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Why Pro Copywriters Enjoy A Million Dollar Advantage

You might have heard this mantra from me any number of times.  It is the core of effective copywriting.

It’s not a Secret.  It’s a Skill.  One shared by top copywriters around the globe.  I coined it a couple of years ago when one talented marketer put me on the spot by asking me to tell him – in one short sentence – what makes me different from the bulk of the mob of people calling themselves copywriters.

This was the sentence I burbled out – and he said, “Go with that.  That’s you.”

Once you master this system of communicating the benefits of your product with your own personality, you will increase engagement, sales, and revenue.

Now, we’ll put some meat on its bones.

About half the copywriting samples I evaluate, use mostly the right words – that is to say their copy follows the four C’s of Clear, Concise, Conversational, and Customer-oriented.

So, these writing samples show a grasp of copywriting methodology.  Then, we apply a few further tests.

  • Does it flow? Is the copy easy and pleasant to read?
  • Does it hold your interest?
  • Does it focus on the major benefits, or solutions, common to most prospects?
  • Is it memorable? Are there a few phrases that are not only completely understandable, but also serve up word groups that carve out a small place in the reader’s mind?

How Many Right Words Are Right?  There have always been battles based on copy length.  Different products need more explanation than others, be it a function of prospect awareness, competition, or price.  My rule of thumb is, “Make it as long as necessary to tell your complete story…but not one word longer.

When I worked on Madison Avenue, we were fortunate to have an art department that could do marvelous work with illustrations and photos.

Most of today’s freelance/independent writers handle the selection or creation of images themselves.  I know I do.  But too many either don’t have a good eye for illustrations or don’t place a high degree of importance on them.  This could be, and often is, ruinous to the success of a marketing piece.

  • First…the main image must be directly relevant to what you’re advertising.
  • The best images draw the reader in immediately. I like to use images of people, images of the product, or – ideally, images of people using the product.
  • Images should be “up close and personal”. I want to see people’s faces.  Please do not use group photos.  The people are too small to engage the reader.  Limit the number of people to 3 or 4 at most.  How many of you have your “avatar” on social media be a shot of your whole self set too far away to clearly see your face? 

Images are meant to connect readers to the product offering in a visceral way.

This is the bugaboo of most copywriting.

A Landing Page (or Sales Page) is most effective when it takes the reader seamlessly through the AIDA progression (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action).  An effective page usually consists of nine to twelve sections (I call them Thought Bites) arranged in an order I call Logical Thought Sequencing.

In what order should this be, exactly, must be worked out.  I have three templates I designed that cover most all situations.

  • When should you insert “price”?
  • When and how do you insert your first Call-To-Action? Too early in the sequence, and you haven’t earned the right to ask.  Too late, and you’ve missed the peak of desire.
  • What evidence is most effective for affecting “authority”, “expertise”, or “social credit”?
  • How and when do you deal with a person who may be interested, but is not yet ready to buy or commit?

All these, and more, need to be considered before your landing page or webpage is ready to go, which is why all copywriters need proven formulas to help them :

  • Save Time
  • Lessen Mistakes
  • Be More Consistent
  • Bring Better Results

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Part II – Some Things You May Not Know About Copywriting Formulas

“Hey, who’s the creative guy around here?”

Question a lot of “creative” guys (and gals) about their ads, webpages and emails, there’s a good chance you may experience a reply similar to this. They are basically telling you that they are blessed with creative talents (probably true) and that used sufficiently and given free rein, those talents can sell anything to anyone (most definitely false).

Let’s see how Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, looks at it.

True Creativity Nedds the Discipline of Formulas to Be Effective in Gaining AA Million Dollar Advantage
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The answer is, absolutely YES.

Some, thankfully not all, Creatives go apoplectic when it is suggested they “stifle their creativity” so it fits within the parameters and goals of a marketing formula.

They cannot accept that the successful ad writers who came before them worked with a formula. Sometimes that formula was concretely stated, sometimes the discipline came from an innate sense of what works.

