“Bulls**t Baffles Brains” Copywriting. The Art Of Persuasion Through Words

I have wanted to write this article for a while now to help people understand what copywriting is and what it does.copywriting sample

In a nut shell copywriting is the art of persuading people to take action by using well-chosen words creating emotionally charged and well-crafted sentences. It is an art form and a science but it is also often frowned upon, sometimes with good reason may I add.

As business owners we all want to be able to sell bucket loads of our great products and services and it is true that if a product is great it can sell itself or rather it should however many of the products you see these days online associated with the internet marketing and ‘make money’ industries are often poor or the greedy owners simply want to charge a lot more for them than what they are really worth.

Copywriting. The Art Of Persuasion Through Words

To maximise their profits and to sell more they create long form sales pages full of copy that is written to persuade the reader to buy. This is often criticised because it appears people are manipulated to buy a product they really do not want.

In many ways this is true, people are made to believe that they should buy the product and that it would change their lives but how does that happen? How does someone who is not interested or vaguely interested in a product can go from non interested into getting out their credit card and spending several hundred or even several thousands of pounds/dollars to buy a product they are not even sure what it does?

The AIDA Principle.

Copywriters and internet marketers use what is called the AIDA principle. AIDA stands for…

  1. Attention,
  2. Interest,
  3. Desire,
  4. Action.

All long form sales letters, which can be up to 32 pages long, that fall through your letter boxes by the Direct Mail marketers to the very short adverts you would see in the back of newspapers and magazines a few years ago use this principle.

copywriting tricks

The headline of the copy must capture attention. “Full Time Policeman Pays Off £120,000 Mortgage in Just 4 Weeks By Doing Less Than 10 Minutes Work A Week…”

“… & Adds Further £5,000 To His Bank Account”

That headline and sub headline will get people’s attention, it has a hard working person with little or no time to spare who has managed to pay off his big mortgage after getting a commercial cash out refinance within a fast time frame by doing what appears to be very little easy to do work once a week and also adds more money into his bank account.

In this day and age of austerity, cut backs and recession, who would not want to know how to generate over £120,000 in four weeks for what appears to be less than an hour’s work?

Within the copy of a sales letter the reader is taken on a rollercoaster ride where they are told a story about a struggling hard working desperate person who probably had large debts and who was tired of life and looking for a big change. The type of person that the general public can identify with.

The sales letter will then tell how this person changed his or her life in a “small time person done good” type of story. They will now be living a lifestyle that the reader would like or desire. The sales letter will then tell you to imagine that it was you and ask if you would like that kind of lifestyle. The sales copy will then talk about how you too could achieve that same level of lifestyle by copying what this person did. They normally tell you this without giving much away about what it was that the successful person actually did.

This successful ‘rags to riches’ story is to raise the interest in the reader, “yes I do want to learn how to sell your home quickly to pay off my mortgage and have money in the bank, I am also struggling for time/lazy and want to do little work, I am interested, please tell me more”

Rather than sell the product most sales copy sells either a lifestyle or desire. The copywriter focuses on an end result or benefit that the product COULD deliver.

This isn’t all bad as most people would really prefer to know what they will get from having a product than what the product actually does, for example someone who suffers from spots and acne wants to buy a product that gets rid of spots for ever and leaves them with smooth fresh looking skin, how it works isn’t really that important to the user. So it would be madness to not mention the lifestyle benefits in the sales copy if your product could deliver those results.

The issue comes when people write copy full of benefits which are generally unlikely to happen or unattainable. This happens a lot, usually the sales letter is full of benefits which can only be realised when you either…

  1. Buy the more expensive up sell which the sales copy forgets to mention
  2. Invest a lot more money which you now may not have after paying thousands for the information
  3. Follow a very hard and often unworkable work plan.

Selling the Benefits.

As a product owner you must sell the results and benefits and in the world of real products like those found in shops this is often done more ethically and is more accountable. Generally real world products do not need to over sensationalise its sales copy because people see it and buy if they decide they want it or not. The products are easier to buy as many more places generally stock them.

