Cashvertising is a classic and would be my first choice for anybody new to digital marketing that wanted to learn about copywriting. I’ve published my personal notes here so people can get a summary of the book or use it as a reference if they have read it previously.
It was first published a hundred years ago or so by an old school print advertiser called Drew Eric Whitman. It gives a great overview of the psychology behind marketing and copy writing. The book has become famous in internet marketing circles because to date I haven’t read a better foundation for general marketing practice. It is a truely dateless classic that everyone involved in marketing should read.
Here’s my own summary of the book which I keep in my desk and review probably once a year when I’m looking for new ideas/angles for campaigns.
There’s an additional post here with more detailed information on modern copywriting for websites:
The first section deals with wants vs needs and dives straight into consumer demand psychology.
WHAT PEOPLE REALLY WANT:
- 1) Survival, enjoyment of life, life extension.
- 2) Enjoyment of food and beverages.
- 3) Freedom from fear, pain, and danger.
- 4) Sexual companionship.
- 5) Comfortable living conditions.
- 6) To be superior, winning, keeping up with the Jones.
- 7) Care and protection of loved ones.
- 8) Social approval.
“People buy because of emotion and justify with logic. Force an emotional by touching on a basic want or need.”
9 Learned Human Wants:
- 1) To be informed.
- 2) Curiosity.
- 3) Cleanliness of body and surroundings.
- 4) Efficiency.
- 5) Convenience.
- 6) Dependability / quality.
- 7) Expression of beauty and style.
- 8) Economy / profit.
- 9) Bargains.
Foundational Principles of Consumer Psychology
All successful marketing campaigns really boil down to one or more of these needs and desires.
1) The Fear Factor – This is similar to loss aversion in that consumers are more willing to act to prevent loss than they are to gain. Ultimately fear sells. It drives consumers to spend money. Fear causes stress. Stress causes action.
Four Ingredient Recipe for Using Fear:
- 1. It scares readers and captures attention
- 2. It offers a specific recommendation for overcoming the fear-aroused threat.
- 3. The recommended action is perceived as effective for reducing the threat.
- 4. The recipient believes that he or she can perform the recommended action.
(Fear can also paralyze. Use specific, believable recommendations. Use fears that are specific and widely recognized.)
2) Ego Morphing – Instant Identification. “By purchasing the ‘right stuff’ we enhance our own egos and rationalize away.” AKA. Retail therapy. Reminds me a bit of Seth’s quote “People like us buy things like this”
3) Transfer – Credibility by Osmosis. Symbols, images, or ideas. Cues. Institutions, celebrities, authorities. Experts i.e. “White lab coats.”
4) The Bandwagon Effect – Give Them Something To Jump On. “Consensus-Implies-Correctness” heuristic. People want to belong.
- 1. Aspirational group – to which you’d LIKE to belong.
- 2. Associative group – to which you SHARE ideals and values.
- 3. Dissociative group – to which you DO NOT WANT to belong.
5) The Means-End Chain – The Critical Core. “Don’t buy for what it does today – but for what it will do tomorrow!” Future objective. I’d add that people are different and some are much more focused on the future than others. Depends on the niche.
6) The Transtheoretical Model – Persuasion Step by Step.
- Stage 1: Pre-contemplation: ignorant of your product’s existence.
- Stage 2: Contemplation: aware and thought about using it.
- Stage 3: Preparation: thinking about buying from you, but needs more information about benefits.
- Stage 4: Action: “Here’s my credit card.”
- Stage 5: Maintenance: continue to buy again and again. part of their daily lives.
This is very similar to modern sales and copywriting frameworks such as AIDA.
7) The Innoculation Theory – Make Them Prefer You for Life. Give them arguments against competitors. “Our competitors will tell you…”
8) Belief Re-Ranking – Change Their Reality. Appeal to either emotions like fear, humor, or guilt – or factual evidence and examples.
9) The Elaboration Likelihood Model – Adjust Their Attitude. Cues feel good, but Central Processing makes them PREFER you.
1. Central Route – Direct reasoning aimed at logical arguments. Persuading using logic, reasoning, and deep thinking. AKA. creating Preference
Central Route Processing: pour on the facts, stats, evidence, testimonials, studies, reports, and case histories. Weave an argument.
