Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz is one of those classic copywriting books you’ll want to read more than once.
I’ve read it twice now, and I still haven’t digested all the brilliant concepts contained in this book. (I wish I could find an audio-book version, so I could listen to it while driving in my car)
This is not just a book for copywriters, but a book for every business owner, or advertiser, who wants to increase sales. (if you’re not interested in increasing sales, then this book might not interest you)
Be forewarned: If your a newbie copywriter, the first time you read this book it might seem a bit overwhelming. And you probably won’t understand half of it. But the more you read it, and the more you internalize it, the more your copy will improve. I guarantee it!
If you’re in a hurry, and just want an brief overview of what this book is about? Here it is…
It’s about how to write a winning headline — and how to write a winning sales piece, that follows the headline.
Now, if you have a few minutes to spare; I’ll continue with a bit more detail for you…
Bear in mind… Breakthrough Advertising was originally published in 1966, so some of the language is a bit outdated. Also, there was no internet back then, so it doesn’t cover every aspect of modern advertising and marketing.
But, the psychology of human (consumer) behavior hasn’t changed for thousands of years. What worked in the times of the Great Roman Empire, still work today. The concepts are timeless. And Eugene Schwartz understood this, very well.
The main problem most people have with marketing, is how to get attention and keep the interest of the reader (or listener, or viewer). Eugene Schwartz explains how to do this while making your product unique, even though your target audience already knows that your products can be purchased elsewhere.
The following are just a few of the concepts you’ll get from this book. (I tried to leave most of the original language intact, while also making it usable for today’s environment)…
1. Channeling mass desire
People don’t change: only the direction of their desires do. They cannot be made to want anything, nor is it necessary to create want. All that is necessary is to be able to channel those wants into the products that offer legitimate satisfaction.
It takes millions of people to create a vast market for your goods. But it takes only one advertisement to direct all those millions of people to your store, your catalogue or your website.
2. Your customers state of awareness
There’s basically four states of awareness for any viable target market…
1) The Most Aware
The customer knows of your product—knows what it does— and knows he wants it.
At this point, he just hasn’t gotten around to buying it yet. Your headline—in fact, your entire ad—need state little more except the name of your product and a bargain price.
2) The Customer Knows of the Product, But Doesn’t Want It Yet
Here, your customer isn’t completely aware of all your product does, or isn’t convinced of how well it does it.
In this case. you need to display the name of the product—either in the headline or in an equally large logo—and use the remainder of the headline to point out its superiority, and/or the benefit it presents to your customer
3) The customer knows the result he wants, but not that your product provides it.
Here, your customer has a need, but doesn’t yet know you offer a solution to their problem.They are already researching solutions, but haven’t yet discovered that you’re it.
This is where your headline needs offer a benefit driven solution to the problem.
Then your body copy can explain how your product or service can provide the solution better than anyone else. (better, faster, cheaper?)
4) Your customer knows he has a problem, but doesn’t know there’s a solution.
This is where your customer has a problem, but is either ignoring it, or finding ways to work around it, because they don’t know there is a solution.
At this point, your headline needs to call out the problem, and let the customer know there is a solution. And that your product IS the solution.
This is where many copywriters will use the formula…
NAME THE PROBLEM – AGITATE THE PROBLEM – PROVIDE THE SOLUTION.
5) There’s also a fifth stage, which is “Completely Unaware”
This is when your audience has no knowledge of a problem, and is not looking for any solutions.
This is not your ideal target market (unless you simply enjoy wasting money, or you’re just in it for a good challenge)
Here your headline needs to be exciting or controversial, in an attempt to create interest. And your body copy needs to build desire.
Going after this market is a long shot, but it can be done (as products like The Pet Rock… Beanie Babies… and Hello Kitty, have proven) But for every product that makes it, millions of others never will.
Let me just wrap up this review (before it turns into a full length book on its own) with a key concept from the book, that gets to the heart of marketing…
Basically, the power that makes advertising work, comes from the market itself, and not from the ad, or the copy. Copy cannot create desire for a product. It can only take the hopes, dreams, fears and desires that already exists in the hearts of millions of people, and focus those already existing desires onto a particular product. This is the copy writer’s task: not to create this mass desire – but to channel and direct it.
I would definitely recommend Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz to anyone in copywriting and advertising. Just look past the fact that the book is more than 50 years old, and focus on the main tenants which are timeless.