Copywriting as storytelling: A reinterpretation of a TED video

One of the biggest challenges in copywriting is capturing the attention of your prospective buyer.

And once you have that attention, the next biggest challenge in copywriting is keeping that attention. (Hint: After keeping their attention, the last biggest challenge in copywriting is getting them to act!)

How do you do those things? In the past few years, I’ve been increasingly fascinated with story as an element of copywriting because I believe story-telling is one of the best ways that we can grab and hold attention and compel someone to act.

In my sales letters and other copywriting, I’ve been experimenting with various types of stories and I’m seeing stories — overt and subtle, and in many different forms — evident in all kinds of marketing.

So when I found this TED video, I couldn’t help but watch it through more than once and take many notes. In this video, Andrew Stanton (of Pixar Animation Studios) talks about the power of story. He breaks down why stories are so powerful and he briefly touches on some of the elements that draw us in.

To be honest, I almost didn’t post this because we tend to think that stories are sacred and it seems almost sacrilegious to suggest that we can co-opt stories for copywriting and ultimately for monetary gain.

But stories are powerful and we use them all the time so I’m posting this video to inspire your marketing efforts

Here are some highlights from his talk that storytellers AND COPYWRITERS should adopt:

  • “Make me care” — that’s what audiences (and prospects) demand. Good copywriters deliver it in their copy and, in doing so, they rivet attention from the beginning through to the offer.
  • Promise something. Make a promise that you will fulfill through your story. I don’t just mean that you should promise something and deliver it in the product (that’s important but not what I’m talking about). Rather, you should make a promise and then deliver it in the story that makes up your copy. Then, for the reader to have the same promise fulfilled in their life, they can buy the product.
  • You don’t have to close all the gaps. “We’re born to deduce“, Stanton says. People want to complete the sentence. This goes along with what Derek Halpern of Social Triggers suggested in a webinar in which he recommends setting up an information gap that your audience will feel compelled to close, and they will be willing to click a link or take some other kind of action in order to close the information gap.
  • To help connect with your audience, Stanton suggests that you use what you know. “Express values you personally feel, deep down to your core.” This is ultimately the reason that I don’t mind equating copywriting with storytelling because ethical copywriters will sell ethically through story.
  • The best way to capture and hold your audience’s attention in story — and copywriting — is to invoke wonder. “To hold them still for just a brief moment in their day and have them surrender to wonder… The best stories infuse wonder,” Stanton said.

Great stuff for copywriters, marketers, advertisers who want to level up their effectiveness.

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