The Power of Attention – How to write copy that clicks – Part 1

In my last article I mentioned controversy and its power to grab attention with the minimum of effort (as used by villains, tricksters, idiots, and occasionally, well meaning people).

But how do you get controversial? Or even harder, how do you get controversial about, say, lipstick? or beans? (or anything else for that matter) and do it in a good way?

First (as always) we have to understand the brief. What is controversy? It means disagreement. And that means division.

Division (divide and conquer) is the oldest trick in the book, so when it comes to power and control, it makes sense that division just happens to be right up there when it comes to getting attention.

There are two parts to this:

1) differentiation

2) division – identify opposites (the two sides of everything)

We can use the first (being different) without choosing who to side with (division), but it’s never as powerful (from a conversion point of view).

For example, if someone somehow manages to photograph, say, the first ever real alien, it will certainly be different, but not necessarily controversial.

Whereas, if a person claims to be an alien it will be both different (sort of) and controversial from a believers and non-believers perspective (the two sides will react in opposite ways, which is what we want).

So how does that relate to the real world of mundane consumer led commodity copywriting?

If we’re writing some copy to sell lipstick, we have a choice. We can do the usual show and tell stuff (eg. “how lipstick makes the wearer more attractive”), or we can be controversial and find an angle no one else has yet used.

Let’s suppose we’ve unearthed a market of eco loving lipstick wearers. Our angle might be to attack all those lipstick wearers who don’t care two hoots about using animals to test cosmetics.

“We care about our lips, but we also care about our pets lips too”

We’re happy to alienate all lipstick wearers who don’t care about animals, in fact, we’re happy to make enemies of them because we want to show our audience we REALLY care.

In short, we’ve made a conscious decision to divide the market. We’ve made animal testing our controversial subject, and so everything we put out is going to use animal testing and our horror of it at the top of our campaigns (“the lipstick ALL animals love”).

What about beans? We might think about how they’re baked. For example, is there some method where we can prove they’re being baked using only renewable energy?

Or how about how beans are farmed? Is there a way we can do this without harming the environment? (organic was an early differentiator in this respect – but it’s not new anymore, so not a great angle – and besides, it didn’t work very well anyway).

But this is only one way to get attention. Are there more? You bet.


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