THE LEVISON LETTER
Action Ideas For Better Direct Mail,
E-mail, Web Sites & Advertising
Ivan Levison, Direct Response Copywriting
Volume: 20 Number: 8
Thoughts walking down the aisle -
Make sure your copywriting style is never flat
There I am in the supermarket, with my shopping cart
my little list, making my appointed rounds.
I sprint past the ice cream, make a graceful turn around
the end-aisle display, and come face to face with that
supremely un-American collection of no-hype, plain-Jane
boxes and cans -- the "generics."
You've seen them. All your favorites, from pancake mix
peanut butter, packed in white, cadaverous boxes and
jars, and selling for less money than name brands. It's
food, plain and simple, without the promotion and without
the higher price.
I knew I had tuna on my list and I quickly spotted the
generic tuna fish can sitting on the shelf. The label was
a sickly off-white. The typeface was a stark, no-nonsense
sans-serif. The price was right, but I just couldn't
bring myself to buy it and kept going on my merry way.
Later I thought about what happened, and came to several
First, I realized that logic was not on my side. The
generic products are frequently packed by brand-name
companies and are of the same high quality.
No. I was reacting on a deeper emotional level. I guess
just wasn't comfortable unless the can said Chicken Of
the Sea. (That's one weird product name if you think
All that advertising and product usage had built in
apparently unshakeable brand loyalty. A loyalty that
fought off a competitive challenge and kept me in the
Now, a lot of people who claim that they are oblivious
the power of advertising don't understand how things
I didn't watch a commercial for Chicken of the Sea,
develop an uncontrollable urge for a tuna sandwich, and
then run to the supermarket to buy a can.
The process is more subtle. The name recognition is
built over a long period of time.
One day, you're standing at the tuna section, your list
says "tuna," your eye scans the shelf, and your hand
starts to reach. That's when all that advertising kicks
in and YOU GO FOR THE NAME YOU KNOW AND TRUST!
That's the advertiser's moment of truth.
Do you reach for the ten-cents-off mystery tuna, or
for your old friend Charley the Tuna? Do you choose
Farmer's Pride corn or turn to the Jolly Green Giant? Do
you want to ride on Splendid Choice tires or on
The fact is, we spend time with people we like and we
products from people we like. Advertising and marketing
communications materials in general create relationships
between buyers and sellers -- which leads me to an
If your copywriting is flat and devoid of personality,
you will not be able to effectively motivate your target
audience. You will not create a positive relationship
with them. This means your product or service will
quickly become the generic brand -- just like the no-name
tuna fish on the supermarket shelf.
What you need to do (as I've often said in The Levison
Letter) is write with energy. Loosen up and realize that
you are talking to human beings. So much junk is written
in the passive voice, so much is uninvolved and just
The take-away message this month?
Next time you have to evaluate some direct mail,
advertising, or marketing materials, demand writing that
isn't afraid to reveal some humanity, personality, and
honesty. Believe me, you won't go wrong!
How To Get In Touch
Direct Response Copywriting
14 Los Cerros Drive
Greenbrae, CA 94904
Phone: (415) 461-0672
Fax: (415) 461-7738
Web Site: http://www.levison.com
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Copyright 2005, by Ivan Levison, All Rights Reserved.
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