The Surprising Secret to Unbeatable Success in the Health Market, Part 1
I'll never forget my first year of working with copy selling nutritional supplements … after seven-plus years of editing and directing over half a dozen extremely successful health newsletter promotions.
Imagine yourself a Professor of Creative Writing.
On Monday, you say farewell to your students as they leave their circle of chairs for the day. Then, on Tuesday, as you cross the threshold of your classroom, you discover you're a mini version of your former self.
You're quickly herded and hushed into a carefully organized row of tiny desks. And at the front of YOUR classroom towers a tightly buttoned up Mrs. Hatchet (easily 10 feet tall) – with a sentence about Dick and Jane on the chalkboard.
That's pretty much the way I felt.
Suddenly, Everything I Knew About Writing For The Health Market Was Ripped Away.
What I learned that day was that winning promises like "Heart disease reversed," "Alzheimer's stopped in its tracks," and "Diabetes defeated in just 10 days" would soon become ghosts of the past.
All thanks to what many have called the "evil doings" of the FDA.
And whether you're one of those cursing the infamous FDA – or you believe the steps they've taken were necessary for "the good of the people" – you're about to learn that you can actually …
Make the rules work to your advantage – love 'em or hate 'em.
As a copywriter for the nutritional market, one of the most valuable things you can do for your clients is learn the ins and outs of the DSHEA (Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994) and the FTC laws that apply to advertising dietary supplements.
That's what dictates what we can or CAN'T tell our customers about the products we're selling.
Details of the law can get quite complicated, so for the purposes of this article, I'm going to summarize and simplify. What you'll read in most places is that DSHEA prohibits the use of any sort of disease claims in the marketing of nutritional supplements. And if you want to make any sort of specific claims, they must be structure-function claims …
Huh? WHAT, EXACTLY, does that MEAN?!
Unfortunately, that's the extent of the direction most copywriters are given from their clients who care about staying within the limits of the law. Which is just one of the reasons you should take it upon yourself to figure it out.
Another good reason is to save yourself a lot of frustration.
But, most important, it's because that's how you'll find out what DSHEA says you CAN say!
THIS Is The Secret To YOUR Success …
After a year of banging my head on the desk after getting back pages of copy from legal review with so much "red ink" on them you'd have to get a pair of decoder glasses to find the few words allowed …
I finally gave up. Thoroughly disgusted, dejected, and defeated. It was the end of "End your prostate woes once and for all" … once and for all.
And then it came … copy from a writer who had figured it out:
"Pee like a fire hose!"
It's the headline I've quoted a thousand times, no matter how embarrassing it may seem.
But it's such a perfect example of a "structure-function" claim – which is ALLOWED by DSHEA. And it changed my perspective forever.
The incredibly vivid and absurd picture it evokes – is exactly THE KEY to writing winning copy for the nutritional health market:
The PICTURE of perfect health!
It's what DSHEA actually says you CAN say. And it comes back to one of the basic elements of great copy … PICTURE.
One of the things DSHEA states – which you rarely find anywhere else without actually reading the DSHEA guidelines yourself – is that dietary supplements are considered foods.
As foods, they're meant to provide nutritional support to a balanced diet in order to maintain good health. And …
Painting The Picture Of Perfect Health Is Exactly What Leads To Winning Health Copy.
It comes back to the age-old writing cliché … show, don't tell.
Don't tell me your product will ease the pain in my joints. Say: "Walk up the stairs without holding the banister or pausing halfway!"
Don't tell me to turn back the clock on vision loss. Say: "Read the Sunday paper without glasses!"
"Enjoy rock-hard erections."
"Beat your grandkids at Concentration."
"Walk 18 holes of golf!"
All great headlines, all positive, all compliant. (Just be sure you don't include the word "again" at the end of them.)
And, of course, the more unique, the better.
"Pee like a fire hose" is a bit absurd. But that's the beauty of it. The absurdity catches your attention … and is so obviously absurd, it couldn't possibly be an actual claim.
Once you learn to paint a picture of the promises you're making (or actualize them) throughout your copy and stay away from focusing on listing symptoms (which can create a negative tone in your copy), you'll find yourself writing stronger, more compelling, more promising – and, surprisingly, more compliant – copy.
Tomorrow, in a special edition of The Golden Thread, we'll look at how to avoid having the legal department rip your proof copy to shreds. And I'll give you three resources to keep your copy compliant …. and powerful.
The Professional Writers’ Alliance
At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »