A view from Dave Trott

A view from Dave Trott: I see a blog post in your future

The most successful horoscope writer ever was Jonathan Cainer.

He wrote every day for the Daily Mail for 20 years.

In 1999, when he said he was leaving, they immediately offered him £1m to stay.

That’s how important he was to the paper.

Every day, 12 million people read his horoscopes. 

In the Mail and online, in the UK and around the world.

In English, Spanish, Japanese, Italian, Chinese.

So what made him the most successful horoscope writer in the world?

This is where I think it gets really interesting.

Jonathan Cainer said his job had less to do with astrology and more to do with simple human psychology.

He said you don’t read your horoscope when your life is great.

You’re too busy enjoying yourself and getting on with life.

When you read your horoscope is when you’ve got problems.

Your partner’s splitting up with you or your domestic life is crap.

You can’t stand your job, you’ve got problems at work.

Whatever it is, you look at your horoscope when you’re desperate. You’ll look anywhere because you want help.

He said, to that extent, it makes no difference what sign you are or where the planets are.

He said his job was to be philosophical, to offer encouragement.

Something like: "You’re going through a rough period now in order to learn, but you’ll emerge stronger."

He understood that’s why people read horoscopes.

For help and encouragement.

By understanding the way people use horoscopes, Jonathan Cainer was able to totally reposition what he was offering.

Which is how he became the most successful horoscope writer in the world.

He didn’t look for the answer solely in the product.

He looked at the audience and found what they wanted.

What we’d call research: an insight.

He continued to call his product by the same name: horoscopes.

Because that helped people believe the advice was personal and relevant.

But he reformulated it to be what was really wanted: helpful motivational messages.

In our terms, his brief was to answer two simple questions:

1. What have I got to sell?

2. What does the consumer want to buy?

Then he put those two things together in an imaginative way.

Most people only ask one of those questions.

Either they just ask "What have I got to sell?" and end up doing hard-sell ads that are annoying and boring.

Or they just ask "What does the consumer want to buy?" and end up doing generic advertising that’s invisible, like a mood board.

Because Jonathan Cainer asked both questions, he was able to come up with an answer that reformulated one to fit the other.

What made him more successful than any other horoscope writer was that he understood something no-one else did.

The answer is always in one of two places: either it’s in the product or it’s in the consumer.

And if you’re really creative, it’s in both places.

That’s why Jonathan Cainer’s website is valued at £50m.

Dave Trott is the author of Creative Mischief, Predatory Thinking and One Plus One Equals Three