For many, unfortunately, what works takes a back seat to “what will win me an award”. Try to persuade them of the good sense of your position in favor of scientific ad creation and they’ll fight you hammer and tong no matter how many truths you tell them. It reminds me of the movie A Few Good Men when Jack Nicholson yells at Tom Cruise: “You can’t handle the truth!”.

Well, I’ve got some truths I’d like to tell you and I’m betting that you, as serious marketers and copywriters, can handle it.

Who knows, you might even agree with me.

There is a need for marketing and advertising rooted in formulas or methodology. There are, for instance, an infinite number of ways you can arrange words on a page.  

Some of them make it easy to read your copy, while others create obstacles to your words being read. More on that later. Here now, the truths.

  1. Marketing is a blend of Science and Art.
  2. Working with a sound, proven formula will produce winning marketing a lot more often than relying on innate creativity and gut feelings.
  3. Highly creative people gravitate to Marketing, Copywriting and Advertising.
  4. Often creative people aren’t very disciplined.
  5. Undisciplined creativity can leave your marketing “…sliding on the slippery surface of irrelevant brilliance.” (Frank Ogilvy)
  6. Rather than being the driver of success, Creativity often gets in the way of the marketing message, limiting success.
  7. How creative you can be is often directly related to the amount of money you have to spend.

These seven statements point out the need for having marketing formulas you can go by. As a copywriter, I consider myself to be a creative person. I choose, however, to discipline my creativity so there’s a greater chance of it being effective.

And effectiveness brings better results.

A formula (aka model, method, or system) is simply a guide – or template, if you will – you use to make sure your marketing piece includes all the elements that will work to make it successful.  And includes them in the right order.

One of the most significant “Musts” for a marketer or copywriter is Differentiate.  It’s one of the two central tenets of my7-step Intelligent Creativity method.

Intelligent Creativity consists of seven deadly sins of marketing and copywriting introduced in my first book, The 7 Deadly Sins of Marketing…And How To Avoid Them.

It’s as true now as when I created it in 2007. 

The book’s Table of Contents:

  1. Myopia – Taking the Narrow view of Marketing
  2. Imitation – If it’s good enough for Coca-Cola
  3. Sameness – Choices Are Made On Differences, Not Sameness
  4. Arrogance – “Formula? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Formula”
  5. Ego – Write Copy For Sales, Not Style
  6. Ignore-ance – Ignoring 94% Of Your Market
  7. Apathy – “I Don’t Know And I Don’t Care”

In keeping with our theme of Formulas, we’ll focus on the 4th Deadly Sin and how it relates to the topic we’re discussing here.

Once you’ve successfully identified your differentiators/USPs, it’s time to begin turning concepts into copy.

The reason you spend time and money on marketing communications is to sell your products. This is true no matter what type of advertising you do. From Direct Response (including websites and emails), where your goal of a sale is immediate, to Corporate Image – or Institutional – advertising where the objective is to engender respect and admiration for the corporation rather than sell a specific product. The ultimate goal is still the same—more clients and increased sales.

It follows, as night follows day, that when we communicate it’s critical that people pay attention to what we’re saying. The first function of marketing communication is to get as many prospects as possible to read what you have to say.

Would you not agree?

Rather than unleashing uncurbed creativity we rely on a “formula” that tells us what page structure has been particularly effective in getting readers to experience all of your wonderous copy.

The 11- Thought Bite sections I lay out on the following template are for a webpage, email, brochure, or direct response piece.  These four marketing pieces make up about 90% of a typical small business’ marketing mix.

This structure, paired with superior copywriting has produced more stronger results than any other I’ve used in my almost 40-year career.  One overarching reason for this success is that, as readers scroll down the page, they are, in effect, giving you a “mini-yes” each time they move from one Thought Bite to the next, until they reach the Call-To-Action.

Match the content of the Thought Bites on  list below, with the numbers on the following illustration.

