3 Ways the Magic of Dr. Seuss Can Help You Create Unforgettable Copy

Theodor Seuss Geisel sitting at his desk

Great copywriters hook readers in word by word, line by line.

Like renowned fiction writers, even children’s book writers, great copywriters know how to make content so addictive, it’s nearly impossible to put down.

They know how to write the kind of copy that can stay with their audience for years.

Let’s add a little bit of this kind of power into your own writing, right now …

Follow these three scientific (and magical) techniques used by the king of addictive prose: Dr. Seuss.

But first, you must know Broca …

It all starts with getting your reader’s attention.

And if you want to use copywriting to do this, you really need to know about Paul Broca, who was so smart that they named a whole area of your brain after him.

Broca’s area is the region in the frontal lobe that deals with language comprehension, but what’s really interesting is the way that it works when people read content.

Basically, as we become more familiar with language, our Broca area skips over what feels predictable. So if we see the same words, phrases, and clichés, they simply don’t have the same impact as when we read them the first time around.

In his book The Magical Worlds of the Wizard of Ads, Roy H. Williams states that for adverts to cut through the noise they need to be different enough to wake up the Broca area … but not so different that the audience discards the idea outright.

In other words, your audience has to feel your content is new, but also credible.

One way to achieve this is to follow the tried and tested rules of copywriting, while shaking things up a little bit on the language side.

Enter: Dr. Seuss and his three unforgettable techniques.

1. Pudding before sprouts

Winning the voluntary attention of young children is not an easy task. Oh, and you’re trying to teach them something at the same time? Good luck with that.

Lots of Dr. Seuss stories had morals in them. But he understood that for his readers to take them on board, he couldn’t simply outline the meaning at the beginning of the story.

As he explained: “Kids can see a moral coming a mile off and they gag at it.”

Not unlike sprouts.

So how did he get kids to eat their greens?

By appealing to them through creativity first and then moving slowly to logic throughout the story. Seuss’ books would begin in a vivid, whimsical, and fantastical manner to grab attention before attempting the delivery of morals.

Pudding first … then sprouts.

One way to improve his chances of capturing attention was to start with active language using more verbs than adjectives.

Instead of starting the story with the facts, he encouraged the reader to visualize a dynamic experience.

The same applies to your copywriting.

You can’t just tell a reader what it is they need, or what it is you have, until you’ve introduced a vivid picture … such as outlining your customer’s pain and then agitating it.

In his recent post on writing a damn good sentence, watch how Demian Farnworth uses verbs and illustrative examples to introduce the Authority membership:

  • You write something clever, but everyone ignores it.
  • You hear about a new opportunity, but don’t pursue it because you don’t have the skills or confidence to attempt it.
  • You get overlooked by everybody — including your boss — because the guy in the next cubicle seems to know everything about SEO, email marketing, or copywriting.
  • You hear about all the new clients your peers are picking up … but none are showing up at your door.

Demian doesn’t start by saying that the reader should get an Authority membership so they can get “instant access to over 40 hours of high-impact education — plus many additional hours of advanced training every month.” That comes a little later.

The facts are still important. It’s just they we’re serving up the tasty stuff first.

So say it with me: pudding before sprouts.

Very good. Now that you’ve gotten your audience’s attention, let’s look at two more ways you can make your words unforgettable.

2. Birds of a feather flock conjointly … wait, what?!

Not the most catchy of subheads right?

Birds of a feather flock together. Now isn’t that a lot easier on the tongue?

One of the most addictive (and signature) elements of Seuss’ writing is the hypnotic rhythm and rhyme. The main lines of his first ever book are:

And that is a story that no one can beat, and to think that I saw it on Mulberry Street.

As Williams recounts in The Magical Worlds of the Wizard of Ads, Seuss came upon these lines almost by accident, while below deck on a luxury liner in a storm. Battling sea sickness Seuss kept himself distracted by writing poetry in a rhythm that mimicked the ship’s engines. This whimsical, lazy river style was perfect for building momentum and making it easier for the reader to flow through the content.

That is not to say that you have to write your copy in verse, but don’t overlook this technique. Rhyming and rhythmic language do not just make content easier to read, they actually make it more persuasive.

In 2000, the American Psychological Society published a study by Matthew McGlone and Jessica Tofighbakhsh. Matthew and Jessica sought to determine whether people felt sayings were more truthful and accurate when they rhymed, as opposed to not rhyming.

