Saturday, October 17, 2009

How to NOT Write Problem/Solution Copy

One of the most popular leads ("introductions") for marketing copy is the Problem / Solution lead.

"So lately it seems you've got too many days and not enough paydays. Well, with program XYZ…"

"Tired of suffering from itchy, scratching scalp? Formula 207 eliminates…"


The key is to NOT focus on the problem too long. For long form sales letters (12 - 20 pages) just a few paragraphs is often sufficient.

The idea is that your prospect is already well aware of the problem. You don't need to belabor the point. Get to the solution.

I was reminded of this advice a few moments ago as I sat on my back porch in New England, contentedly sipping on a warm Saturday morning cup of coffee, unwinding from a particularly long and hard week.

My favorite local radio station, WCLZ, played their "Saturday Morning Acoustic Sunrise " soft rock in the background. Life was good.

Until, that is, in between songs, a "teaser" ad came on. The voice spoke…

"WCLZ Acoustic Sunrise… Why can't Monday mornings be this relaxing?"

Hmmm. Suddenly I'm thinking about how stressful Monday morning can be.

Uh oh. Big mistake.

They basically presented a Problem / No Solution lead!
I mean, sure, I can go back to what I was doing. But do they really need to remind us that the enjoyment they provide is fleeting?

If they'd mentioned something like "OK, the weeks over, now it's time to relax", okay, not bad.

But reminding me of what's coming up, and that their product/service really can't do anything about it… big mistake in my mind.

Imagine sitting poolside at a sunny tropical resort on vacation in January. And there's a sign:

"Why can't icy, frozen sleet and slushy drudge-filled work days back at home be this enjoyable?"

No thanks.

If you're going to talk about a problem, make sure you have a solution - and a permanent one!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Could This Be The Worst Ad Ever?

A Special Bulletin from our "Copywriting Hall of Shame" Department...

Would you buy a product advertised like this:

Various Stuff - $15

Fat chance, right?

Well, I'm afraid that's pretty much a marketing message I received yesterday, verbatim.

Hey, listen, I really like my friends down at the local running store.

I buy my Brooks Beast running shoes there... enjoy training runs and races they sponsor... and I get tons of good advice from them practically every week.

But brother, was I disappointed when I got this email from them. Here's the copy:

"Special Sunday Event - Several running experts
speaking on various topics - $15."


How many rules of copywriting and markeing did they break? Too many to count. But perhaps the most obvious three...

GUILTY of violation: The Power of One - One strong feature is more powerful than several (or even many) weaker ones.

GUILTY of violation: Use Specifics, never Summaries or Generalization.

GUILTY of violation: Show, Don't Tell - Provide Proof of your claims.

This would be SO much more powerful as...

Coming this Sunday, Power up Your Running To The Next Level!

* Four-Time US Racing champ John Smith explains how to cut 15 minutes off your fall marathon time...

* Mt Sinai Medical School director Mary Jones gives you the 4 secrets to avoiding training injuries and getting in the best shape of your life in the next 6 weeks...

* Adidas Director of Technology Jim Jackson previews their exciting new X-743 running shoe - and you'll also be able to get it at 25% off (Sunday only).

Isn't that a little better? Now that, I might pay $15 for!

But "various experts talking on several topics"? Ugh!

OK... Slow, deep breath... End of rant.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sunday "Mango Marketing Lesson" Contest

Take a walk around Delray Beach, Florida right now and there's one thing that's hard not to notice.


We've got trees almost everywhere... in front of houses, in vacant lots, along side streets as well as main roads.

And this time of year the lucious, juicy fruit is ripe and ready for eating.

Which brings us to today's "Mango Marketing" contest...

Take a look at the photo of a couple of trees I walked past this morning.

This is from what is essentially a vacant lot, at ground level, on a popular street.

Notice anything "odd"?

There's a marketing prinicipal on display here. See if you can guess what it is.

The winner will be awarded...

Well, how about some mangos? (Shipping not included) :-)

BIG HINT: I could have posted 50 more photos just like these.

Friday, April 10, 2009

A Fun Little "Rock N Roll" Marketing Quiz

Is it slightly deceptive? Clever? Or just a run-of-the-mill marketing "trick"?

I took this photo about 2 months ago outside my favorite local music hall, City Limits, in Delray Beach, Florida.

You'll notice 7 separate posters, each for an upcoming concert.

But you may NOT notice a subtle but important difference that separates about 3 of them from the other 4.

Can you detect what it is?
And the copywriting/ marketing/ advertising idea behind it?
(HINT: It is not "graphics" related and it's not in "fine print").

There's no huge breakthrough tipping point idea here - it's just a fun little exercise...

Post your answer in the comments section below and I'll announce the "winners" later.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Are Your 7 Favorite iPhone Apps Here?

So I finally joined the 21st century with an iPhone. And I do love it (more on that in a later post)...

But for now, here's the Wall Street Journal's Walter Mossberg with his 8 favorite / most productive iPhone apps...

1) Facebook (free)

2) Kindle (free)

3) ICE ($0.99)

4) Easy Wi-Fi ($2.99)

5) ReaddleDocs ($9.99)

6) Quordy ($2.99)

7) Google Mobile (free)

Full article here:

Which favorites of yours are missing from this list?

Friday, February 27, 2009

Looking for Customers in All the Wrong Places?

I've just finished 4 miles and my running clothes are dripping in sweat, not to mention my entire body.

Still, Delray Beach feels gorgeous at 7AM on a bright and sunny Thursday morning.

Now I'm just starting to slowly walk the last three blocks home to cool down when I hear a car honking.

"Looking for something?" shouts the driver.

"Huh" I think to myself. He's the one that stopped me. Do I look lost?

I'm confused.

"I'm just heading home," I offer.

"Yeah, but are you looking for something?"

Now I am wondering… is this some kind of nut looking for a fight? Did I unknowingly insult or hurt someone recently and now they are coming for revenge?

I don't know what to say - so I can only mutter "I just finished running, now I’m going home."

But in a moment it all becomes clear.

"Want some weed? I got weed. Doobies?"

Ahhhhh. Now I get it. "Ummmm no, I'm good. No thanks."

He shakes his head, frustrated, and drives away.

This guy was obviously trying to expand his market.

No doubt he'd typically be on the corner up by the railroad tracks on Friday and Saturday night, waiting for convenient drive-by sales to come to him.

But he must be out looking for new business.

Problem is, he's gone way too far beyond his demographic.

He's out driving around soliciting prospects… at 7 in the morning (not sure this is a good time for selling drugs)… and offering his product to someone clearly interested in health and athletics (probably not your typical dope fiend).

Ah well.

I guess it's a tough economy… even for drug dealers.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

What's In a Name? Plenty!

Can the name of your product or service influence whether people with similar names will like it?

Absolutely, says renowned social scientist Robert Cialdini. People even tend towards certain professions based on their name.

And in "Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive" he offers data to back up his claims.

Dentists are 43% more likely to be named Dennis than statistics would anticipate. Geologists have an above average number of Geoffrey's and George's.

People even tend to disproportionately move to states similar to their names (Flo to Florida, Lou to Louisiana).

And so, Cialdini indicates, let's say you're pitching a big project to Ethan Edwards at Eliot Engineering.
You might want to label it something like the "Energy Exchange Edict"

Personally, I think it's this whole theory is ridiculous and I'm simply not buying it.

- Charlie (career: computer programmer, consultant, copywriter).