Making Yours the Only Choice

One of the greatest things you can do for your client and his proposition is to lift him up out of the clutter and morass of a competitive environment and elevate him to the status of The Only Choice.

This is especially important in writing copy to sell on the internet, where just about everyone attracted to a site is searching and shopping other competing sites, or writing catalog copy likely seen by recipients of multiple catalogs in the same category – unlike solo direct-mail, for example, where you are often the only “salesman” who will talk to the prospect about your type of proposition.

I’m a very serious advertising and mail-order history buff, and I have – and constantly add to – a huge collection of old ads, advertising artifacts and curiosities, biographies of long forgotten ad men, and so on.

Let me tell you about one of the greats now unknown by most.

In the late 1920’s, well into the Great Depression, a fellow named Alois Merke ran a lot of ads and made boatloads of money selling an electronic gizmo to grow hair on balding heads. His ingenious promise: “If I Can’t Grow Hair For You In 30 Days, You Get This Check” was accompanied in most ads by a photo of the giant check or of him handing you the check (not a photo of the gizmo itself – a rather frightening helmet you strapped on and plugged in, reminding of a person in an electric chair).

The check was nothing more than a refund, the promise nothing more than a money back guarantee. But it was the means he used to focus attention on certainty of result rather than the implausibility of it all.

And if you laugh at this, there is, right now, a vibrating hairbrush being sold quite successfully via ads and direct-mail using exactly the same “technology” and promise as old Alois’ electric helmet.

But none of this is the point I want to make this moment, just background. Alois’ real brilliance was his copy that invalidated all other options for growing hair on the chrome dome, actual and imagined. For example:

“It is an absolute waste of time – a shameful waste of money – to try to penetrate these dormant roots with ordinary oils, massages and tonics which merely treat the surface of the skin. You wouldn’t expect to make a tree grow by rubbing growing fluid on the bark – get at the roots!”

The bold-faced words are ones I marked for you. In total, this copy drips with scorn and disdain for competing choices and the foolishness of anyone who might waste their money on those other options.

It’s a powerful, confrontational tone. The word ‘waste’ was strong and got visceral reaction in the late 1920’s and early 30’s when no one dare waste even a penny, money was so scarce. Scraps of soap were melded together, leftovers always became stew, children wore hand-me-downs not new, store-bought clothes.

‘Shameful’ another strong, harsh word; in that age, shame existed and really mattered. Being unwed past age 30, a woman pregnant out of wedlock, a man out of work and on the public dole, being dressed inappropriately, and certainly wasting anything, all sinful and disgraceful.

The copy names the inferior competing products and services then uses another power word: ‘merely’. This, a very derogatory, dismissive term. (egs.: she was merely the governor of a dinky state, Alaska.)

Finally the copy is personalized and directly confrontational with ‘you.’ It doesn’t say no one would; no reasonable person would. It says ‘you wouldn’t.’ To which you are supposed to say in your head: “well, of course I wouldn’t. I’m no fool.”

This is a brilliant piece of work, squarely aimed at the most likely buyer; a balding fellow who has already bought and been disappointed by something else, or has considered buying other things but not been persuaded.

It elevates this device into a category of one: the only product that can actually work because all others merely do one useless thing while this does something entirely different.

This is the sort of thing I think a true pro with a passion for copywriting loves discovering and doing – something that rises above just marshalling ideas and information and crafting them into a well-written but fundamentally common sales message. There’s too much of that, and, frankly, it justifies only common fees. But when you can do something that is a game-changer, like this example; elevating your client’s product into a category of one, that elevates you as well.

Hear Dan in person during two power presentations at this year’s FastTrack to Success Copywriting Bootcamp and Job Fair …

Dan’s going to show you

How to Raise Yourself to High Demand and High Income as a Pro Copywriter

  • Anatomy of a $100,000 Copywriting Project – an inside look at actual work.
  • Why you should not advertise for clients, not offer free critiques and other cautions … a different business paradigm.
  • Hidden markets for copywriters few know about and even fewer pursue – how to break in!

Copywriting Strategies to Amaze and Astound Clients, Beat Controls & Create Sales Breakthroughs

  • How to keep 85% of your first time clients – and it’s not just about the copy.
  • How to dig out the Big Idea that your client can’t see – and how this can be your best friend as a copywriter.
  • The secret source that will tell you how to successfully write for, speak to and sell any market.

Hope to see you there. Here’s the link if you haven’t registered yet.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

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 »

Click to Rate:
Average: 4.5
Published: September 28, 2009

Guest, Add a Comment
Please Note: Your comments will be seen by all visitors.

You are commenting as a guest. If you’re an AWAI Member, Login to myAWAI for easier commenting, email alerts, and more!

(If you don’t yet have an AWAI Member account, you can create one for free.)

This name will appear next to your comment.

Your email is required but will not be displayed.

Text only. Your comment may be trimmed if it exceeds 500 characters.

Type the Shadowed Word
Too hard to read? See a new image | Listen to the letters

Hint: The letters above appear as shadows and spell a real word. If you have trouble reading it, you can use the links to view a new image or listen to the letters being spoken.

(*all fields required)