Participants were given phrases such as “caution and measure will win you treasure” and “sobriety conceals what alcohol reveals” as well as other ones that did not rhyme such as “caution and measure will win you riches” and “sobriety conceals what alcohol unmasks.”

Despite participants saying that rhyming was not indicative of accuracy, just about every case voted for the rhyming aphorism when asked which was a more accurate representation of the world.

Not only can rhyming copy make your words more memorable (think about how many songs or playground chants you can recite from years ago), but it is more likely to influence your reader into believing the content.

So don’t rule out using a catchy rhyming phrase to sell the benefits of your product or service. It might just be in the minds of your readers for years to come.

3. Don’t be afraid of nizzards and glikkers

Another technique Dr. Seuss would use to wake the sleeping Broca area was to create his own words. Cleverly, Seuss’ words were different enough to stand out, but not so different that they were hard to understand.

  • A sneetch is a bird-like creature who lives on beach
  • A Floob-boober-bab-boober-bub is a creature recognized by its bulbous body as it floats through water
  • A Zizzer-zazzer-zuzz is the anthropomorphic representation of the letter Z

But hold up there before you start getting this creative with your copywriting.

Copying this style directly is tricky when selling a product or service that is not for children, but proprietary language and words can still be very powerful. Rather than making up completely new words, try and find alternate names to describe what you have to offer.

For years direct marketing copywriters have developed (and trademarked) inside language and terms to make them stand out. You have likely seen this used in copywriting for products and services.

For example, many online marketing courses are not described as “courses” but as “systems,” “blueprints,” “methods,” and so on. In a world swimming with “courses,” these alternate terms are used to help them stand out.

But beware: if other people in your industry have started to use similar terms, the more predictable they will be to your customer’s Broca region, which means audiences may ignore them.

The really smart marketers have their own unique course names. These names don’t simply give you the facts of what the course is. Like Seuss’ words, these unique course names also build a vivid image of what the course can do for you:

And okay, so you may never invent a new word that is then included in the dictionary (apparently we can thank Dr. Seuss for the word “nerd”), but giving your services unique titles makes it much easier for people to recognize you and know what you offer.

Create unforgettable copy

So, can you be like Dr. Seuss and find altogether unique ways to describe your products or services?

Can you create a new name that vividly describe the benefits of what you have to offer?

Give it your Seussiest shot and let me know your names in the comments below!

Image credit: New York World-Telegram and the Sun staff photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

About the Author: Amy Harrison is a copywriter and content trainer. She provides workshops for businesses that need to write captivating content. She’s the host of AmyTV, an irreverent look at writing better content. As a Copyblogger reader, click here to get your free sales page and content writing gifts.

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Comments

  1. “Pudding before sprouts”. Seems a bit like the movie Inception where the key message can only be installed at the lowest level in the dream encapsulated by different other dreams.

  2. Great job, Amy! You are such a good writer. Makes me want to up my game. :D

    • Ah, that’s super kind of you to say so, the respect flows the other way in waves!

      • I had the exact same thought as I was reading this, Demian. :) What a beautifully written piece, Amy. Seriously.

        It’s been years since I’ve opened a Dr. Seuss book, but I haven’t forgotten how his books drew me in. You did a fantastic job explaining just how he did it.

        And, I’d rather have roasted sprouts than pudding. But I’ve always been a bit lame. ;)

  3. Great post Amy.

    I wrote a personal development book titled “The Seussification of Life: Daily Meditations for the Movin’ & Groovin’ Soul” and had to write a Dr. Seuss-like rhyme for each chapter. It was a joy and challenge to write at the same time. Why? Because I was pushed to write verse that rhymed. The first couple of chapters were tough, but I got the hang of it.

    Here’s my attempt:

    Now, the Savvy Scribbler
    Doodles and daddles.
    She provides clients with
    all sorts of fiddle and faddle.

    The Savvy Scribbler
    Works day in and day out.
    And always gives it her best shot
    Because she wants her clients to have lots of Klout.

    Thanks for the great exercise! I’ll keep working at it.

    • What a wonderful comment, the Savvy-Writer left,
      Exhibiting such skill, and showing how deft,
      She could build a swift pace, like a marathon-jogger,
      It must be because, she reads Copyblogger!

      Thanks for the comment Amanda!

  4. I quite like sprouts. I really think someone should set up a foundation to protect them from the prejudice they’re so regularly deluged with. I think the best way with kids is actually veg before dessert – gets them disciplined, you see. Not that I have kids.

