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By now, you’ve probably heard about Meryl Streep’s speech at this past weekend’s Golden Globe awards.

On stage to accept the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award, Streep gave a five-plus minute acceptance speech in which she positioned Hollywood against President-elect Donald Trump (and all she feels he stands for) without ever stating his name.


This post isn’t about whether I agree or disagree with her views. Because I’m a copywriter and I deal with marketing matters, this message is about what she did right in terms of marketing. (Okay, literally speaking, she was not promoting a product or service but she was promoting a certain viewpoint.)

So here it is:

1.    She communicated. First and foremost, you’ve got to put your message out there. I know of plenty of businesses that don’t market. They put an ad in the Yellow Pages and hope for the best…while they starve. The businesses and people who succeed don’t necessarily succeed because they are the best at what they do; it’s because they market consistently and effectively. They continue to communicate.

2.    She directed her message to the correct audience. You can have the highest quality ice cubes in the world but you will go out of business if you market them in Siberia. Wrong audience. Try Miami. The Hollywood movie industry is acknowledged to be largely Liberal and anti-Trump. The Golden Globes audience was mostly actors and other industry people. The perfect audience and an easy “sale” for Streep.

3.    Her speech was logically structured. Some have called it a rant but Streep’s speech was well thought-out and well paced. She started out with a reference to a comment made earlier by actor Hugh Laurie, then wove a speech which upheld the nobility of the acting profession and characterized Trump as its enemy. Streep gets bonus points for the latter because in direct marketing, you strengthen your offer when you identify your audience's enemy (and then position your product as the thing that vanquishes that enemy). A quick example of this is investment marketers, who characterize the economy or inflation as the enemy.

4.    She used emotion. Streep’s speech was dramatic. It was authentic. Before you can sell anything to anyone, you’ve got to elicit an emotion from them. Volvo did it by tapping into peoples’ insecurity and need for safety. Rolex does it by appealing to their audience’s desire for status and a feeling of power. Insurance companies use fear. Certain fashion brands use sex. 

Some of the people in the Globes audience seemed to appreciate Streep’s message while others didn’t show much enthusiasm. But in the world of direct marketing, you never get a 100 percent response. Ten percent is acceptable. Twenty-five percent is killing it. She seemed to be getting about a 40 percent response. Not too shabby.

So, whether or not you agree with her politics, from a direct marketing standpoint, she did a lot of things right. 

If you need some help doing things right with your own direct marketing efforts, I can help. Call me at 323-646-2469 or email me at steve (at) stevewagnercopy (dot) com.

Thanks for reading.

 
 
(or, what's copy got to do with it?)
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The "wish list" of many a direct marketer probably looks something like this:

1. More sales. 

2. More customers. 

3. Umm... more conversions, sales and customers. 

Makes sense, right?

But while some direct marketers regularly have high sales and attract new customers, other marketers struggle and even fail. 

Why? Ask Bly.

In his white paper, "The 12 Most Common Direct Mail Mistakes... And How To Avoid Them," renowned direct marketer Bob Bly isolates 12 factors. Not surprisingly, seven of them are related to the copy itself. 


So, all other things (product/service, mailing list and number of mailings) being equal, the greatest difference is the copy they use in their direct marketing efforts: 

•   High-quality copy gets read. A  percentage of readers take action (make a purchase or take another desired action such as "click here" or "call now"). Life is good!

•   Poor-quality copy does not get read. Less or no action occurs. Life ain't so good.

High-quality direct response copy is effective. It grabs readers' attention right from the headline or subject line and holds it. It fires their imaginations and increases desire for the marketer's solution to their pain point or deep desire. It presents an offer that's magnetic, irresistible--so high in value and low in risk, that the reader can't not buy it. 

Hence, high-quality copy makes you more money. 

Get Better Results

If your sales or lead generation aren't as healthy as they should be, the copy is often the first place to look, especially if it was written by someone without a lot of direct response experience or training. 

If you're going to tackle it yourself, I would highly recommend studying Bly's The Copywriter's Handbook or any of Dan Kennedy's "No B.S." books on the subject. 

Or contact me and let's discuss your copy and your marketing aims and see how I might be able to help.



(Originally posted on LinkedIn.)

 
 
I have traveled and lived in several places in the U.S. over the last year. In talking to the various people I've met, they've invariably asked what kind of work I did for a living.

