Wednesday, August 24, 2011

How advertising copywriters attract readers

I stumbled on the "21 Most Powerful Copywriting Rules of All Time by Dr. Joe Vitale" recently in a book called Mastering the World of Marketing. Why in the world would I be reading that you might ask? I happened to be reading something by Gary Vaynerchuk (a smart wine guy who was inspiring at TED and funny on Conan) and the list was on the next page. Anyway some of the most famous creative artists started as copywriters (Terry Gilliam, Salman Rushdie, Don DeLillo).

At least three of the "most powerful" rules on that list are interesting for creative writers, particularly for short forms like poetry, which is in the slump of a lifetime these days. Here are three I thought were interesting:
1. Write simply, directly, and in the conversational style of your prospects.

Who are you trying to reach? Housewives, business executives, children? You must know the type of person you are writing to. Write to one person from that group and you will speak to all people in that group. Forget trying to impress people, win writing awards, or please a past English teacher. Good copy often violates the rules of English but still makes the sale.

2. Use emotional appeal.

People buy for emotional reasons and justify with logic. Gene Schwartz wrote an ad that ran for 20 years and sold so many flowers it exhausted nurseries. It's packed with emotional appeal. It read in part:

"When you put this into the Earth, and you jump back (quickly), it explodes into flowers. And everybody in your neighborhood comes and they look. And people take home blooms because you've got so many you could never find a house big enough to put them. And you've become the gardening expert for the entire neighborhood."

3. Activate your writing.

Whenever you write the words "is," "was," "are," or "to be," train yourself to stop and change them to something more active. "The meeting is tonight" sounds dead; "The meeting starts at 7 PM sharp tonight" feels clear, direct and alive. "Clair Sullivan is the finest promoter in the country" doesn't convey the excitement that "Clair Sullivan creates corporate events better than anyone else on the planet" does.
The whole list of rules and book preview is here, but if you're like me you'll want to read more by Gene Schwartz, who is mentioned in number 2. You can somehow read his whole book Breakthrough Advertising free on Scribd or you can read a couple of chapters from his How To Talk And Write So That People Will Never Forget You here. Both are worth a look.

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