Absorb yourself for a moment in Escher’s drawing, ‘Waterfall.‘ What do you see? What catches your eye first? Consider its perspective. Follow the water’s path to the moment it cascades. Does the water appear to defy gravity or does it stay on the same level?
It takes a genius to play tricks with your mind, where your concept of reality is challenged … and your eyes are opened to endless possibilities. Fascinating, isn’t it?
Escher’s image certainly draws you into his illusionary dream world, with its contrasts and paradoxes. But, how does this relate to copywriting? All will be revealed…
Copywriters use words – they don’t paint or toy with our perceptions. Do they? Surely, their world is a galaxy of punctuation marks, headlines and verbs… Or is it?
There is a little known secret behind great copywriting, which doesn’t initially involve semantics or grammar. It’s a deeper gift – something all copywriters aspire to.
Copywriters write with their eyes, not with their fingertips
The secret lies behind having vision … being able to see within. Helen Keller, one of history’s most incredible women said, ‘The only thing worse than being blind, is having sight but no vision.’ Unable to see or hear anything from the age of two, Helen Keller learned how to reach others.
Just how important is having vision in copywriting? Let’s unpick this for a moment. To ‘see’, you need to be intuitive, astute and alive to reality. This process usually involves making an emotional connection with others.
How emotions sell?
Emotions play a critical role in selling. They are incredible motivators. For example: imagine yourself queuing up for a cappuccino in a local coffee shop. As you stand deciding what to order, you spot a luscious slice of chocolate cake – and it’s got your name on it!
You look at everything, including plastic spoons in a beaker, to avoid staring at it. Thankfully, you move away from the maddening temptation, as the queue goes down. Although the thought of it lingers, iron willpower beats it back.
Hurrah! You’ve conquered the urge. Just as you finish ordering, the assistant asks if you want anything else. Without drawing breath, you hear a voice – yours – saying,’ A slice of that chocolate cake just there, please. I shouldn’t really but…’
Too late! You’ve crumbled … surrendered to your desires (Or inner demons). To assuage guilt, you justify the decision: ‘It’s just one … it won’t hurt. Not as if I have cake everyday.’ Sound familiar?
Truth is, our emotions control us. Copywriters therefore need to know when to play on a particular emotion to attract readers. Whether it’s greed, insecurity, fear or curiosity, a copywriter must shape copy to suit the audience’s emotional needs.
Let’s return to Escher’s masterpiece… Do you see something different this time? While you look, does a story appear? What’s the young man gazing up at? Is he in awe of the waterfall or perhaps staring at the view beyond? What’s flowing through his mind?
Now focus on the lady hanging out her washing. She seems oblivious to everything around her, as if ensconced in her own private world. Is she worried, bored, lonely? Does she dream of a better life, beyond the present?
Copywriters have to be master storytellers, who paint pictures to draw readers in. As with every compelling story, there needs to be a character the reader identifies with. There must be a strong opening to capture imagination. Once the scene is set, a problem arises and a solution is sought. (Much like an obstacle prospects face…)
The copywriter’s job is to resolve the problem with the product’s main benefit. In short, help the reader to ‘see’ how a problem can be overcome. And lead them to the answer: the product.
People love hearing success stories, especially in the world we live in where doom and gloom often overshadow life’s beautiful moments. An intuitive copywriter uses storytelling techniques to show how life will improve once the reader buys…
But, what is the final secret to eye-opening copy?
A final challenge is to ensure copy, in the literal sense, is visible. The structure of copy must be carefully considered from the headline, to where calls to action are placed.
Words need to breathe… Once they are suffocated in long paragraphs, with crammed, never-ending sentences, the message is lost. Copywriters must understand the joys of white space. For the uninitiated, white space is space between text and graphics. These virtual pit stops allow readers to rest for a while.
To create more white space, you can use more:
bullet points short paragraphs subheadings
These structures help readers scan for information. Create a rhythm of words by interspersing longer sentences with short ones. Use a web-friendly sans-serif font such as Helvetica, Tahoma or Verdana. And remember, copy which looks accessible will be read.
As you ponder on these ideas for a little while longer, never forget prospects are people first. As soon as you stand in their shoes and give them something to identify with, your message will be understood.
While Escher’s drawings undoubtedly captivate us with their complexities and hidden meanings, great copy has to be visible, natural and open. Simplicity is the answer…