"I'm a copywriter," I told them. 

Their responses ranged from a furrowed-browed nod to a change of subject.

Many people have no idea what "copywriting" or "copy" is or what a copywriter does.

Here is a short, easy-to-remember definition: A copywriter writes with the intent of getting the reader to act. No, I don't mean getting them to do community theater or pack up and move to Hollywood. By "act" I mean to "take an action."

If you've ever been looking around online and decided to give your email address to some website in exchange for a free e-book, newsletter subscription  or similar item, you've experienced copywriting. If you've ever ordered something on TV after watching an infomercial or QVC, you've experienced it.

"Okay, but that doesn't explain what 'copy' is," you're saying right now.

Definition of "Copy"


"Copy" is another word for "text," particularly text that is used to sell something (or get a person to take an action which may lead to a sale). It is not something that the writer "copied" from somewhere else, but something he/she wrote which is to be copied--printed in a magazine or newspaper or used in a TV/radio commercial, which gets broadcasted over and over.

The terms "copy," "copywriter" and "copywriting," traditionally relate to advertising, marketing and promotion but these terms sometimes get applied to other kinds of writing and writers. For instance, news writers and editors deal with their own kind of "copy."

Copywriters (the capable ones, that is) are trained in a specific and somewhat complex technology that they use to produce writing that engages the reader. It holds and increases their interest because it appeals to some fundamental desire or need for a solution to a problem. Ultimately, if it's written well, it gets them to take action.

To some this may seem sneaky or unethical but there's this one fact: people's desires and needs for solutions to their problems existed long before there were copywriters or the field of marketing. The only thing that marketing does is channel that existing desire or need in the direction of a particular product or service.

A copywriter writes with the intent of getting the reader to take action.
Take for instance the "mid-life crisis." For some men who've reach their forties or fifties, an insecurity may have set in about their looks, physical condition or ability with the opposite sex. They may long to recapture some of their youthful vitality. This phenomenon exists. You've observed it. And it's this phenomenon--not the copy--that enables companies to sell convertible sports cars, hair replacement surgery and Viagra. If one company doesn't make the sale, another will. And truly, all other things being equal, the winner will be the company with the most effective copy. 

Who Uses Copywriters? 


You might be surprised by the number and variety of businesses that use copywriters:
  • companies that advertise by mail (banks, book publishers, credit card companies, insurance companies, etc.)
  • companies that advertise via infomercials (fitness equipment, greatest hits music collections, etc.)
  • companies that sell online (too many to list), by way of landing pages, sales pages, long-form video sales letters, pay-per-click ads, etc.
  • non-profit organizations, who use copywriters to help in their fundraising efforts

(Though regular TV or radio commercials may be written by copywriters, much of that kind of this kind of advertising, which is usually short and clever or cute [and sometimes, confusing], doesn't follow the tenets of actual copywriting.)

Copywriters can also use this writing technology to help companies and individuals define who they are, how they are unique or what they do best, so as to differentiate themselves from their competition. This action is a part of what is broadly known as "branding." 


The Copywriter and the Brand

Branding is not entirely a matter of copywriting but of building an image and emphasizing a particular and desirable value, skill or strength. You've seen and felt it with with many companies. Some that come to mind are Chevrolet (long-lasting, "Like a rock"), Apple Computers (innovation, "Think Different") and Netflix (selection and convenience). 

Once the brand "message" is established, copywriters may write copy that conforms to the brand, to be used on everything from business cards to websites to television. 

And that, friends, is what copywriting is.

If you have questions about your current copy, need a review, or have a future copy project you'd like help in planning, call me at 323-646-2469 or
email me.
 
 
In 1979, Robin Williams won a Grammy Award for Best Comedy Recording for his album, Reality... What a Concept.

Robin Williams was an expert at bending and shaping reality on stage, changing his voice and mannerisms with remarkable speed. Though this short article isn't really about Robin Williams, I just have to give the man his due: he was a genius in his field.
Creating effective, winning direct marketing copy has everything to do with reality and concepts. 

What does that mean? It means knowing the product or service completely (i.e., the more you know about it, the more real it is to you, thus "reality").
It also means knowing the prospect as well as you can, through whatever sort of research necessary. What are their attitudes or emotions about the problem that your product or service solves?