Think of shampoo, the sales copy and advertising material prefer to baffle their customers with science and talks more about the chemicals in them that do wondrous things with your hair. They work on the ignorance of people who have no idea of what a ‘pemptiwhattide’ is or what ‘whatdoyoucallitites’ extract does but because they have been told and shown that it nourishes hair to a natural shine it must be good.

These products are available everywhere and are generally sold at a reasonable price. After all the only benefit you get is clean hair, it will hardly change your life whereas the information product that is sold online or via direct mail long form copy are often priced a lot higher because they could change your life for the better. Supposedly.

People are becoming more aware and many of these products are deemed to be cons which is not always the case, but they have had a period where they have been over priced which just adds to their own problems.

I can tell you this in confidence; the older style direct mail marketers prefer to sell these items at higher prices because it means they do less work, they cut down on their overheads by paying for less DVDs and fulfilment costs while keeping incredibly high profit margins. They get rich quicker.

Many marketers will use the analogy of owing the winning lottery ticket, the actually value of the paper and the ink is probably less than a penny but if it is the winning ticket worth £10 million the value is far more than the price of the materials or the money you paid for it.

Imagine you owned that winning ticket but you were leaving the country and unable to collect the money so you decided to sell the ticket.  Theoretically you could sell it for £1 million in cash; if anyone could get their hands on that amount of cash they would be stupid not to buy the ticket for one million if they could instantly make a life changing £9 million profit.

Even the people who think information products are scams would think a person was stupid for not buying a £10 million pound winning lottery ticket for £1 million. This is how information marketers see their products and price them. If a product they are selling has made one everyday person £120,000 in 4 weeks then surely it is worth £12,000? The answer is yes and no.

It does increase the price slightly but the problem is that unlike the winning ticket which is an instant result, the information product has too many variables and hidden issues that make the product hard for most people to master.

The fact some people do not make the promised £120,000 is because they do not follow the information correctly which, as I mentioned earlier, to do so would need more time and money invested than first realised due to the sales letter selling the dream instead of the reality.

With so many people seeing information products as scams the copywriter works hard crafting his or her sales letter to convince the reader otherwise. ‘This is a genuine man, a real product, with real results that you too could achieve…’ then the letter finishes with the usual legal requirements, everyone’s results may be different etc etc.

The reader is drawn through the letter by grabbing their ATTENTION, they then are made INTERESTed in what the letter has to say by telling the story of the ordinary person doing well and then they have their emotions stirred with images and fantasies of living a millionaires lifestyle. This creates a big DESIRE on the part of the reader and that desire to become wealthy and live that lifestyle along with the ‘true’ story of the person who was successful then drives them to make a decision to take ACTION.

Should they carry on ambling along in debt or get the credit card out and spend several thousand pounds/dollars on learning a system that generated over £120,000 in four weeks. I mean, the guy made £120,000 in four weeks that means in a month I should have made my investment back and more right? So what is £12,000 ticket price when I could be mortgage less and wealthy in four weeks? This time next year I will be mega wealthy, right?

These questions are the ones being asked by the reader who then convinces himself to take action and buy, it is very easy to make that decision when the sales copy has impregnated your mind with answers that will cloud your judgement when you come to ask yourself, “Is this product worth £12,000?”

You are made to see key phrases which lead your mind to make the decision to buy; these key phrases are written in different colours, highlighted, made bold or underlined and sometimes made to lean like italics, these tricks make them stand out more and become more noticable over the rest of the copy. Words like ‘Secret’, ‘Revealed’, ‘Never seen before’ and a whole host of powerful words are interwoven into the copy to affect your decisions as if you were sharing a flat with Derren Brown and Paul McKenna. ‘Look into my eyes, not around the eyes but into my eyes…’

brown mckenna

The desire is so strong many people say yes and then buy a product which when arrives is a lot more work than what was portrayed and also comes with a refund policy that was ‘hinted at’ but most people fail to understand which is, the product cannot be refunded unless you have used the system unsuccessfully for one whole year and followed the plan to the letter.

