Growth Marketing

Copywriting: definition and demystification of a key marketing concept

Copywriting ... God, it took a long time to get this article out. Some of you will understand very well why, this concept has been so used and misused that it has almost been gutted of its substance. Between commonplaces and abstract principles, we are quickly lost when we want to improve.

Here we will not praise you for a mirage "In four words and a comma you will sell € 600,000 in services". On the other hand, we will give you some clues to understand what is behind this concept and how it will make your marketing and commercial actions more.

Morvan CarrierMorvan Carrier

Morvan Carrier

Co-founder
Published on 21 October 2021 (Updated on 14 February 2022)

Copywriting definition and issues

What is copywriting?

It is the act of writing a copy. You know to actually write something.

That's it, thank you for reading!

copywriting - c'est tout

Ok, I provoke you a little.

In reality, copy-writing is in a way the most successful version of the positioning of a content writer.

The secret to a successful 21st-century marketing strategy is:

Why be interested in copywriting?

Many voices are raised to tell anyone who will want to hear that the web is saturated, that we see too much content and that it no longer works. The reality is quite different. Content has always been at the heart of our civilization, competition and the amount of content are only constraints that will force you, to succeed, to create content that is very differentiating and more effective than that of your competitors.

Using copywriting, writing well in fact, is essential for the success of your marketing strategies including:

  • The design writing of sales pages
  • Copywriting
  • Draw attention to social networks
  • Content marketing (Blog posts, lead magnet etc.)
  • Your website
  • Your marketing automation messages

But it is also a powerful tool for your sales representatives, especially for:

  • Generate interest in prospecting messages
  • Give desire with an effective commercial proposal to sell your product or service
  • Attract potential customers with social selling

In short, if you want your business to grow and make money, working on your writing is a good idea.

Difference between copywriting and storytelling

Is copywriting storytelling?

This question is the perfect illustration of the phrase "Correlation is not causation". If you don't understand it, don't worry do like everyone else, nod your head, and re-lock it when you feel like it works. If you understand it, send me an email!

More seriously, the two concepts often go hand in hand but are not necessarily related. We can very well offer messages, web pages or articles very good "copywriting" without telling a story. On the other hand, good storytelling can hardly be considered as not being well "Copywrite".

The use of storytelling is a major asset for those who seek to have impact and convince. A story is a very powerful tool to convey emotions and to convey complex messages easily. It is also the essence of branding and sales today.

"What matters is not the product or service you sell but the story it tells." - Seth Godin

Copywriting and storytelling also share the same excesses, we constantly hear about it, it is rarely very judiciously used.

What is not copywriting?

Copywriting is not a digital marketing superpower that will allow you to sell €1,000,000 in one email.

Naivety has never saved anyone, it's about the same level as "eating eggshells will make you lose weight" or "sleeping in the fridge will make you immortal".

Copywriting is the skillful application of human psychology concepts and writing principles that will allow you to be more effective than a Larousse definition in achieving your sales objectives. And that's already very good!

But if you are looking for how to get rich quickly and effortlessly, click on the somewhat dubious youtube ads that invariably punctuate your videos, apparently there are plenty of easy training courses that teach you in 2 hours 😁

The basics of Copywriting: How does it work?

Be careful, the following is a copywriting design that is unique to us at Sales Odyssey, we work this way.

Is it the absolute "truth", the unique and perfect model that makes it possible to make a good copywriting?

No.

It doesn't exist.

But undeniably if you understand all the elements that follow and you apply them you will become a copywriter more than decent.

Copywriting Base #1: Strategy

Let's start with the simplest.

It is useful to remember that the fundamental prerequisite for a good copywriting is to have a clear goal in mind and a target for your message.

Being good at copywriting is not a superpower it is above all a deep knowledge of the target of his messages and the ability to always have one and only one goal in mind when writing said message.

So if you want to improve your copywriting you should systematically work on your marketing personas and deepen them with the job to be done method. These two techniques will allow you to have a very detailed understanding of your targets and the motivations behind their actions.

If you want to dig deeper, we've created a persona guide here.

Once your target is in mind, your message must have a goal, which will be achieved by your reader if he follows your call to action (often call Call to action).

