There you are in the grandly decorated lounge of Agora owner Bill Bonner’s 18-century chateau…
Gathered with you are what you’ve been told are some of the best copywriters in the world…
In fact, you’re only just starting to figure out what this copywriting lark is all about, so to spend time with real experts and insiders… brilliant.
And there you are, split off into a group of three or four writers, one who works for the (at this time) near-mythical Stansberry Research group under Mike Palmer.
You read your copy out loud and it’s received OK, but nothing special. Another newbie follows you. They get the same ‘meh’ reaction. It’s expected.
But then comes the expert…
They clear their throat…
This is going to be direct response gold…
Everything turns on its head. You and your fellow newbies look at each other wondering if you heard right.
Was their headline based entirely around the word ‘magic’?
Magic? Is that the best you’ve got? What happened to urgency, usefulness, uniqueness, ultra-specificity?
Flash forward three or four years…
You’re going through a load of old control copy you know works pretty well.
You have a guide you need to sell that shows people how to trade the markets in a certain way that most people don’t know about.
You find one promotion that fits very well, but the headline seems pretty weak to you: it’s got the word ‘magic’ in it for heaven sake.
But you remember your experience in the chateau, and though you want to reject using the word ‘magic’ with all your soul, you go for it anyway.
The sales letter works. It flies, in fact. It’s still being used today, four or five years later.
And so to present day…
I’ve been over in Baltimore all week, and the other night I’m sat in my hotel bar reading a promotion about James Altucher.
The headline – I’m paraphrasing – is something like “James Altucher’s Magic Income Secret.”
There it is again, that word ‘magic’.
Granted, this particular promo is a direct lift from a similar promo US copywriting expert Joe Schriefer created, where Joe goes around local cafes and invites regular people to see how a certain investment strategy can pay you income right then and there.
As Joe explains of his original version, when it comes to making money from the financial markets, this particular technique is the closest thing he’s come to magic and he got the idea for his version of the promotion watching David Blaine perform street magic.
So, there’s a link there. Between the copy and the very idea of performing magic.
But reading the Altucher copy got me thinking about how we use the word magic in copywriting, and just the idea of copywriting being a kind of magic in and of itself.
Yet, I’m willing to bet that most readers probably sneer a little bit when they hear that word ‘magic’ associated with copy. I know I do.
But should we?
The answer, of course, is no.
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Coming to terms with the ‘magic’ of copywriting
Good copy should seem magical.
Magical doesn’t have to mean a lie… it doesn’t have to mean misdirection… it doesn’t have to mean unbelievable.
If something is magical it just means it’s out of the ordinary.
…exactly what good copy should be.
I mean, you already know good copy should be exciting. You know it should be full of wonder. You know it should be spellbinding.
You know it should NOT be boring, as old copy pro, John Carlton, so often points out.
Indeed, if you find yourself writing copy that is boring: slap yourself, delete it, and then slap yourself again for good measure.
As a copywriter, your job is to take the cold grey reality of everyday like and make it magical and captivating…
Selling stock options: boring.
Creating money out of thin air: now we’re talking.
Interest rate hikes going to cause housing crisis: dull.
Central bank plot to seize your home: tell me more.
Diet pill helps you lose weight: snore.
Secret formula turns fat into muscle: well, go on then.
All very simplistic examples, sure, but you see my point. Turning the ordinary into the EXTRA-ordinary is what we do.
So, next time you’re reviewing a headline you’ve written or pitching an idea you’ve been working on… see if you can sprinkle a little magic into it.
And do so with conviction, because, to grossly miss-quote R Kelly, “there ain’t nothing wrong with a little magic in copy.”