With this product and prospect knowledge, you can you easily generate concepts to describe the benefits of the product/service in ways that get the reader engaged, interested ... wanting the product or service. If you don't have a firm reality on the product/service and the prospect, your concepts are likely to be off-target—not "real" to the reader.

If that still doesn't quite make sense, look at it this way: Think about a movie you have not seen, a book you have not read or a kind of food you've never eaten. How real are these things to you? Without that reality, how can you possibly succeed in getting someone else interested in the product or service?

You would have to rely on hype and empty promises. It wouldn't work.

The Most Reality Possible

I recently wrote a marketing video script for a company that makes a line of soft-sided coolers. They provided me some info about the product and their prospect base but they also wisely sent me one of the coolers to use. This made all the difference: to have the actual item, see how it's constructed, to use it and abuse it a bit. I found things about the actual product that I liked. I got interested and excited about it myself.


I went online to where I could find out more about people who use these kinds of products. What do they say about them? What do they use them for? What do they love about them? Hate about them? 

Though I was not initially a prospect for such a product, after a while researching it, I was thinking and writing just like a die-hard soft-sided cooler devotee. 

The company loved the script I wrote for them and hired me to write several more.

When I write a marketing piece about a book or information product, I read it through several times until I know the contents as well as the person who wrote it. I get excited about it. I collect information from my client or elsewhere about their customer avatar, so I know the right emotion to emphasize.

Then I apply time-tested direct response copywriting techniques to create copy that will connect with the reader and create want for the product.

But enough about me. What are your marketing challenges? And could you inject more reality into your campaign? Let me know if I can assist you: 323-646-2469 or email me.



(Originally published on LinkedIn 3/2/15)
 
 
Have you ever walked out of a movie before it was over? If you answered “yes,” can you recall why you got up and left? What was the reason?

Back in my early 20s, I took a girl on a date to see a movie called The Perils of Gwendoline, which looked okay in the coming attractions. “Gwendoline” was played by the young and attractive Tawny Kitaen and the film looked like a lightweight Raiders of the Lost Ark with a dash of Rocky Horror Picture Show…if you can imagine that. Okay, Perils of Gwendoline, here we go!

And we went alright: We were outta that theater 20 minutes after it started and we were not the only ones.

Was there something particularly offensive about the movie? No.

Did its production values look as if it had been shot on Super-8 film and edited with a butter knife? Not at all.

The problem was that it was uninteresting. Boring. Gwendoline failed to “hook” a significant part of the audience, who went streaming for the exits. (My apologies to the cult following that the film has since developed. Perhaps I would view the film differently today than I did back then.)

On the other hand, I was transfixed by a movie released the same year called Repo Man--a quirky indie film with a largely then-unknown cast (save for a barely-known Emilio Estevez and perhaps Harry Dean Stanton—if you were an aficionado of character actors). The plot (“Find the Chevrolet with the aliens in the trunk!”) was on the thin side. However, what it lacked in star power and plot line, it made up for with a significant quantity of interesting things that grabbed your interest and kept you interested.

(Interesting, isn’t it?)

In my last blog entry, I talked about redundancy and overwriting—using seven words to say what could be said with three or using the same sentence structures over and over. In pointing out these kinds of shortcomings in your own or another’s writing, it’s sometimes very easy to overlook what's really good about a piece of writing. 

I took those redundancy examples from a manuscript that became a book called Across the Hall: Real Love the Right Way by author Monique Francisco. But far more important than being a source of such examples, Real Love is a great example of how a good story trumps any technical flaws. Francisco weaves three plot lines and takes the reader up and down the emotional roller coaster: I hissed at the “bad guy” and fell in love with the good guy(s). 

Francisco might have had a few things to learn about tightening up a sentence or a paragraph (we all did at one time or another) but there was little I could tell her about how to improve her storytelling. It held my interest, without effort, and it’s not even a genre (romance) I commonly read.

Q: What can you do with a manuscript containing a perfectly-punctuated yet dull story? 



A: Use it to start a fire.

The story is the most important factor.

You can always find an experienced freelance editor to correct your grammar, punctuation, etc. You can even find one to work with you on the overall flow of your story. (That’s called “content editing” or “substantive editing.”)

But the bottom line is: tell a good story and make it interesting--in your emails, your website, your blogs--all your marketing. 


And if you need help achieving that, give me a call 323-646-2469 or email me