It is essential to have only one and only one on a sales page, an e-mail, an advertisement. If the goal is not clear or there are several you are infinitely less likely to succeed. Whether because of the paradox of choice or simply too much information to process, several objectives are guaranteed failure.

Copywriting Base n°2: Psychology

The second pillar of a good copywriting is relatively simple to understand but very difficult to master.

It is good to remember that the target of your messages is necessarily a human, and that we are above all a joyful mixture of psychological biases and contradictions. Fortunately for us marketers and salespeople, people smarter than us have largely studied the question and detailed in many books the major cognitive biases of human psychology.

A good copywriter must know these principles, understand them and be able to use them wisely to increase his effectiveness.

In the third part of this article, I detail the main levers of persuasion or manipulation that you can use to improve the impact of your texts. In particular, we discuss:

  • Social proof
  • The principle of authority
  • The principle of scarcity
  • Freezing effect and engagement escalation
  • The lure effect
  • Information availability bias

As powerful and scientifically proven as they are, remember that no, it will not work every time and especially that their mastery goes hand in hand with a certain ethics. Don't do anything, don't use them to harm.

Beyond the moral imperative, karma, whether you believe in it or not will catch up with you, or I will!

i will find you

Copywriting base n°3: Style

We are now at the most important stage. The X factor of copywriting. The pillar that you will never really be sure you have reached and for which you can not ultimately rely on much other than experience and its personality: Style.

Yes, an excellent copywriter will develop a style, a style that will be his own and likely to be able to recognize for sure the author of a text when we have already read other of his texts.

I don't think you can ever say "I have style". This is why this pillar is difficult to work on, there is no recipe, no framework to rely on.

The style of the copywriter is what charisma is for the speaker, it is not necessary to own one to be effective, but being technically brilliant while possessing this style will invariably produce masterpieces.

(This is the moment when I specify that I am only at level 2 of copywriting, no misunderstanding)

My advice on this point is not to try to caricature the style of another, I do not share the point of view of those who think that it helps to become better. I think it helps you feel better but it will prevent you from developing the right style: yours.

I think it develops by writing, more and more, by writing what you think as you think it while serving the purpose of your message and touching your reader because you know them well.

So I apologize for this pillar, I ended up doing like all those articles that give indecipherable pseudo-advice and lack concrete. But style cannot be reduced to a framework. In the next part, we still address an editorial key desperately absent from any other article on copywriting: Figures of style.

I thought there must be a reason to call them "figures of style".

Copywriting: examples and techniques for good copywriting

The AIDA, PAS and BAB frameworks

But what are frameworks! Just follow them and PAF we are geniuses!

Ok, a bit of irony I admit.

Frameworks are useful and can help you get started, it's reassuring and it must be said that some are quite effective. I propose three that we think are interesting.

The AIDA framework

One of the best known, simple and effective it will help you structure any type of marketing content:

  • Landing pages
  • Prospecting or marketing automation emails
  • Social media posts

The principle is simple, each letter corresponds to a key element of the message:

A, pour Attention

Vous devez commencer votre message de manière à attirer l’attention, pour ceci vous pouvez utiliser des techniques de fond : formulation de votre contenu, chiffre clé étonnant etc. Et des techniques sur la forme, taille du texte, couleur etc.

I, for Interest

You have captured their attention now you have to arouse the interest to read your whole message. These are two different things where attention can be gained on form, interest needs substance. The only way to achieve this is to know the target of your message and its issues to be relevant.

D, for desire

To arouse the desire for action, you have had his attention and you have awakened his interest. You must now create a desire for change, a desire for action by explaining, for example, what could happen if your reader took action and solved his problem.

A, for action

If you don't take action on your reader, what you're doing makes no sense. It's like talking to say nothing, doing a LinkedIn poll in 2021. That would be pure vanity.

For more examples, you can consult our article on the AIDA method.

The PAS framework: Problem, agitate, solve

Very simple and very effective, it is an excellent tool to structure an email marketing or a landing page.

Problem

Identify a problem, a pain for your audience and present it clearly.

Agitate

Shake this problem by describing its impact and severity, make the reader feel that yes it is an important problem, and that yes it will get worse. Strengthen as much as possible the credibility of the problem, do not hesitate to rely on storytelling or additional content.

