How to Use the BASE Approach to Create Effective Messaging

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I want to share a simple methodology for creating effective messaging.

I call it “BASE,” which stands for Beginning, AIDA, Storytelling, and Escape the Expected.

Here’s a quick rundown of each component:

B: Beginning

You likely already know the importance of headlines in effective messaging. They act as attention tools for grabbing your readers’ eyes and guiding them to your copy.

And although essential to every marketing piece, the headline takes a back seat to one element that determines whether your remaining text even gets read…

The first sentence.

After all, if your opening doesn’t cause prospects to read more, you can’t close a sale. An appealing start is absolutely critical to a successful marketing piece.

The problem is, too many people get lazy and resort to stating common knowledge. For example, check out the beginning of a dental website I recently visited:

“We know you and your family deserve the best care, and we are committed to ensuring successful treatment outcomes. We strive to serve your needs with a sense of caring, comfort, and a level of personal service beyond your expectations.”

Can you imagine the alternative? Why use such valuable real estate to promote information prospects already assume?

Below are the first few sentences from a letter I recently wrote to promote a tax credit program at my kids’ school. Notice how the text teases information the reader isn’t likely to know:

“If you were guaranteed to get back the money you gave to a school, how much would this increase your likelihood of making a contribution?

What if your contribution also gave you federal tax benefits?

You see, thanks to Arizona’s school tax credit program, you can share the gift of education with Villa Montessori students and get back 100% of what you give.”

With wording like this, you must keep going to find out how to make what’s promised possible.

It’s also worth noting that you can’t answer the first two questions with a “yes” or “no” response. Again, you’re forced to keep reading to get the answer.


AIDA is used in the advertising and marketing world as a type of formula for forming effective messaging. As such, many people understand what it is – but don’t necessarily know how each factor looks in a marketing piece.

The acronym stands for:

Attention: Interrupt the mental haze your readers live in every day (this is often where your headline comes into play).

Interest: Share uncommon or fresh information that elevates awareness (this is where you lead sentence(s) comes into play).

Desire: Tap an emotional need that boosts demand for what you offer.

Action: Tell your readers what to do next.

The most common AIDA elements I see missing from advertising and marketing pieces: Desire and Action.

S: Storytelling

Stories are a way to slide under your prospects’ selling radar and create memorable experiences.

In 2009, a couple of guys in New York ran an unusual experiment. Rob Walker and Joshua Glenn bought cheap trinkets at a thrift shop and hired writers to create stories about each item. They then posted the objects on eBay and shared the stories in the description sections.

The results were astounding…

A 99-cent snow globe brought in $59. A 25-cent egg whisk collected $30. Even a 59-cent flip-flop frame sold for $21.80.

In all, 100 items that cost $128.74 sold for $3,612.51.

Crazy, isn’t it?

The fact is, stories drive emotional value. People pay attention to stories. So, if you’re not telling stories in your marketing, you’re overlooking opportunities to add significance to what you sell.

Of course, the added bonus with stories is that they’re easy to remember.

Now, when it comes to writing stories, I like to remind myself of a quote from Frederick Buechner, a writer and Pulitzer Prize finalist.

His work primarily involves fiction, autobiographies, essays, and sermons. Yet he’s credited with saying what is essentially a complete copywriting course in a single sentence:

“They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”

You see, not enough marketing pieces incorporate feelings, which are naturally fused into stories. This is such a silly oversight, especially when you realize emotions are the foundation for all buying decisions.

That means emotions are also a huge piece of effective messaging.

Instead, most marketing touts items such as experience, superior customer service, and extensive capabilities. Again, though, you miss opportunities when you limit your message to these “givens.”

E: Escape the Expected

In addition to generating leads and sales, your copy must also establish trust. To help demonstrate how you can create trust in your copy, let’s look at your experience with strangers.

Ever notice how some strangers can quickly close the trust gap? Even though you just met them or were introduced to their product/service, you instantly feel a sense of trust.

We’ve all experienced these situations at one point or another.

So, why does this reaction happen?

When researching trust in marketing for my last book, one factor kept coming up in situations where trust gets established fast. It was almost as if you could shortcut the trust process.

All it involved was tapping a powerful emotion…


Simply put, go beyond what’s expected and trust often follows. Even better if your surprise demonstrates you both share a common goal.

Let’s look at kids’ restaurant preferences as an example. The instant children enter the world, a mysterious power takes over their minds, causing them to shout “McDonald’s” every time you ask “Where do you want to eat?”

It’s hard to understand the appeal of crappy burgers and processed chicken nuggets. However, study the situation from a child’s perspective and you understand the attraction.

You see, McDonald’s doesn’t just offer food — it creates experiences. There are the play areas…

Cartoonish characters like Ronald McDonald… Product tie-ins to popular movies… And even a surprise toy inside each Happy Meal.

All these items combine to create an experience that goes beyond the usual food served at home or other restaurants.

Ever order shoes from Zappos? If so, I bet you received them before the promised delivery date. The unexpected surprise likely left you with strong feelings for the company.

Fly Virgin Airlines? I guarantee your eyes were glued to the pre-flight safety video.

Research shows that our brains are hardwired to gain pleasure from unexpected events. In fact, this desire is so strong that some scientists believe surprises and drugs have similar addictive effects on our brains.

Pretty crazy, right?

So, ponder your prospects’ expectations the next time you evaluate your marketing efforts – then work in ways to deliver a surprise.

By Tom Trush

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