Yogi Berra: Master Copywriter?

Yogi BerraA while back, I published this article on Copyblogger. It turned out to be quite popular. So in case you missed it there, I’ll rerun it here.

Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra is a fifteen-time All Star and three-time MVP. He played in 14 World Series games. But what is he famous for? Mixed up quotes.

Someone once asked him what he would do if he found a million dollars. Yogi said, “I’d find the fellow who lost it, and, if he was poor, I’d return it.” When discussing a Steve McQueen movie, Yogi observed, “He must have made that before he died.” Commenting on a pair of gloves, he said, “The only reason I need these gloves is ’cause of my hands.”

On the surface, Yogi seems confused. But perhaps he is trying to convey a deeper meaning for those who care to consider his words carefully. In fact, I think Yogi can teach us about the art of sell copy, the sort of copywriting intended to persuade and motivate.

Let’s listen to what he has to say, and I’ll translate his “yogisms” into clear English.

Yogi: “This is like deja vu all over again.”
Translation: Study proven selling techniques. Every generation of writers thinks they are discovering selling for the first time. Many online writers think writing and selling began with the Web. But selling is based on human psychology and has been going on for thousands of years. If you want to learn how to sell today, study the sales techniques of yesterday. To get started, read Tested Advertising Methods by John Caples and Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins.

Yogi: “If you don’t know where you are going, you will wind up somewhere else.”
Translation: Start with a goal. After all, how can you get someplace if you don’t know where you want to go? Your goal must be specific and measurable: 5,000 subscribers, 135 sales, 750 site hits per day, whatever. This tells you where you’re going and gives you a way to know when you’ve arrived. Read more

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5 tips for more creative copywriting

Have you ever noticed that some copywriters are forever coming up with new ideas while others write the same thing in the same way over and over? It’s true of any group in any industry. You’ll have a few innovators and a lot of followers.

As I write this, I’m creating a postcard for one of my clients. I’ve written and designed many postcards for this client, but on this one I wanted the front to look more like a print ad with a lot of copy.

It struck me that the standard horizontal orientation wouldn’t work well, so I decided to turn it 90 degrees and have the front oriented vertically. There won’t be any problems in the mail since the address side will still be horizontal.

Okay, it’s not a world-shaking idea. It’s just an upended postcard. But it’s a nice little twist that could help the card stand out for this promotion. And that’s copywriting creativity in a nutshell. Doing one thing different that gives you an edge for boosting response.

How do you become more creative? There are lots of ways, but here are 5 quick ideas to get you started. Read more

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Duke University offers vintage print ad library

I’ve always been fascinated by print ads of days gone by. Besides their cultural value, they provide a unique insight into advertising tactics.

Vintage Lifebuoy AdDuke University’s Ad*Access Project has collected and scanned more than 7,000 ads printed in the United States and Canada between 1911 and 1955. This is not a collection of direct response advertising. From my brief perusal, these appear to be mass market, brand building ads from newspapers and magazines.

The ads represent five product and subject areas: radio, television, transportation, beauty and hygiene, and World War II.

I don’t know if these ads are representative of all advertising during the time period because they’re from a single collection put together by J. Walter Thompson, which could be skewed by whatever interest JWT had when assembling the ads.

Still, there’s a lot to be learned by studying mass market advertising. Ads of the past also tend to be easier to analyze since they are aimed at sensibilities of former generations, allowing a good measure of objectivity that you may not have when looking at ads directed at you today.

This is an excellent collection worthy of a bookmark. If you know of other quality collections online, let me know.

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E-mail marketing tips from the pros

Recently, I attended a webinar on e-mail marketing sponsored by Target Marketing. There were no big surprises. The experts discussed a few tactical principles that generally help improve effectiveness. Here’s a summary with some of my own thoughts thrown in:

1. Keep your copy short. E-mail is not as much a reader medium as a scanner medium. People get a lot of e-mail and want to breeze through it. If you have a big pitch, link to a page where you can expand on your topic.

2. Keep the design simple. Yes, many people have high-speed connections. But as bandwidth has increased so has volume. Simple designs with small, optimized images load quickly. Text-only messages loads even faster and may have the added benefit of avoiding spam filters, since a lot of spam is now image-based.

3. Give people several clicks. There may be some debate on how many, but from what the gurus said in this webinar and from my own experience, I’d say from 3 to 7 links on average. However, the experts didn’t talk much about text e-mails which can work quite well with a couple sentences and one link. Then there are e-mail newsletter formats that could have dozens. So as always, rules of thumb are not really rules. Read more

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