  1. WHAT you do and HOW you can help your customer.
  2. Your VALUE PROPOSITION.
  3. WHY someone should buy from you, rather than your competitors, regardless of price.
  4. EVIDENCE that backs up your WHY claims. These first four thoughts make up your Unique Marketing Message.
  5. Your Story – how you came to this business, your reason for being, your passions?
  6. Benefits for Buyers – what problems can you solve, what wants can you fulfill?
  7. Motivating Offer – what “special” deal can buyers receive?
  8. Call-To-Action (CTA) – what are you asking your readers to do now? Buy? Go to a webinar? Request Free Information? Watch this Video?
  9. Risk Reducers – The first CTA is there for that small percentage of readers who have enough positive information to make a buy decision…but not all do that. They have doubts and anxieties. They need reassurance so we give them Risk Reducers like Money Back Guarantees, Easy returns, etc.
  10. CTA #2 – Now that you’ve answered their questions and quelled their anxieties, you present a second call to action combined with…
  11. Testimonial – testimonials are good practice on your webpage, but even more so at the point you ask for the “Big Yes” – your CTA.

Why has this template (or Formula) yielded such superior results?  The order of the Thought Bites are psychologically sound, the eye track takes the reader straight to the Calls-To-Action, and there are precious few distractions along the way.

This Page Formula Contributes to obtaining your Million Dollar Advantage
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  • Copywriters MUST acquire the ability to use the Right Words and the Right Images, in the Right Order if they are to be successful in their career.
  • The best, quickest, and often least expensive way to do this, is by taking courses with extensive material you can use for your entire career. PLUS, a good coach to evaluate your work and your progress (especially in the beginning).
  • The Right Words and Right Images are the copywriting parts of the formula and that, my friends, would require a mountain of my videos, audios, and guides.
  • All the “Thought Bite Sections” are designed for one thought or concept only. It’s an absolutely, positively, unbreakable rule.

Please visit my Website for more info and content.

When you’re there, you can get a $1, 7-Day Trial subscription to the “How To Write Copy” System.

To your Astounding Success.

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Categories
Copywriting Marketing Marketing Strategy

What Is Circular Reasoning?

Advertisers have been using Circular Reasoning to sell products almost forever.  Yet people are not totally aware of it or how it works.

Advocates would say it helps give a mental picture to an undefinable quality, like softness, smoothness, or strength.  Opponents would counter with “yes, but the connection between the reasoning and the exact truth is not provable.

Like a metaphor…strong as a Redwood, she has a heart of gold, or slimy as an eel.  I get a kick when I read a writer who derides cirircular reason as “just so much bull****!”.  Do they know what they’re saying?

Anyway, in writing this piece my intent is to educate (as always) and entertain.  It’s Copywriting 301 on the lighter side.

Charmin is the largest selling toilet tissue in the U.S. with 86,270,000 users according to Statista.

So, the fact that I’m writing this little “exposé” of this revered Proctor & Gamble product, shows I can’t be bought off.  Not even for a 30-pack of Charmin Ultra.  I have my principles, by golly.

That said…here we go.

Mr Whipple

From 1964 to 1985 Charmin ran a hugely successful campaign that catapulted Charmin into the top echelon of bathroom tissue brands in the U.S.

The mainstay of the campaign centered around Mr. Whipple (played by Dick Wilson in over 500 TV spots) who admonished shoppers, “Please…don’t squeeze the Charmin”.  But seconds later, he couldn’t resist squeezing it himself. All this to prove to everyone that Charmin is “Squeezably Soft”.  [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DUGroVDEVfQ]

And it worked like a charm in popularizing Whipple’s tagline with the popular lingo of the time,  .  You’d hear in High Schools, and my mother’s canasta games.  It was everywhere.

Charmin built it's brand with Circular Reasoning
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But Why Was Charmin So “Squeezably Soft”?

So finally, we come to the exposé.

When consumers went to their local markets to pick up Charmin (and they went in droves) virtually everyone stopped to squeeze the Charmin.  And, lo and behold…

it was softer.

Okay, Now We’ve Got To Go Technical. 

A roll of bathroom tissue consists of a cardboard tube around which is wrapped hundreds of sheets (generally two plies thick) of tissue.  Pretty standard for consumer products in those days.

