Free Tips for Successful Copywriting

Monday, July 30, 2007

God Bless America Home to the world's perfect online prospect!

I love Americans, don’t you? Not only are they great people, they’re great spenders. It pays to know them.

But sometimes, they’re hard to fathom …

Old, young, doesn’t matter. They love fast food, blue jeans, and loud violent movies. One day they’re up. One day they’re down. Crazy, rebellious, invincible!

In America, dreams come and go like the noonday sun. Certainty leads to uncertainty just as quickly. New discoveries go from promising to disappointing in the blink of an eye.

America is the land of limitless opportunity, of optimism, and abundance. Of Disneyland, and Hollywood, of promise, hope, and discovery. Of never growing up, and never giving in.

Americans are primed for action, and ready to tempt fate at a moments notice. You couldn’t dream up a better prospect if you tried … but what are these proud, defiant people thinking?

Why do they do the things they do? Why to do they buy the things they buy?

Worth studying don’t you agree?

I’m a Canadian, but to me, Canada is like the 51st state. I know more Americans than I do Canadians, and they make up 89% of my business, so I have more than a passing interest in trying to figure out what makes them tick. You should too, but where do you start?

Sage advice from Gene Schwartz …

Gene Schwartz, one of the greatest copywriters to have ever lived said copywriters and direct marketers should immerse themselves in pop culture, study history, and listen to people in casual conversation to try to decode the underlying subconscious beliefs and attitudes that drive them.

What makes a top-grossing movie in America? What makes a best selling book? Why is the National Enquirer some of the most expensive print advertising space in America? Why do Americans have an almost insatiable appetite for Seinfeld, All in the Family, and The Flintstones? What are the cultural imprints that are seared deep into the collective consciousness of America?

The answers to these questions offer clues to the unconscious attitudes and beliefs of American buyers. Attitudes and beliefs that underpin the real reasons they buy. Information you can’t get by simply asking…

Why focus groups are for dummies …

Ask an American why he or she bought a particular new car, and you’ll hear things like how great the fuel economy is, how well it handles, and how it has ample room for the whole family. But these things are not reasons, they’re alibis. They offer a very incomplete explanation of why Americans really buy cars. That’s why market surveys and focus groups can be so misleading.

You cannot expect to get to the bottom of buying motives by simply asking people what they are. The reason is simple. When you survey a market about its interests and preferences, people tend to give you the answers they think you expect to hear.

It’s not that they’re lying. It’s just that they’re responding to the question with the rational part of their brain. The actual buying process is a whole different animal, much more the product of emotion and instinct. What actually goes on in people’s heads can only be inferred by their actions.

The power of social imprinting …

I’ve often talked about the associative power of words. Understanding the potent imprints behind these associations can go a long way toward getting to the core of buying behaviour and motivation.

You see, even the most introspective among us has very little notion about why we do the things we do. We’ve been imprinted from a very early age to respond reflexively to words and ideas in ways that are consistent with the beliefs and attitudes of the culture we’re raised in.

These beliefs and attitudes operate below our conscious awareness. They are experienced as emotions, and instincts. And these experiences are at the root of our buying decisions.

The beliefs and attitudes that many Americans subconsciously harbour are expressed in popular culture. When you study it, as Gene did, you can begin to decode the motivational DNA, and come closer to connecting with the true buying motives of your prospects.

That’s not to say that ALL Americans behave in the same way, or even that certain of them behave in ways that are in fact decidedly counter to the prevailing culture. (There are indeed highly passionate counter cultures that can be incredibly profitable to market to).

It simply means that the majority of Americans run a very particular series of subroutines in their heads when it comes to buying decisions based on uniquely American archetypical beliefs and attitudes.As marketers, knowing what they are can be useful. Obviously I can’t delve into a complete discussion of them here, but let me give you a few things to think about…

Why NEW equals IMPROVED!

Americans are obsessed with youth. You can see it throughout the culture. They may respect thinkers, but their heroes are action figures. They may need to relax from time to time, but they’re more often looking for excitement. And they respond to positive upbeat themes. Knowing this explains many buying preferences, and points the way to marketing appeals that are likely to be successful.

It explains the fascination with NEW, and NOW doesn’t it? These are shop worn advertising words that will never lose their sheen because they create powerful associations that are exactly on target with the way many Americans see themselves.

Americans are people of ACTION. While the French deliberate, the Germans perfect, and the Brits debate, the American way is to act first and clean up the mess later. Corporate America has tried to defy this cultural reality on more than one occasion and it only leads to failure and frustration. The Nike slogan “just do it” strikes a powerful cord in the American psyche.

