Author: Eugene Schwartz
I went through a stage maybe seven years ago where I got really into copywriting and read pretty much every classic book in the field: Scientific Advertising, Ogilvy on Advertising and The Boron Letters were all excellent.
The one that stood out the most though was Eugene Schwartz’s Breakthrough Advertising (copies go for $400 on Amazon now but you can find old copies floating around if you have copywriter friends…).
Copywriting is a generally useful thing to learn because it’s really just “how to convince people to do something.” This is of course helpful in sales and marketing specifically, but it’s also generally useful in getting basically anything done. Using copywriting techniques in an email to a colleague will make it more likely they do what you ask.
There are three questions you must answer before you can determine what goes in your headline (and thus the positioning of the entire ad).
- What is the mass desire that motivated your market?
- How much does your market know about your product? (What is it’s State of Awareness?)
- How many similar products have they been told about before? (What is it’s State of Sophistication?)
Copy cannot create a desire for a product. It can only take the hopes, dreams, fears and desires that already exist in the hearts of people and focus those already existing desires onto a particular product. If it must create a new desire than it is education and you cannot afford to educate the entire populace.
There are three dimensions to mass desire:
- Urgency, intensity, degree of demand to be satisfied – constant arthritic pain creates much more desire for a solution than a minor headache.
- Staying power, degree of repetition, inability to become satiated – Raw hunger creates a much stronger desire for craving than gourmet foods. Every copywriter looks like a genius when there’s a starving crowd.
- Scope/Scale – the number of people with these desires.
All products have an element of many different mass desires, but only one can predominate your marketing, only one unlocks the largest numbers of payers at your particular product-market-time nexus.
Choosing that one mass desire is the most important step you will take in planning your marketing.
The basic structure of an ad:
- Choose the biggest Pain.
- Agitate the Pain.
- Show the transformation (i.e. Hero’s Journey) of how your product removes the pain – make it easy to visualize
The opening is the most important. If your headline stops there reader, they will read the first statement.
If they read the first, then they will read the second, if they read the second then he will probably read through the ad.
Note: I think the word “ad” can be interpreted as a “marketing campaign” or “blog post” in a modern context.
State of Awareness
One of the most important concepts that good copywriters understand and bad ones don’t is that you must know your customer.
One of the key models for thinking about your customers shared by Schwartz is the idea of a State of Awareness.
At any given point in time, each market has a different state of awareness and how you advertise to them should be tailored to that state of awareness.
There are five overall states:
1. The Most Aware
The customers know of your product, know what it does, know they want it. Your headline simply needs to state the name of the product and the price. That’s it. Don’t get fancy.
2. The Customer Knows of Your Product but Doesn’t Want It Yet
This is the bulk of traditional (pre-internet) advertising. The main purpose of the ad is to reinforce the product’s superiority through visualization, documentation and mechanisms.
In the 1950’s Life Savers had an extremely successful ad that said “Please don’t lick this page!”
Everyone already knew what Life Savers were, so the ad merely made them look desirable and indicated that other people had licked the page and so it must be desirable.
3. How to Introduce New Products
In this 3rd stage, the prospect knows or recognizes immediately what they want, but doesn’t yet know that there is a product that will do it.
The problem is two-fold:
- To pinpoint the ill-defined as yet uncrystallized desire.
- To crystallize that desire and its solution so sharply and dramatically that every prospect will recognize it at a glance.
The three steps in this stage are:
- Name the desire and/or its solution in your headline – You aren’t merely listing the product as in stage 1, but speaking to the person’s desire. (E.g. Live Longer! or Get a Good Job!)
- Prove that solution can be accomplished.
- Show that the mechanism of that accomplishment is contained in your product.
4. How to introduce Products that solve needs
The prospect has a need, not a desire, and doesn’t realize the connection between that need and your product.
This requires the same three-step formula as above, with the one key difference that you will have have to spend a lot more time stimulating that desire – what is the pain point you are solving and why is it so painful to them?
One of the classic copywriting techniques for structuring an ad or sales pages is Problem, Agitate, Solve (PAS).
The formula rightly points out that the most important thing is spending time stimulating the desire and focusing on that with the solution as an afterthought.
Most businesses jump straight to the solution first and lose a lot of sales as a result.
If your prospect has a need but not a strong emotional desire, then you need to spend most of the marketing energy building up that desire.
5. How to Open Up a Completely Unaware Market
The prospect is not aware of their desire/need or won’t admit it. Perhaps it’s so amorphous and general that it can’t be summed up in a simple headline.
This of course is the most difficult stage. There are not any formulas for this, but you must avoid all the angles from other states of awareness with which the market has already been barraged.
State of Sophistication
- You are the first in your market – Be simple, be direct, don’t be fancy. State the Solution to the desire simply in the headline and dramatize it in the body copy.
- Now! Lose Ugly Fat!
- You are the second in the market – Copy the successful claim but dramatize it.
- Lose up to 47 pounds in 4 weeks or receive $40 back.
- The Third Stage of Sophistication – Your prospects have heard the claims and all the dramatizations have been taken to the very edge of believability. The desire (say to lose weight) has not faded and the dissatisfaction continues to build, they want a new way to satisfy an age-old desire. Here the emphasis shifts from what the product does to how it works. Not accomplishment but performance becomes he dominant. The deadline expands and is reinforced by the mechanism that accomplishes the satisfaction of the desire.
- Floats Wonder Drug For Reducing.
- The Fourth Stage – Just like the second stage expands on the desire from the previous stage, the fourth stage expands on the mechanism.
- First No-Diet Wonder Drug For Reducing.
- How To Revive a Dead Product – Your market no longer believes in your advertising. The emphasis shifts from the promise and the mechanism to identification with the prospect himself.
- Ex. When Cigarette companies started using visual ads of cowboys to reinforce masculinity of the product or picked a new market by targetting women.
The next step is to verbalize. Can you add something which creates an image in the prospect’s mind, a metaphor of their desire?
Last Updated on June 23, 2020 by Taylor Pearson