Then, Charmin’s ad gurus got a bright idea.  Let’s re-engineer the cardboard tube, making it thinner, with less cardboard, and thus…not as rigid.

Bingo!  When the buyers were squeezing a package Charmin in the store, the new cardboard tube gave way more easily than did the old, more rigid tube, giving the impression that Charmin was, indeed, softer.

A phenomenally successful ad campaign based on Circular Reasoning.  If the package was softer when squeezed, ergo, the tissue inside must be softer. 

Not necessarily true.

And Today

Proctor & Gamble is still selling Charmin by the boatload as “soft and strong”.  Not bad for a cast-off brand of paper towels P&G bought in 1957 and renamed “Bounty” in 1964 about the time Charmin morphed into TP.

What a world.

Life is funny.

Not “ha-ha” funny, more like ironic funny. In my life (so far) I’ve been awarded three non-sports awards tied to marketing and copywriting.  One by the state of Arizona, another by a Charity, and the third by Nassau County (NY) Office of Consumer Affairs.

The irony is this – the smallest, oldest, least prestigious award is the one of which I’m proudest, because it was really won by the talent and creativity of my students.

I Love It When A Plan Comes Together

It was a class in Marketing and Advertising.

After my lessons and reading, students were broken up into four “Creative Teams”.  Their task was formidable.

  • Design a product for the mass market.
  • Differentiate your product from any competition.
  • Create a Name, Unique Selling Proposition, and Tagline.
  • Create one Print Ad, one radio spot, and one TV spot for your product.

What came out of the fertile minds of these 17 – 18 year-olds astounded me.

It Astounded Others As Well

As the ads were being finished up, I heard – through the grapevine – that the County was sponsoring a contest for marketing students in high schools and community colleges.

After discussing this with my students, they were so excited to participate, they agreed to work through spring break.  And work they did.  By contest deadline time all four teams presented their products and – as it was impossible to choose between them – they agreed to enter as a single, combined team.

So – get on with it – what did the products look like?

No Jetsons’ “Briefcase Planes” or “Levitation Pods”

Here are the two ads I remember most vividly.  Remember, their products had to have mass market appeal.

One brought us a new chewing gum brand. 

  • It was unique in the double-sized length of a stick of gum.
  • The tagline was “The Gum For Lovers”.
  • The differentiating aspect was in the advertising. A boy and a girl could start chewing from either end, then meet in the middle for a kiss.
  • They named it “2 To A Chew”. Great cadence and a rhyme.
  • The team even created their own jingle “Girls start of Pink, Boys start on Blue, Try Chewing Our Gum, New 2 To A Chew.
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My replica of their handmade print/poster ad.

Double-Edged Blade – Circular Reasoning

Another team “floated” a new razor blade as their product.

While not a “new” product, nor truly differentiating itself from others by it’s make-up, this team chose to differentiate by their marketing claims.

  • Slip’ry Smooth – “The Blades That Float On Water.” (tagline)
  • “If they can float on water, think about how smooth they’ll feel on your face.”
  • To demonstrate and “prove” their claim, their TV spot showed their blade being placed in a bowl of water. “It Floats”.
  • The Circular Reasoning employed in their ad, was arguable – but effective.

Put these kids on Madison Avenue immediately : )

Circular Reasoning at its finest
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Representation of the TV Spot showing a floating blade.

“If it can float on water, think about how smooth it will feel on your face.”

Depending on your point-of-view, Circular Reasoning is either a marketing technique, a bit of “slight-of-tongue”, or outright misdirection.

Circular Reasoning exists when one provable fact (like a double-edged blade floating on water) is used to validate an unrelated claim (like it will feel smooth on your face).

See how many you can come up with.

I was honored (on behalf of my students) for excellence in the teaching of marketing, advertising, and consumer education.

What this experience taught me was…give people some basic training and task them with putting that training to work combining it with their own innate creativity…and you’ll find some extraordinary hidden talents.

From what I know, one of the students is now an optometrist, another writes high-level code for a multi-national aircraft manufacturer, a third is a mom and a fourth was majoring in Marketing and Copywriting…(yay!).