The worship of youthful attitudes and beliefs in America has enormous implications in advertising and web marketing, and impacts the sale of virtually every mass marketed product and service under the sun.

What Americans really think about health, work, and money…

Take health products for example. Ponce de Leon’s discovery of the fountain of youth on American soil was no accident. Regardless of age, Americans see themselves as forever young, and anything that supports this belief swims with the current.

To Americans health is much more than survival. It’s much more than avoiding being sick, being free from aches and pains, and being able to enjoy a sunny day. It is intrinsically tied to the idea of independence.

Americans, regardless of age associate health with the ability to take action. They associate autonomy and the ability to act independently with health. To be healthy is to make a difference in the world, to be able to complete your mission, and fulfill your purpose. When it comes to their health, Americans fear the inability to take action far more than they fear pain and sickness.

The same beliefs are evident in the American attitude toward work and career. Americans may complain about being over worked, stressed out, and underpaid, but work and career means much more to them than they admit.

Americans it seems are always seeking that next promotion, the next opportunity, the next chance for something big.

This baffles most Europeans. Why Americans work such long hours and are so career-obsessed is a complete mystery to them. They denigrate Americans as being materialistic. And even if you ask an American why he or she works so hard, they’re likely to tell you — it’s the money stupid. But is it really?

Go to any party in America and you’ll see there’s more to the story. As you mingle, they ask, what do you do? You could offer any number of answers couldn’t you? You could list your hobbies, your role as a parent, your interests in Mongolian anthropology, but you know better.

“What do you do” in America means, “what job do you do?” As if to say, “what’s your purpose?”

Regardless of what people in America say, they are motivated to get up and go to work in the morning for far more than money. Even if they detest their work, it has a far greater meaning and dimension in their lives than being something you have to do to make money.

From an early age, Americans are uniquely conditioned to believe that who they are as individuals is defined by what they do for a living. The cultural imprinting places career at the very core of identity. To be jobless, is to be nobody.

Is it any wonder Americans celebrate work and career like no other culture in the world? They even turn mega successful business people like Bill Gates and Donald Trump into pop stars. In America, what you do for a living is WHO YOU ARE!

It follows then, that products and services that promise to advance careers, heighten standing in the business community, and give meaning to what Americans do for a living are almost certain to attract attention.

An American who is ambitious and constantly striving to give more to the community through the workplace is admired. An American who fails to advance his or her career, and accepts the limitations of his or her current work is likely to feel miserable. The hopelessness of their jobs has done critical damage to their very identities. Tap into these core attitudes and beliefs, and you can make a fortune!

And what about money? What’s the meaning of money in America?

Americans believe more than any other culture on earth that no matter what your current circumstances, the only barriers to making as much money as you want are self imposed.

Lotteries are as popular in America as anywhere else, but in a very real sense, the winners become pariahs, and often squander their winnings for one very simple reason …

In America, money is much more than a means to buy things. It’s how Americans keep score. It tells them how far they’ve come in the world. It proves that they can carry their burdens.

Money, provided it’s earned, is a means of showing the world you are a good person, and demonstrating that you have value to others. Winning the lottery is like cheating.

Nowhere else in the world are people as compelled to keep working, keep striving, and keep risking failure even after becoming incredibly rich and successful.

In most other cultures, if one earns a great deal of money, at a certain point, one simply settles back on the estate, leaving the world of commerce behind. In America, you’re only as good as your last deal!

As a marketer, the success or failure of your advertising is predicated on how well it resonates with your target market. Whether you share any of the beliefs or attitudes that dominate that market is immaterial. Often, you may not, and it can be hard to connect with the core beliefs and attitudes of the markets you’re working in for that very reason. Immersing yourself in the popular culture of the masses, and the various subcultures that exist within the specific markets you’re targeting is absolutely essential to making that connection.

Until next time, Good Selling!

Daniel Levis is a top marketing consultant & direct response copywriter based in Toronto, Canada and publisher of the world famous copywriting anthology “Masters of Copywriting” featuring the marketing wisdom of 44 of the world’s greatest copywriters, including Clayton Makepeace, Joe Sugarman, Joe Vitale, Bob Bly and dozens more! For a FREE excerpt visit the link

Be sure to sign up for THE TOTAL PACKAGE, and receive Daniel's excellent weekly ezine "Web Marketing Advisor" absolutely FREE!

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