Solve

Present the solution of which you are the hero, you will save the reader thanks to your solution or the action you propose.

The BAB framework: Before - After - Bridge

Another useful framework, terribly simple but effective. The idea is to use a comparative message structure that will play on the contrast between an initial situation (the one in which your audience is) and a final situation (the one they will want to achieve) and that will lead to the achievement of your goal that is accomplished thanks to the "bridge".

You suck at copywriting (BEFORE) >>> you're going to become geniuses (AFTER) >>> just read and share this article (BRIDGE).

gif - copywriting

I'm not going to offend you for making a real detailed example, I'm provoking you but you've figured it out.

After-sales service: you don't suck at copywriting, no one is. And no one is really an expert either.

Techniques of persuasion (or manipulation)

Yes it exists, yes it works. No, it's also not as effective as a forbidden spell in Harry Potter.

copywriting - harry potter

But if you knew how vulnerable we all are to these techniques you would still be horrified.

In my opinion, there are three Bibles on this subject:

  • Influence and manipulation of Robert Cialdini (Best known)
  • Small treatise on manipulation for the use of honest people (The most academic)
  • Thinking fast & slow by Daniel Kanheman (One of the biggest slaps of my life)

I will not for reasons of seo or ego fill the article with all their ideas, I will tell you about some key principles and I HIGHLY recommend you to read these books, they are amazing.

The freezing effect

The principle is simple, any decision freely made by an individual will tend to freeze the decision-making process of that individual. All subsequent decisions will go in the same direction, even if this decision turns out to be a mistake.

What does this have to do with copywriting? You can by words, by your content create microdecisions that serve your goals for your readers. The more opportunities you create for decisions, the more you will create an engaged and pre-convinced audience for the next one.

Example:

Decision 1, I click: You make a post that aims to discover a great online collection of free tools to become rich and famous (this is for the example).

Decision 2, I register: visitors to this collection are skillfully offered during their navigation to register for a free mini-course to set up his plan to become rich and famous.

Decision 3 & 4, I register and attend the webinar: at the end of this course you offer a webinar to explain why most people fail when they do this.

Decision 5, I take out the CB: at the end of the webinar 20% promo for any registration to the full program in the next 24 hours.

Here all the decisions go in the same direction, they play on the freezing effect to succeed in convincing despite decisions more and more "demanding" to take, more demanding but easier because of the previous decision.

In the example here, we could also say that it is an escalation of engagement that is actually the same concept but that is used to describe the fact of always persisting in one's previous decision despite the failure of this one (here, you are still not rich and famous).

Finally the rarity was used during the last decision with the promotion for 24 hours.

Think that copywriting is not a technique that is necessarily played in one shot.

Scarcity

As we have just illustrated, scarcity is very simple to understand and very powerful. We must make it clear that what we propose is very rare and that we risk missing it if we do not make a decision. The fear of missing out is very powerful and it creates a decision bias, it's rare so I have to.

A more subtle use of scarcity: NFTs, a virtual product that is not inherently rare, someone decides that there will be only one so it is worth X million euros. Yet is it so rare? A matter of point of view.

The lure effect

This one is very useful to present your prices. It is a technique that plays on a false contrast between several offers, three most of the time, to artificially increase the psychological distance between the two real offers by adding a third that will push towards the most expensive offer, being expensive but without interest compared to the higher offer.

Social proof

Hyper simple, we see it everywhere: Customer reviews, likes, customer references.

All the levers that consist of saying, "this person who is like you has done what I ask of you and is satisfied with it" are based on social proof.

The principle of authority

This one is terribly scary when you dig, if you want to have nightmares go take a look at Milgram's experience.

The basic principle is simply that we will use an authority figure (recognized by your audience) to support our argument.

Example, if I tell you that Seth Godin read this article and said with a subtle American accent but in impeccable French:

"This is without a doubt the most extraordinary article on copywriting I've ever read!"

Okay, you're going to tell me it's a lie, but it would not take much to better make it up and that it works.

Besides, is this really a lie? 😏

On the other hand, a key principle with us, DO NOT LAY as I just did.

I really believe in Karma. You will pay the bill one day or another.

Information availability bias

Here we move a little away from copywriting and we get closer to the life of a copywriter. We are all, a little snobbish with advertisements saying that we rehash a silly message 1000 times of course it does not work, after all we are still smarter than that.

