If I’ve learned anything about copywriting, it’s the principle of “The Big Idea.”
The Big Idea was explained by David Ogilvy in his classic book, Ogilvy On Advertising:
“You can do homework from now until doomsday, by you will never win fame and fortune unless you also invent big ideas. It takes a big idea to attract the attention of consumers and get them to buy your product. Unless your advertising contains a big idea, it will pass like a ship in the night.”
Ogilvy admitted that in all his years as a copywriter, he had perhaps 20 big ideas in his career. Big ideas come from the unconscious. The trick is, your unconscious mind has to be well informed or the idea is irrelevant.
Ogilvy’s recipe for coming up with a big idea was this: stuff your conscious mind full of information and then unhook your rational thought process.
What your audience wants
I’ve found that many businesses want to cram into their copy every single thing they can do for a customer. But their audience (and this is especially true for the web), are only looking for a single, useful suggestion or idea that could make them more successful.
To create successful marketing promotions, your copy should have:
- Only one Big Idea driving the copy
- One core emotion
- One single, desirable benefit
Let’s start with the first point.
One main idea
Let’s say you have a product that can help people simplify their menu planning, provide new daily new recipes, and provide nutritional information that calculates how it stacks up against the daily requirements suggested by the FDA.
Pretty nifty, eh? So, it’s tempting to try to convince your audience of its wide-ranging benefits.
Resist this temptation.
If you don’t and you try to include everything, you’ll end up diluting the power of your copy.
Your audience, who may not need new recipes, will skip over that part. They’ll stop paying attention to the rest of your copy.
If you wanted to cover all your benefits, you’d have to provide more information to prove your claims.
Why make that unnecessary effort and then ask your reader to do the same?
One main emotion
Copywriting masters teach that your prospect has many emotions. Although it may sound like a good idea to tap into as many emotions as you can, is it really the best way to capture your buyer’s attention?
Emotional triggers are important when writing copy. But to include more than one trigger will dilute the emotional power of the message just like trying to cover every single feature.
Think about it your own experiences. When facing a particular situation, you may feel a variety of emotions. You might be happy, sad, and wistful at the same time (such as a single person witnessing the wedding of her best friend). However, one emotion dominates.
How would you feel if all these emotions came at you simultaneously? If you said “bewildered,” you’d be right.
That’s not how you want your audience to feel when they’re reading your web copy or white paper.
One main benefit
You want to excite your audience with the biggest benefit your product brings to their life based on the one idea you’re focusing on. In the first part of your copy, you want them to be able to visualize and feel that benefit.
If you’re writing longer copy, you can add other benefits that support the biggest one later on. For the recipe service, your big promise might be relief from having to come up with a new weekly menu. So your desirable benefit is having more time to focus on other activities rather than spending lots of time on menu-planning.
Later, you could say something like, “Now that your meals are planned, you can get back to other activities, such as catching up with email… or enjoying a TV show with your family.” However, notice how these more detailed benefits are really extensions of your major, targeted benefit.
When you follow this process, your writing will be clearer. The response to it, stronger. And creating copy for your business will be easier and quicker.