentioned an “unforgettable opening”, then started to describe the movie opening without context…
…then I closed the loop when I revealed the movie’s title, by which time you were hopefully intrigued enough to read on…
…and I guess if you’re still here, it worked! ; )
So it’s about attracting attention and then following-up with relevance.
Think about what’s intriguing or exciting about your product or service…
What could you state boldly up front in an ad, email or sales page that would create interest…
What would attract attention and allow you to reward that attention later with a pay-off?
Look for something that may not be obvious why you’re using it in your headline or lead copy.
Like a detail of how a customer or client’s life changed in an unusual way…
…a ‘hidden secret’ in the story of the product’s development…
…maybe an accident that set you back but eventually resulted in a crucial breakthrough.
But always make it relevant to your prospect, for instance linking it to a positive outcome they’ll experience when they become a customer too.
And remember to give just enough information to intrigue but not alienate…
Hard truth: your prospects and customers are always thinking “what’s in it for me?” every time they encounter a sales message.
Keep that in mind when you’re sprinkling a little of the unexpected in your next marketing effort, to create a winning ‘Carlito moment’ of your own.