Whatever happened to the YOU angle?

why you are the most important person in advertising on HTWB

What ever happened to the “you” angle?

Recently a discussion on another online platform reminded me of this sad fact: far too many businesses still are trying to sell themselves in writing with the cart pulling the horse. In other words? They write about “we.” Wrong: all that counts in marcoms, is the YOU angle.

Going back to this discussion on another platform, members of the group were asked to comment on the overall impression given by two websites, both in the same industry sector.

What surprised me even more than the awful text in itself, was the fact that many people commenting on the sites didn’t pick up on the fact that that text was awful … until I, and the original poster, pointed it out. In all but one or two places on both sites the text glorified what “we” do and what experience “we” have without relating any of it to what “we” can do for “you.”

Get real, business world

If you expect people to buy into your service, idea, concept or whatever else, you can’t expect them to do it without giving them a damned good reason. Why should they do anything to please you? Why should they be impressed by all that stuff you’ve done for other clients, when there is nothing in the text to suggest why that experience can be used to add value to “our” needs and goals?

It’s weird; from my earliest days working as a humble ad copywriter, I was taught to focus on what my delightful old boss used to call the “YOU angle.” He was absolutely right; that’s all that counts when you’ve got something to sell.

So how do we get the YOU angle to work for us?

This is a partner phrase to “what’s in it for them,” or rather, “what’s in it for you.” Whatever you write in business communication is in some way trying to bring about change – to sell something to someone, even if it is just a change in attitude or a fresh perspective or a new way of regarding you, the writer.

For more articles on business writing techniques, styles and approaches, click right here on HTWB

That being so, the faster you stop talking about “me” and “us” and start talking about “you,” the more successful you are likely to be.  You probably know about the whole features vs benefits issue … benefits sell, features smell! The YOU angle follows on. Features don’t do anything for you; benefits do. And you must be there right up front contemplating those benefits, otherwise you get bored and lose interest.

Which of the following first paragraphs in a business letter – sent to you in your role as a veterinary surgeon – would interest you more?

1.As one of the leading suppliers of veterinary consumables in Europe we are pleased to announce our new range of self-adhesive bandages which have been proven to improve on sticking efficiency by more than 50% beyond that of any competitors, yet are offered at the same price as our previous product range.

2.As a busy veterinary surgeon, you may well be pleased to know that our new range of self-adhesive bandages stick and stay on 50% better than any others – yet they won’t cost you any more than before. 

Okay, that’s pretty hard sales stuff. Let’s try a softer route and see if the same principle applies. In fact let’s get right out of the business arena altogether. Here are two versions of an e-mail to an acquaintance…

why the you angle is important in ad writing

Why ad copy should speak directly to “you”

1.Brigitte has a very pleasing personality and loves children, especially in the under-5 age group. She is also very agreeable and willing to help with most household chores, including cleaning, which not all nannies are prepared to do, as has been experienced. I would have no hesitation whatsoever in recommending Brigitte as a nanny to any family.

2.I think you would like Brigitte and she loves children, especially in the age group your two are. You’ll also find it useful that she’s willing to help with most of your household chores, even cleaning – that’s something not all nannies are prepared to do, as you will remember! All in all I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Brigitte to you as your next nanny.

It’s not exactly rocket science, is it? Applying the YOU angle simply means involving the reader or listener or viewer from the beginning – calling their attention right away and then keeping it by maintaining their involvement with what you’re saying. It’s how humans talk to each other. And we all know how fed up we get when someone talks at length about themselves without involving anyone else in the monologue, don’t we.

It’s like the joke about the actor who had been boring a young lady for some hours about his career, his looks, his clothes, his acting ability and everything else. Finally he turned to her, smiled sweetly and said, “well, that’s enough about me.  Now, what do YOU think of me?”

Let’s get YOU writing superbly:

“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write

“Business Writing Made Easy”…everything you need to know about writing for business in English

“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English




  1. […] So, so, true. The potential employer, as mentioned above, only cares about what’s in it for them – so the “I” this or that leaves them cold. Turn your text around so that it focuses on what you can do for them – otherwise known as the YOU angle… […]

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