To Your Astronomical Success,

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More For You

As you progress in marketing and copywriting, here are a couple of helpful articles for you:

And, if you are considering acquiring professional copywriting skills, might I suggest taking a serious look at my pride and joy, the “How To Write Copy” System at Write Like A Madman University.

You’ll find 4 full courses, 3 Tutorials, and 7 loaded toolboxes that will give you great “What-To”, “How-To”, and “Why-To” information.  These 159 Members-Only videos, audios, guides, checklists, templates, and real world Case Studies will provide you with an unbeatable copywriting and marketing “How-To” resource you’ll use throughout your career.

Plus, you’ll get access to my Blog Like A Madman with over 115 articles covering various topics to help you be the best writer or marketer/writer you can be.

And you’ll also be able to call on me as a coach, mentor, and editor.

A.T.

Categories
Copywriting Marketing Marketing Strategy

Marketing Mind Games – What They Don’t Want You To Know

Marketing Mind Games – What They Don’t Want You To Know

Marketers (and Copywriters) are not devious people.  They are, however, not above allowing you, the customer, to draw your own conclusions based on nothing more than your own mind.  These are the Marketing Mind Games they play.

The “trick”, if I can use that word, is not based on a lie, or even a small misrepresentation.  The trick is in understanding how the human mind works.  In understanding psychology.

It’s somewhat like if you’re in a restaurant and the table next to is served their food.  One person takes a bite and audibly reacts with a “mmmmm-mmm”.  Then says to their table mates, “OMG, is this ever deee-licious!”.

When the waiter comes around for your order, you say, “I’ll have what she’s having”.

The strong suggestion you took from the person at the other table influenced your decision.  For good, or for not so good – only your first bite will tell.

Marketers understand “suggestion” better than most.  With the two examples we’ll deal with in this installment of Marketing Mind Games, I believe you’ll come out understanding it too.

1. The A/B Ruse

2. The “Ahhh” That Refreshes

#1

Marketing Mind Games as a Taste Test
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 Do you believe the results of those comparison tests

where people choose between A and B?

You won’t after you read this.

Proving what?  The advertising copy seems to say this ‘proves‘ Tweedledee is better than Tweedledum.   Therefore, you ought to buy Tweedledee.  These comparison tests are inflicted on us by brands and their slippery marketing consultants so they can both sway Tweedledum users to consider buying Tweedledee and confirm to Tweedledee lovers that they made the right choice all along. 

They’re playing Marketing Mind Games on you.

Can’t argue with a scientific test, right?  Not so fast.  Let’s take a look at the typical consumer test…Pepsi vs Coke, Prego vs Ragu, Rocco’s Gelato vs Fred’s Gelato and so forth… from the perspective of an honest brand strategist and copywriter who detests sneaks, cheats, and liars. 

In a double-blind test, one product is labeled “A” and the other is labeled “B”.  Neither the consumer nor the tester knows which product is which. Sounds fair, no?   No.  Meet the A/B Ruse

It’s the oldest trick in the book, a carnival game, a first-class deception, a marketing strategy used by charlatans.  Here’s the bottom line:  “A” ALWAYS WINS!  Not only does “A” always win, but the percentages remain remarkably consistent.  About

70% – 30%, give or take a couple of points (as long as you test at least 200 subjects).

Why?  Simple.  In our culture “A” has a better connotation than “B”.  “A” is first class, highest quality.  “B” is the also ran.  If you get a B on your math test instead of an A, do you feel elated?  You want to be included on the A-List.  Second-rate films are referred to as “B” movies.  Do you want to be part of the “A Team” or the “B Team”?  In people’s minds “A” is always superior to “B”.

This has been proven over and over again by “testing” identical products with the A and B labels.  The same soda in each cup, the same pasta sauce in each bowl, the same cookie on each plate… “A” always wins.  When teaching a Consumer Economics and Marketing course, my class did a taste test with two brands of orange juice. 

