In the blue corner is me. I believe the message is everything. As I used to tell my Copy School students:
If you have a message that’s true, interesting and relevant to your audience, you can write it on a piece of toilet paper and nail it to a tree in the forest. Someone will find it and, if they’re not interested, pass it on to those who are.
In the red corner is Winston. He believes every message needs plenty of ZING and is adamant I should use phrases like:
Copywriting that’s so powerful, it sucks people’s eyeballs into the screen.
Words so compelling, they leap off the page and bite you on the bum.
Here’s his rationale:
I firmly believe the product or service must deliver on the promises made for it. Then, providing it does, that’s when you really sock it to them in language that sucks the eyeballs into the screen, etc.
It’s our job to really get the prospect excited, enthused and busting to buy. Remember, you sell the sizzle not the steak!
I have dreadful problems with sizzle. Yet Winston’s speaking, coaching and publishing empire is many times greater than I could hope to achieve.
What to do?
Ad agencies advise: ‘If you’ve got nothing to say, sing!’ In other words, if the product you’re flogging lacks merit, put all your resources into showmanship. I totally get this with soft drink or chocolate. But what about corporate copywriting?
Because I believe I have something to say, I feel that singing is unnecessary (at best) and harmful to my brand (at worst). Surely my clear, correct, elegant copy is the singing equivalent of verbose, inaccurate, dreary copy. Am I not singing already? Is not the steak more important than the sizzle?
There’s just one problem: the people visiting my shop aren’t buying my ebook.
Winston took one look at my landing page and pronounced it ‘flat’. He’s certain that unless I ZING, my register won’t ring.
Should I stop being precious and get with the program? Or should I screw my courage to the sticking place and hold fast in defence of quiet, measured, reasonable copy?
How about you? Are you a speaker or a ZINGer? If you changed tack, how would your audience react?
Your response would be music to my ears.
Paul Hassing, Founder & Senior Writer, The Feisty Empire