2. Peripheral Route – Indirect route making the consumer come up with the idea themselves. persuading using the association of pleasant thoughts and positive images. Aka, cues
Peripheral Route Processing: load your ads full of colorful, pleasant images, humourous or popular subject matter, or celebrities. Visual anchors.
10) 6 Weapons of Influence
- Comparison: The power of your peers. Bandwagon effect. Social proof. Need to belong. Everybody is doing it.
- Liking: The Balance Theory. “I like you… take my money!” Attractive people have greater influence. Consider trustworthy and likable.
- Authority: Cracking the code of credibility. Mental shortcut. Man in the “white lab coat”.
- Reciprocation: What goes around comes around… profitably! Free samples and giving stuff away creates goodwill and obligation.
- Commitment/consistency: The “Four Walls” technique. Box them in. Elicit small actions and “yes” responses that cultivate to a larger request.
- Scarcity: Get ’em while they last! One day sale, limited offer, one while supplies last, first come first served, etc.
11) Message Organization – Attaining Critical Clarity. Ads must be organized and well-structured. Confusing ads and creatives won’t sell anything.
12) Examples vs. Statistics – And the Winner is… Examples by far. Emotion is the key to sales. Testimonials and endorsements are more engaging.
13) Message Sideness – Dual Role Persuasion. Talk about both you and your competitors.
14) Repetition and Redundancy – The Familiarity Factor. People don’t start seeing your ad until you run it seven times.
15) Rhetorical Questions – Interesting, Aren’t They? “Aren’t you glad you used Dial?” “How do you spell relief?” “What would you do for a Klondike?”
16) Evidence – Quick! Sell Me The Facts! Evidence can be facts, figures, testimonials, endorsements, research, charts, videos. As long as it’s real.
17) Heuristics – Serving Billions of Lazy Brains Daily. “Length implies strength.” Long copy pages, lots of media, testimonials, etc. Long = good.
Ad Agency Secrets
1) KISS (keep it simple stupid) – Use words efficiently and write so people can understand. Use short words, short sentances, short paragraphs + personal pronouns.
2) Benefits over features – Bombard reader with product or service benefits. A modern example of this is value stacking.
3) Put Your Biggest Benefit In Your Headline – Always. Keep under 6-9 words. 12 Max. Best is 3 or less. What is in it for the customer?
4) Scarcity creates action – Hard deadline: “Sale Ends 20th July” vs Soft deadline: “First 100 Buyers only!”
5) Use Proven Headlines – Look at the latest clickbaity headlines from competitive SEO niches for example.
6) Lure Your Readers Into Your Copy. Use a hook in the first paragraph to capture interest.
7) 360-Degrees of Attention-Getting Power – Use circle-shaped ads instead of common square/rectangular.
8) The Reverse-Type Pitfall – Don’t do it. Reverse-type is light words on dark background.
9) Crush Your Competition With Extreme Specificity – Be extremely specific and descriptive when describing your product/service.
10) The Famous Ogilvy Principle – Start body copy with a Drop Initial. Massive oversized letter. Always run pics with captions!
11) The Psychology of Typefaces – Sans-serif for online (Arial, Verdana) and Serif for print (Helvetica, Times, etc.)
12) Insist on the Pro-Design Difference – Use a real graphic designer. Period.
13) The Power of Questions – They captivate and cause “open loops” in people’s brains.
14) The “Granny Rule” of Direct Mail – Relate to your reader. Talk to them like a friend and make them like you.
15) The Psychology of “Social Proof” – People believe testimonials. Always use them!
16) The Guillotine Principle – Use pictures of heads and faces in ads. Preferably smiling and relevant to the offer.
17) PVAs – The Easy Way to Boost the Power of Your Copy – Powerful Visual Adjectives. “Rake in $2500 Cash Weekly!”
18) Directing Mental Movies. Use visual words and onomatopia to elicit emotion.
19) Battling Human Inertia – Get people to take ACTION! 1. Make it easy to act. 2. Ask for action.
20) Establish Your Unique Selling Proposition – Tell them the real reason why they should PREFER you! Be serious and descriptive!
“Don’t try to be amusing. Spending money is a serious matter.”
21) Buy Your Own Island – Don’t pay for a full-page ad. Use a Half-Page Island, which is a centered half-page ad that takes up space.
22) Authority Positioning – Become an authority in your industry. Share all of your expertise in free reports and guest posts.
23) A Sales Letter in Survey’s Clothing – Ask questions about their relationship to your product. Thank you for participation is OFFER.
