The Mad Men’s guide to writing stellar copy (part 1)

I’ve been developing my swipe file collection of some of the most incredible ads and copywriters. While researching for great fodder, I bumped into this fantastic post by the good folks at

If you’ve been looking for “rules” for writing compelling copy that gets read, shared, and converted, look no further. This might be it! Here it goes:

Start with research: the foundation of all excellent writing is research unless you’re one of those who fell off of an encyclopedia truck. While I won’t go into research methodologies (something that professional researchers like yours genuinely swear by) right now, it’s a good practice to go deeper with existing research. The rule is always to go a layer or two further.

Interviews — both formal and informal — are a great medium to glean real-world and practical insights about the product or service you’re writing a copy about. If possible, go for informal interviews as they allow you to connect at a deeper level with the interviewee.

Focus groups are another great place to look for ideas and content that will strengthen your copy.

Understand your audience: someone wise once said, “know your audience before you can grow it.” Studying the audience is the most under-appreciated aspect of marketing a business or a service. Most marketers would stop at knowing their audience with a bunch of surveys and psycho-graphic mappings.

Marketers need to go beyond that by truly understanding the people they want to market at the most fundamental level. What’s their most significant pain point? Why haven’t they been able to resolve it yet? Who’s the actual buyer? Who will be using the product/service?

Here’s a quote from Don Draper that should shed some light:

“the greatest thing you have working for you is not the photo you take or the picture you paint; it’s the imagination of the consumer. They have no budget, they have no time limit, and if you can get into that space, your ad can run all day.” (Don Draper)

Be unique and different: what makes your product unique and different from the thousands of other options out there? How can you be different in a crowded marketplace with a product/service that’s either genuinely good or has a glaring flaw? Enter the “it’s toasted principle” that states that you don’t have to be different. You have to be the one to turn a shared feature into a differentiator.

The big idea here is to convert an assumed flaw as a differentiating strength and position your product accordingly. As Don Draper and Peggy Olson would say, “If you don’t like what they’re saying about you, change the conversation.”

If you liked these, stay tuned for part 2 of The Mad Men’s guide to writing stellar copy series.

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