Paul Cheney

Value Proposition Copywriting: 5 word pictures that got more people to buy

December 28th, 2015

Writing a value proposition is a lot like drawing a jellyfish in a game of Pictionary. Let me explain.

I was at a party recently where several people were playing a fiery game of Pictionary. One person who was particularly bad at the game started drawing a cylinder with a label on it.

Thick befuddlement settled on the guessing team.

After several wild guesses, the team rightly guessed that it was a jar of jelly. Then, much to the team’s dismay, the artist began to draw another picture. This time, luckily, his drawing clearly depicted a standard fish.

The word he held in his hand (the team finally discovered) was “jellyfish.”

Jar of jelly + fish = jellyfish

What the artist failed to realize in the heat of the game was that jellyfish are much easier to draw than either of those two things separately or together. It’s a half dome for the body; squiggly lines for the tentacles. Jellyfish. Next!

Too often, when trying to communicate something (like our value proposition) to our customers, we take the long way around. We use abstract language. We get lost in details that aren’t important.

People use their senses to experience the world. People’s thoughts are usually pictures of those sensate experiences (reality).


So when:

1. A picture that closely resembles

2. An actual jellyfish

gets drawn in a game of Pictionary, the team is more likely to get a point. It’s only once removed from the reality of a jellyfish.


But, when:

1. A picture closely resembles

2. The two component sounds that make up

3. A word that symbolizes

4. A picture that closely resembles

5. An actual jellyfish

gets drawn in the game of Pictionary, the team is less likely to get a point. It’s four times removed from the reality of a jellyfish, so it’s harder for the team to connect the artist’s depiction to a real jellyfish.


Most language happens twice removed from the reality. Necessarily then, a value proposition is the reality of value twice removed.

As Wittgenstein proposes twice (bordering on thrice) removed, “the proposition is a picture of reality.” (Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus 4.01)

1. The proposition is

2. A picture of

3. Reality

Our goal as marketers/copywriters is to use language to communicate our offer in a way that minimizes the distance between these levels of symbolism.


In other words, the better your prospect can visualize the value you are proposing with your … wait for it … value proposition, the more likely they are to say “yes” to your offer.

This is true at every type of value proposition (primary, prospect, product, process) MECLABS teaches.

The point is, if you want to be clear about your own value proposition, use pictures. If you’re a copywriter (which everyone in a business should be), use word pictures.

How do we do that?

Below are five quick examples of great value proposition word pictures you can pull from for inspiration.

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Paul Cheney

About Paul Cheney

Paul Cheney, Senior Partnership Content Manager, MECLABS Institute Paul helps turn raw research into easy-to-understand content for MarketingExperiments readers. He earned his B.A. in English literature from Covenant College. Before joining the MarketingExperiments team, Paul wrote grant proposals and fundraising letters for a mid-size nonprofit in New Jersey. He has also worked as a freelance Internet marketing consultant and copywriter for small businesses. In his spare time, Paul enjoys reading, writing poems and dating his wife, Callie.

Categories: Copywriting Tags: ,

  1. Victor O’Brien
    December 29th, 2015 at 17:33 | #1

    In the same vein, metaphor can be a powerful tool for clarity, but also for confusion. It is at once “the thing”, but not “the thing.”

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