Cast A Spell: Notes from a Junior Copywriter

As a freelance journalist and former music editor for Time Out magazine, Eddy Lawrence is someone who I aspire to be.  I had the pleasure of hearing him speak at Shoreditch House — the subject title - Mass Hypnosis for Copywriting.  As a Junior Copywriter, ever on the quest to entice and, dare I say, ‘hypnotise my readers’, I sat and tried to absorb every word.  

The most vital piece of information I came away with, was that the human species responds best to one single argument.  It is understood that there should be one clear point to your argument that you want the reader to remember.  Any more leads to confusion and ultimately, a loss of interest.  As simple as it sounds, the most effective piece of copy has a clear argument, finished with a call to action. You want to make that sale. 

The human species responds best to one single argument
— Eddy Lawrence

It seems obvious, but all to often, we lose sight of whom we are talking to, too caught up in our own opinions, ego and style.  To be a great copywriter you need to embody your audience — mind and soul.  You need your audience to trust you.  Ironically, you don’t necessarily need to care about your audience’s wants and needs, but you need to appear as though you do.  This feels morally wrong.  But life isn’t always fair.

Put some thought into what your audience really cares about.  What do they ingest, read, love, share and watch? You need to delve deep in order to create the illusion of intimacy.  Ultimately, the goal is to get your reader to act on what they have read and buy, buy, buy.  The most effective way to do this is to tap into the strong motivating forces in all human minds — ‘Fear’ and you guessed it, ‘Vanity’.  These two forces undeniably govern our society — increasingly so, I’d say.  As awful as it sounds (so please refrain from heavy judgement) if you can make a person scared about not having your product, you are massively increasing your chances that they will buy it.  The same applies with vanity, if your product is depicted in a way that would enhance a person aesthetically — you’ve hit the jackpot. 

Mind you, they aren't going to take your advice unless you have gained their trust and confidence.  You need to get into character.  Imagine your work as a private conversation (albeit one-sided), rather than a piece of text.  Think about the character you want to get into, what relationship do you have with your reader. Where can you imagine the conversation taking place?  Is it on the sofa in their living room or at a black tie wedding whispering to a distant cousin? By creating a conversation and a setting you are allowing the readers imagination to run free and essentially — do the hard work for you.  This trust cannot be formed over night — time must be spent getting into the mind of your reader and their peers, loading up on conversational ammo (using the same phrases, jargon and colloquialisms that they do).  You need to come across as a like-minded individual.  Moreover, a like minded individual who is more knowledgeable in the given topic.  Almost like a more informed older sibling.

You need to come across as a like-minded individual. Moreover, a like minded individual who is more
knowledgeable in the given topic. Almost like a more informed older sibling.
— Eddy Lawrence

I have already mentioned fear and vanity being two strong forces in the weird and wonderful human brain.  The third? Nostalgia. That fickle old friend who is both wonderfully comforting and strangely saddening at the same time.  By evoking nostalgia you are tapping into an extremely emotional and vulnerable part of their brain.  Once your reader is vulnerable, you can manipulate them.  This is beginning to sound very sinister, isn’t it?

As with everything, you should always refer back to your cheat sheet.  Make sure you are making the most out of your dirty tricks, switch up the sentence length from short snappy sentences to long, explanatory ones. It keeps your reader awake. Rhyme and alliteration, can be over used and flag up warning signs in your readers head, but, when used sparingly, can be really beneficial.  Bizarrely, it has been proven that humans are more likely to believe something if it is presented to them in a rhyme — now that is amazing and terrifying at the same time. See what I did there?

Condense it down so that every line has a purpose, this can be difficult, almost like dismissing
your child, but be brave — it’s worth it (plus it isn’t actually your child).
— Kate Anderson

Finally - the editing process.  Do not be afraid to rip it up and start again; sentences that are not really pulling their weight aren’t worth keeping.  Get rid of them.  Condense it down so that every line has a purpose, this can be difficult, almost like dismissing your child, but be brave — it’s worth it (plus it isn’t actually your child).

Words by Kate Anderson, Junior Copywriter, Jones & Bone

Thank You to Eddy Lawrence and Clever Boxer.