Good Copy Sells

In direct response marketing, a good offer paired with a good list will inevitably become successful. Practitioners in this art/science will rarely share what they found success with, so as not to tip-off competitors. This is the scientific part of the deal.

What about the art? Is it the realistic photo or illustration? Sure, it’s got to get the point across or simply get the audience’s attention. What really makes the sale is the copy. The more you write, the more you sell. Infomercials? They work. How do we know? If they keep running them, then we know they’re moving product.

As marketing people, we should all be familiar with John Caples‘s classic piano lesson ad.

As the last notes of the Moonlight Sonata died away, the room resounded with a sudden roar of applause. I found myself surrounded by excited faces. How my friends carried on! Men shook my hand — wildly congratulated me — pounded me on the back in their enthusiasm! Everybody was exclaiming with delight — plying me with rapid questions… “Jack! Why didn’t you tell us you could play like that?”… “Where did you learn?” — “How long have you studied?” — “Who was your teacher?”

Writing a good story around your offer — or your company — is what sells. Direct response sells product, corporate communications sell the company. People like to read stories. It was true in 1926 and it’s still true today.

I happened to be listening to WFMU yesterday when Joshua Glenn was interviewed about his Significant Object project. They buy cheap little things at garage sales and thrift stores, they put them up for sale on eBay, along with a fictional story about the object. Yeah, it sells.


Take this example, the “Cape Cod shoe.” The story, by Sheila Heti, helped sell an item for $77.51 (original cost: $4).

Very interesting experiment. Rob Baedaker’s piece in SFGate.com is worth reading. Experiments aside, I still think good copy sells.

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