Well, no.

We are not smarter than that.

The more we hear or see something, the easier it is to find an occurrence of the "fact" exposed in our memory, the more we consider it to be true. Whatever your initial opinion. A copywriter who reproduces similar discourse on multiple platforms for long enough will succeed in influencing your perception of reality.

Think of political speeches before the presidential elections. Check everything. Especially what they repeat every time. Always.

There are hundreds of other persuasion techniques.

But beware, "Don't be evil" as the others would say.

Figures of style and copywriting

That's it the guy he a lead, he brings us back to French class in college...

gif - you've lost your mind

A little respect, I put my heart into this article!

I have easy criticism, but in my opinion, as silly as our ancestors are, there must be a reason why "figure style" are called figures of style. And I have the audacity to imagine that it has to do with the fact that it gives... Style.

If you are not comfortable with this incongruous hypothesis you can stop reading here and directly share this article on social networks specifying that it was really good until the author made a road trip.

For those who are still there, the proof of the effectiveness of the figures of style has just been made to you:

"Pété un plomb" is a very explicit hyperbole that allows in three words in an obvious and powerful way to describe the extent of the intellectual drift of the author. So me. And at the same time it is also an antiphrase since obviously I say the opposite of what I think, in reality it is my lucidity that leads me to talk to you about figure of style ... and my megalomania a little bit too.

"Going off the road" is an allegory that has nothing to do with writing, copywriting or anything else in this article but expresses in very few words what some of our readers may have thought when arriving in this final part.

Convinced?

So it's a little reminder of the main figures of style of the French:

Figures of analogy

(My favorites ❤️)

The allegory: to represent an abstract idea by an image or a story that allows to imagine it.

Personification: Assigning human properties to an inanimate object or animal.

Comparison: We establish a link between two elements through a comparative term in order to create an image.

The metaphor: it is an indirect comparison that does not need comparison, it is a figure of analogy that suggests a comparison.

Figures of exaggeration and mitigation

Hyperbole: exaggerating an idea to highlight it.

Gradation: Enumeration of words or groups of words in increasing order of intensity to express an idea

The litote: say less to imply more. We decrease the intensity of our real thinking. Example: "it is not bad this article" or "I like them our readers".

Preterition: Talking about something after declared that we will not talk about it.

The euphemism: it's like a litote but the goal is to mitigate an unpleasant idea, for example: "This article has room for improvement Nicolas" for "it's the worst ***** I've read this week, and yet I spend my life on LinkedIn".

The antiphrase: Saying the opposite of what we think out of irony or euphemism.

Ok that's kind of my favorite too❤️

Construction figures

The antithesis: Bringing together two terms whose meaning is opposed to create a contrast.

The oxymoron: Bringing together two contradictory terms. The famous "obscure clarity"...

Parallelism: The repetition of two sentences of identical structure.

Repetition figures

The anaphora: it is the repetition of the same word at the beginning of a sentence.

Pleonasm: Saying the same thing twice "Climb to the top", "plan ahead", "Growth marketing"...

Repetition: repeating the same word or group of words several times in a statement.

There are PLENTY of others, but you don't have the whole week and neither do I 😂.

Bonus gift, figures of style is cool, but it's hell (HYPERBOLE) to determine what some common expressions are, so you have here an inexhaustible source of LinkedIn survey.

On the other hand, know that I undertake to unfollow all users of this feature... Frankly I can't take it anymore.

sondage linkedin - gif

FAQ: Copywriting definition and operation

It is the art and the way to achieve one's goals through writing. This most often refers to a writer's ability to sell through effective, impactful and engaging text. It's a key skill to address the challenges of content marketing at a time when there has never been so much content available.

Copywriting is actually based on three key aspects: strategy, psychology and style. The strategy is to know your target and to identify the objective of each of our content. Psychology consists in knowing and using wisely all the techniques of persuasion at our disposal to increase one's chances of convincing. Style is what makes a copywriter unique.

There is no miracle recipe for success, you will have to work tirelessly on the basics of copywriting and the more you write the more you will progress. Of course there are frameworks to help you like AIDA or PAS for example. You can also rely on influence techniques such as the principle of authority, social proof or scarcity.