By opening the parcel and deciding that the product is not for you often will start that refund policy which means you have now lost £12,000 (whatever the cost is) or you have to work hard for the next year following the unworkable plan before you can even attempt to ask for a refund.

Internet marketing systems that are delivered online and not as DVDs usually have a 30 day money back guarantee because many of the online affiliate networks like Clickbank insist on them. Online systems are generally cheaper mainly because the way they are shown is either online or a digital download.  They do not send out expensive postal mail shots which can cost tens of thousands of pounds/dollars.

Also the digital way that online systems are delivered and seen means they can be sold and accessed for many years to come with very little extra costs. An off line marketer would need to send out a new expensive mail out if he wanted to re sell the DVD course to new people, internet marketers do not have that issue but many do still use the long form style of sales letters on their websites. Many now use video these days because they do convert really well but they still use the AIDA principle.

Some videos that were created by people like Anik Singal were very professional, they were mini Hollywood movies designed to get your ATTENTION, to get you INTERESTED, to create a DESIRE in you and to finally drive you to take ACTION. The same principle, just a different media.

The worst trick, which is nearly stamped out now, was to create a scarcity feel to the product. Unscrupulous marketers would say things like “Only 500 available, hurry now before they are all sold out and you miss out on this once in a life time offer” Often they would sell as many as was ordered and if they flew past 500 they would still sell and then re promote the “once in a lifetime offer” a few months later.

Another trick is that copywriters would add a ‘price hike’ after a set time, for example a product is for sale at £$47 but after 24 hours the price will jump up to £$197 so you need to act quick to get your discounted deal. Sometimes the price hike is affected by sales numbers so the first 50 ordered are at £$47 then after that the price goes up.

This is done so that you do not doubt your decision and buy. If the price was not set to go up after 24 hours you might not buy straight away while you ponder on it for a while and then you might either decide not to buy at all or completely forget about it. Marketers have lost a sale and they do not like that so they try and get you to buy fast.

Fortunately much of this has been stamped out by the affiliate networks who insist these tactics can only be used if you are only selling a set number of products or if the price will increase after 24 hours. However in my experience I still see sales letters discussing time and sales related ‘price hikes’ 6 months or more after the product was launched which to me means the trick is still being used in a not so ethical manner.

Whether you are reading the sales letter online or one that has come through the letterbox please read them careful and see what the sales copy actually says. They do their best to be as vague as possible about the product itself.

Try and ascertain what the product actually does, do a Google search on the product name or owner to see if you can find more information. After receiving a sales letter through the post by a UK company, using Google I found the same product had been sold in the US for several months, the UK company had doubled the price, used the same sales copy but just changed it from dollars to pounds and increased the price. I doubt the product would have be much use here in the UK.

Make sure you read a sales letter understanding that they are designed to sell a dream or series of benefits and not what the product does. They are written to evoke an emotional response in you strong enough for you to want to buy. In reality they are trying to cloud your judgement and get you to buy, as the old saying here in the UK goes, “Bulls**t baffles brains”

I shall leave you with that thought for today. 🙂

2 thoughts on ““Bulls**t Baffles Brains” Copywriting. The Art Of Persuasion Through Words

  1. Hi Andi,

    Awesome post! Lots of great information here for people to go over.

    I’d totally agree that there are two sides to copywriting. The vast majority use copywriting responsibly, as it really can help to make the difference whether a product sells or not. Unfortunately, there will always be some that take advantage and abuse the system, so it always pays to keep your wits about you.

    I hadn’t actually heard of the ‘AIDA’ principle before, but it does make a lot of sense. In fact I guess you can use it in other areas away from traditional copywriting. Essentially it is just a method to help draw attention and sell, so you could apply the same principle to things like; web design, blog posts, videos, etc. to help them stand out.

    I feel that copywriting is a skill set that many people should learn about. This is certainly a great post to get people started 🙂

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