Make Copywriting Great Again

*The below is an excerpt from an internal memo I wrote for our team about strong copywriting.

I see a lot of weak copy.

Why is it weak?

Because weak copy hedges and uses unneeded words.

Weak: If Amendment X passes it could lead to bad things for our families.

Strong: Amendment X destroys families.

Weak: John Smith wants to raise taxes which would put people out of work.

Strong: John Smith supports job killing tax hikes.

Weak: SDS has a team of skilled copywriters and video producers.

Strong: SDS employs an unrivaled creative team.

Why do the strong examples read and sound better?

  1. Subject>Verb>Object (SVO) sentence structure — SVO sentences are easy to read and force you to eliminate unneeded words.
  2. Fewer Words — The strong sentences are reworked to eliminate non-SVO words like “which,” “could,” that” and other words underclassman use to pad their word counts.
  3. Bold Verbs Instead of Blah Adjectives — The strong sentences describe using dynamic verbs instead of fuzzy adjectives.

The weak sentences are examples of “passive voice.” The strong sentences are examples of “active voice.” Only active voice is allowed in client copy.

Pro Tip: Find a verb to replace a weak adjective by searching “synonym for WEAK ADJECTIVE.” Strong verbs result in fewer words. Cool verbs lead to intriguing content.

The writer’s challenge is merely clear communication. The marketer however, must clearly communicate but also sell.

How do we sell?

We provoke emotion.

There are two master emotions for consumers or voters: aspiration and anxiety.

What can they gain? What can they lose?

Narrative underlies all emotion and all narratives have a villain.

The villain is the one who takes away.

The steps to make a villain are simple:

  1. Identify what the consumer values.
  2. Describe how the villain will take it away.

The villain’s trigger words are less, fewer, never, none, worse or never again

Congratulations, you have just created anxiety in the consumer’s mind.

All narratives also have a hero.

The hero is always the thing you are selling.

The steps to make a hero are simple:

  1. Identify what the consumer values.
  2. Describe how the hero will protect or increase it.

The hero’s trigger words are more, greater, always, better and again.

Marketers are not just storytellers and consumers are not just readers. We must give the consumer a role in the story through our call to action.

“Protect Our Village From Dragons, Vote No on Amendment X.”

“Click here and stop the embarrassing hair loss.”

“Contact us today and change your business forever.”

Urgency sells. Curiosity sells. Specifics sell. Exclusivity sells. Inclusivity sells. Novelty sells. Fear sells. Compassion sells.

Anything can sell if you Identify what the audience values and creatively describe how it can be gained or lost.

Pro Tip: You can’t write about what you don’t know. Read about the client or issue before you write. Steal good concepts from other places. The deeper your understanding, the better your copy.