The Heart of Copywriting
Schwartz and other copywriters immersed themselves in our culture, recommending that you get subscriptions to the most popular magazines, and you buy and read the blockbuster books, and you see all the most popular movies several times.
All to help you spot the mass desires where they occur. Where those migrated from a private want into a mass desire that drives the markets.
The first half of Breakthrough Advertising is devoted to the headline. The second half is devoted to the rest of the copy. And a single chapter named “The Final Touches” (which should have been elevated to a Part on its own) is how to put everything together and make it work.
Right at the beginning of the second part is a list of key elements that enable copywriting to attract, grab, and hold onto the reader:
Three Dimensions of Thought and Feeling
Copywriting and all Marketing parallels the mind. Your mind, my own, everyone’s. The successful ad reaches into and persuades the person based on what is already built into their mind – from their entire lifetime of influences and education – which may have even started prenatally.
Schwartz lays out the three key part of your prospects minds in Chapter 6 of his book. Then he follows up on these with a separate chapter for each.
Here’s the overview:
You already picked these out during your research to select your headline. Through the rest of the body copy, you’ll need to build, expand, and sharpen them for your prospect. Again, you can’t create these out of whole cloth. No person or company has the budget to re-educate the buying public – even in small splinter markets – to have a desire.
Your only task with your ad is to find and expand your prospect’s existing want, to sharpen their desire, to get them to picture their complete fulfillment of what they want.
You want your prospects visualizing themselves as already having the physical need resolved, the material want acquired.
Every prospect has to feel the satisfaction, the relief, the pride of achieving or acquiring or attaining what it is that they most want in life.
You need to inspire them to action by whetting their appetite to act from what they have always wanted.
Chapter 7 of “Breakthrough Advertising” shows you 13 ways to strengthen their desires through your ad copy.
After the Second World War, a major shift evolved in advertising. While the obvious gratification from material goods was obvious, a more subtle set of desires came into play. Perhaps due to the sheer abundance of products available from the excess of manufacturing capacity as that war wound down. Once physical needs are routinely being fulfilled, a different desire drives buying.
Schwartz tentatively named this new type of desire as the “Longing for Identification”.
There are two types of Identification people seek. These are Character Roles. People no longer buy objects only for the material satisfaction, but also to define themselves to others around them. Your purchases tell your friends and associates who you are.
a) Character Roles: In short, this is what people want to be. More often, they are never put into words fully. They are also trained into the subconscious. These are the realm of your prospect’s fantasies. Often, they can only be described by adjectives and modifiers.
Marlboro cigarettes were sold in terms of virility. Virginia Slims displayed femininity. Study the difference between a Starbucks Latte, and a McDonald’s McLatte. Often an ad will contain only visual images to reinforce this subtle role the prospect wants to perform in their life.
Your product isn’t just filling a functional need, but identifies his character to everyone else. Why would one buy a tricked-out sport car based on acceleration and cornering when a small subcompact would get him safely and economically to work every day?
There are people who continually buy yet another expensive self-improvement course binder which only go onto their shelves, displayed prominently in their living room and seldom, if ever opened. Just as the 2008 recession was created by extending loans for a few thousand square-foot homes that could never be repaid. Or our our current trends for minimalism and tiny homes that are barely a hundred square feet of living space for a couple or small family.
These homes and products loudly tell the roles those prospects are playing at a glance.
b) Achievement Roles: Again, the product shows the attainment of status by those prospects. A “modern home maker” has the latest and newest appliances as well as entertainment centers and other gizmo’s. Drapes, sheets, comforters, throw pillows – all these say the home owner is up-to-date and follows fashions, trends. They may have huge closets of clothes that are regularly updated regardless of wear.
These also say “rising executive” when they have an expensive touring sedan and perhaps also a sporty, classic convertible for weekend jaunts.
Whole neighborhoods are defined by the size and decorations of homes that fit their image as professionals. Schools their children attend are selected for “prestige” and not just quality of eduction. A certain zip code in Los Angeles even inspired a long-running TV show just about the type of lifestyle the “rich and famous” lived.
What you own speaks volumes about what you’ve achieved in your life, what social role we play, where we live on the “pecking order” of our culture and society.
Our minds are also predisposed to believe those ideas, and their representations, that we already have embraced.
Advertisers can try to run against these “prejudices” which only slowly change over the years. Because our inner worlds have been built in our subconscious with models that we follow. And we surround ourselves with objects that reflect our beliefs.
Habits are an indicator of these. Any habit can be changed with daily, disciplined new actions to replace old ones. But will take a minimum of nearly a month, and usually several months to completely replace. Smoking and obesity are both more habitual in nature than physical. Fast food is marketed with sugar, fat, and salt – despite generations of education about what a “balanced diet” consists of.
Convenience and “instant gratification” only works when other beliefs back these up – and the prospect is rewarded for filling beliefs they already have.
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These three elements: Desires, Identifications, Beliefs – work together with equal parts of emotion and thought. All to enable anyone to reinforce the world they want around them.
These then start to explain why people decide their purchases emotionally and justify their purchases with rational explanations after the fact.
The copywriter and marketer need to weave in these three elements through all their advertising headline and copy to achieve real success.