First, we labeled one juice “A”, and it won.  Then we tested a second group of subjects where we labeled the winning juice “B”, and it lost.  By almost the exact same margin.  Then, for good measure, we tested a third group where both A and B were the same brand of juice.  Guess what?  Right you are.  A won, being preferred by about 68%.  Amazing!

Now I want to assure you, the A/B Ruse can be inflicted upon consumers of many things, not just food and drink.  I’ve heard of “blind” tests comparing headache remedies, golf balls, and even seat cushions.

If you truly want to do a scientific test, label the products 36GTD121 and 36SRN276.  Now you have a great chance of coming up with a valid result.  But why would companies spend good money on a test that isn’t totally rigged in their favor?  They wouldn’t.

So, if you’re involved in marketing and you’re seeking a way to differentiate your product from that of your competitor, resist the temptation to “fake it” by reverting to the old A/B Ruse.  It’s a game you don’t want to play.

#2

Why Marketing people link "Ahhh" to tasty, refreshing, and perfect?
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When someone takes a drink and then goes “Ahhh!”

it means the drink is tasty, refreshing and satisfying, right? 

Not so fast….read on.

One of the talents good copywriters bring to the table is the ability to add an emotional component to the sales pitch.  By inventing some word or phrase that embodies an emotion, a copywriter adds that extra layer of persuasion that might make the difference between an average success and a rip-roaring, break out the champagne and give the copywriter a bonus success.

I’m getting older – and for a guy who offers professional copywriting services, that means many of my examples are from my days as a callow youth.  You may, if you’ve reached your fifth decade, remember “Mmm Mmm Good!” (Campbell’s Soup)

What a grand idea.  Describing soup as “Mmm Mmm Good!” is far better than any ordinary words the copywriter could have used, like tasty, delicious, satisfying, exciting or exhilarating.  That one phrase got a generation or two of kids to like eating soup.

Most everyone is familiar with the beverage commercial showing a person just after they’ve downed a healthy amount of whatever’s being advertised.  He or she looks at the drink and goes “Ahhhh”.  Don’t laugh.  We all do it.  And we all understand it.  It means “this is good; this is refreshing; this hit the spot”.  Now here’s the little secret.  It’s almost impossible not to go “Ahhh!” after taking a big swig of your favorite beverage.  Here’s why.

When you prepare to take in a goodly amount of liquid (water, beer, coffee, soda, etc) you first take in a breath, then you hold that breath and drink.  (Think about it…if you tried to breathe while you’re drinking you might just drown.) 

When you’ve finished your swallow you, by necessity, release your breath and out comes… “Ahhh!”.   You might even emulate commercials and look at the drink in your hand, satisfied.

So whatever great copywriter first thought of this as a way of showing their beverage is so refreshing, tasty, and wonderful, the drinker can’t help but express extreme satisfaction, kudos to him or her.   Encourage people to associate your beverage with exactly the quality that moves them to buy.  In other words – whatever you associate with “Ahhh” is what you get. 

No middleman is necessary to tell you what you’re feeling, so the advertiser can’t be wrong.  “Ahhh!”.

Not really.  I want here to draw the distinction between a Marketing Mind Game – designed to deceive, and some very, very good psychological copywriting.  In using the word “Ahhh!” to relate to good, satisfying, refreshing, warming, etc. is just the copywriter capturing what consumers actually do – but never really noticed.

This is no Marketing Mind Game.  Get a jump on your Website and Copywriting with my FREE Guide, 5 Steps To Becoming A DARN GOOD Copywriter.  It’s a great help for copywriters of every skill level -especially honest ones.

Many budding copywriters and business owners need help in crafting branding statements, advertising, online web copywriting and content, press releases and the like.  I encourage you to find a good branding strategy consultant/professional copywriter who can take what’s in your heart and your head and put it in a way that will let you reach your goal of educating your prospects, allowing them to conclude they would have to be raving lunatics if they didn’t do business with you.  If you’re looking for a good online digital copywriting course, kindly check out Write Like A Madman And Make Money Like Crazy, my 13-Video, 30-piece multi-media Signature Course.  Click here to watch the first video Free

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