Memo #20

A Word is Worth a Thousand Pictures - Why Text Ads Can Outperform Visual Ones


What if I told you that doing the exact opposite of common marketing practices can often give you a higher ROI than following the well-trodden path? It’s commonly accepted that the punchier and shorter your ad copy is, the better.

However, this is not always the case.

We were reminded of this truth quite recently, wherein we noticed that an orthodontics client of ours got more conversions from less aesthetic posts, containing a lot of information, than with beautiful ones, sparse with words.

The reason for this was simple, orthodontics are expensive. People want to make sure they have all the information before they commit. And taking this into account when designing a marketing campaign decreased our client’s CPA (Cost-Per-Acquisition) from $167 to $66, as well as their CPC (Cost-Per-Click) from $2.88 to $1.48.

Why did this work?

There are two main ways in which people purchase a product - impulse buying and purchasing with deliberation.

Impulse buying tends to be the realm of cheap eCommerce products or services, wherein the less time to second-guess themselves customers have, the better.

On the other hand, deliberation-based buying tends to occur with larger purchases, these are often major life decisions to be made, and so people don’t take them lightly.


Coincidentally, these two types of purchase journeys align very well with a psychological theory known as “the dual-cognition theory.” Or, in plain English, people have two ways of processing information:

  • Fast - This type of thinking tends to be instinctual, based on preconceptions one has already formed of the world, and quick to come to a conclusion
  • Slow - This type of thinking involves collating and processing information in a logical fashion.

How to plan your marketing strategies

Once you’re aware of these two mental processes, it becomes far easier to plan your marketing strategies. Firstly, you need to identify which of the two spheres your products or services fall under.

If it’s fast thinking, and you’re dealing with high volume items, then it becomes very important to simplify the purchase journey.

Don’t overcomplicate things, cut out the extra steps, use colorful imagery that catches the eye, and focus on making it an emotional decision.

On the other hand, if it’s a decision that requires slow thinking because it’s life-changing or expensive, then focus on explaining the benefits of the product.

In regards to our orthodontics client, the advertisement that increased our outbound CTR (Click-Through-Rate) from 0.17% to 0.23% was a comparison chart between their product and alternative treatments.

It provided about 5 good reasons regarding practicality, finances, useability, etc. as to why it was the better choice.

However, this broke the commonly accepted wisdom of not making people think about their purchases.

Not only that, but it was an objectively worse-looking copy than the original one! However, it outperformed its visual counterpart by a mile, because it was a better fit for our clients’ business.


Marketing best practices are often derived from the most well-known examples available. If you’re selling items or services that are more niche, the rules of the game change.

It doesn’t make sense to sell an orthodontics treatment with the same strategies you would use to sell a weightloss book.

Yes, both are decisions based on the goal of looking better, but the approaches to reach this goal are very different.

As we saw from our example, text-based advertisements that highlight the benefits of the product in objective terms can outperform beautiful creatives with impeccable design.

In order to succeed in marketing, it’s not enough to know your target audience. You must also know how they make their purchasing decisions in regards to your product category and help them make the process more straightforward!

Advertising is more of an art than a science, there is no ultimate strategy that will always yield results.

Each item you sell is unique, and by acknowledging the different ways in which your audience engages with them, you will be able to make your adverts more effective.

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