24) Power Your Ads With Pictures – Ads with 50% visuals = 30% recall rate. Ads with 75% visuals = 50% recall rate. Show the product + in use.
25) Grab ’em With Grabbers – Use something like a dollar bill or shot of change to grab attention. Tailor to niche.
26) Long Copy vs. Short – Long copy consistently outsells short. 2-hour sales visit vs. 5-minute visit. Who closes more?
27) Offer Testing – Find out what they want and give it to them. If they don’t like your offer, change it!
28) Survey Power – What do people want? Ask them! Incentivize surveys. It all begins with research. Make it easy to reply.
29) Editorial Energizers – Make your ads look like News Editorials. “Camouflage”
30) The Coupon Persuader – Add a broken “coupon style” border to graphic ads. People are conditioned. Use “Double Coupons!” Light yellow bg tint.
31) Online Ads should be targeted, emails should have text & html, ugly banners work.
32) Multi-page Your Way to Success – (only applies to print)
33) Guarantees that Guarantee Higher Response – Use “Guarantees” generously. Buyers feel vulnerable. Use a long and strong guarantee.
34) The Psychology of Size – Bigger ads perform better.
35) The Psychology of Page and Section Positioning – Generally just doesn’t matter. Ad creative matters most.
36) The Fantastic Four – (only applies to traditional print)
37) Consumer Color Preferences and How Color Affects Readership – 1. Blue. 2. Red. 3. Green. The older the bluer. Best combo: Blue-Yellow then Blue-Red
38) Price is Right – Odd pricing conveys value ($77.95) Even pricing conveys quality ($1,000) Helps justify sale for “teeterers”.
39) The Psychology of Color – “Darker is heavier” Apparent weight is higher as you get darker. White, yellow, green are lightest.
40) Pad Your Ads in Whitespace – Wrap your ads with lots of white space. It garners way more attention.
41) Don’t try to be too clever – In advertising, it’s not clever to be clever. Sell the benefits. No clever word jokes.
BOOST YOUR AD RESPONSE
22 Response Superchargers:
- 1) Forget style – sell instead!
- 2) Scream “Free Information!”
- 3) Write short sentances and keep them reading.
- 4) Use short, simple words.
- 5) Write long copy.
- 6) Boil it down, cut out the fluff!
- 7) Stir up desire by piling on the benefits.
- 8) Show what you’re selling – action shots are best.
- 9) Get personal! Say: you, you, you.
- 10) Use selling subheads to break up long copy.
- 11) Put selling captions under your photos.
- 12) Write powerful visual adjectives to create mental movies.
- 13) Sell your product, not your competitor’s.
- 14) Don’t hold back, give them the full sell now!
- 15) Always include testimonials!
- 16) Make it ridiculously easy to act.
- 17) Include a response coupon to encourage action.
- 18) Set a deadline to break inertia. (Expires: December 1, 2009)
- 19) Offer a free gift for quick replies.
- 20) Say the words “Order Now!”
- 21) Offer free shipping.
- 22) Boost response 50% or more with a “Bill me” or credit option.
9 Ways to Convey Value
- 1) Add the term “Sale!”
- 2) Provide a discount coupon.
- 3) Diminish the price: “Less than a cup of coffee a day.”
- 4) Explain why the price is low. “Our boss ordered too many!”
- 5) Amortize it: “Just $1.25 a day”
- 6) Boost the value: Tell what it’s worth, not only what it costs.
- 7) Tell how much others have paid (and were happy to do so!)
- 8) Create a sense of scarcity with deadlines.
- 9) Employ psychological pricing.
13 Ways to Make Buying Easy:
- 1) Give your street, email, and Web address.
- 2) Give your phone number.
- 3) Provide street directions and parking advice.
- 4) Say “It’s Easy to Order…”
- 5) Accept phone orders.
- 6) Accept mail orders.
- 7) Accept online orders.
- 8) Accept fax orders.
- 9) Accept credit cards.
- 10) Accept personal cheques.
- 11) Get a toll-free phone number.
- 12) Include a long, strong guarantee – longer than your competitions.
- 13) Offer install payments for products more than $15 (“3 easy payments of just $10.99”), shown to boost response 15%.
Book is available on Amazon and highly recommended as an introduction to copywriting: Cashvertising
If you are interested in learning more about online marketing then check out the free digital marketing course.
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