    Sorry, this was about English and not sprouts, but I got sidetracked. It is Christmas after all, and they go well with a roast dinner.

    • Sprouts are ace.

      I learned to love them after years of discipline and missed pudding because I’d left sprouts on my plate.

      I’m just not ready to inflict such torment on a reader though. They’re getting the pudding first, every time :-)

  5. An artfully written article offering auspicious advice. I will endeavor to apply this today, not even thinking twice.

    Many thanks to you, Amy, and to the Copyblogger crew.

  6. Great article, Amy. As a blogger, I’ve come up with different terms over the years to describe ideas, concepts or programs that I’m working on. Some of these have caught on, but others are a little too awkward to fly. Here are a few examples…
    Quadraphasic Living: Dividing a day into four phases and having a sleep cycle between each one. Easy to understand technical term.
    Goalonomics: The Science of Goal Setting. Tried this as a book title. I like the name, but it didn’t test well.
    Five Minute _______: I’ve used this with great success with my business card creations such as 5 min flowchart, diet planner, and pocket organizer.
    Maybe a new one might be Five Minutes To Win it or something with a rhyme in it.
    Now I’m going to have to pull out those old Suess books and generate some new ideas.

    • I’m not surprised the 5 minute titles work so well, people do love a good time-saver!

      I like Goalonomics, reminds me of the popular book Freakonomics. Who knows, it might be a winner with other subheadings?

      Sounds like you’ve having success naming your products though so keep going!

  7. Fantastic article – it’s good to have an excuse to read more children’s books. I need to re-work my blog’s tag-line, and now you’ve really given me something to think about.

    By the way, I agree with Alex about sprouts; if you cook them right, they’re delicious. Shame they get such a bad press.

  8. These concepts are so motivating — I love the idea of applying Seuss’s tactics to my own writing! I can still remember so many of his verses by heart, and the potential to implant my writing in the minds of others in a similar fashion is a challenge I’m definitely up for. :) Thanks Amy!

    • Go for it Brittany. Who knows, in 20 years time people might be going round with lines and lines of unforgettable copywriting in their heads just like a Seuss book. :-)

  9. I really enjoyed your “Pudding before Sprouts” principle. It reminds me of one of the codes I’ve lived by: “Always eat your peas first!” When I was a child, I hated peas. But I discovered that if left them till last, they tasted even worse cold. So I adopted the practice of eating my peas first to dispense with the unpleasantness and move on to what I really enjoyed.

    As a side benefit, I love peas today!

    This comment may not apply directly to copy writing, but that’s how my mind works! Thank you for your blog!

    Rob

    • Ha, thanks for sharing Rob! I love how the sprouts are getting as much attention as the writing lessons. They’re due some time in the limelight.

  10. When I read this article, it reminded me of the copywriter’s number one task. I’ll paraphrase the sentence you have in the post.

    “…gotten your audience’s attention…”

    1, 2, & 3 all gain and keep this much-needed attention and leads the audience to make the order.

    Or should I say…

    From the headly to the sub to the bodly to the rub, get them to take action and count up the sum.

    • “From the headly to the sub to the bodly to the rub, get them to take action and count up the sum.”

      Seuss couldn’t have put it better himself!

  11. Great article. I love Dr Seuss. read all his books to my three children and never got tired of them.

    This is a great idea. I just started using “Wellness-makers” in my tagline and am suddenly getting lots of followers. Don’t know if that is why, but look forward to pursuing your ideas because they will make writing such fun!

    Thanks for a great article.

    • Glad to hear of a word-tweak getting you more exposure. Creating those snappy, visual names can be tricky but sounds like it’s definitely working for you!

  12. Thanks Amy – this has to be one of my favorite articles on copywriting I’ve read in a while!

    The Broca stuff is really interesting, and I’m a huge fan of Dr. Seuss.

    Now, as a dad reading to kids, I REALLY appreciate his writing – because a lot of kids’ books are pretty cruddy (to put it nicely). Not many authors can even get close to Seuss.

    • Really pleased you enjoyed this Kasey.

      I think Seuss, in addition to his obvious skill and hard work, had a lot of respect for his audience which shines through. He’s not just cobbling something together, he’s really thinking about how kids think and what they enjoy.

      Just like a good copywriter. :-)

  13. Amy, as a retired physician now writing novels of medical suspense, I looked at your article with different eyes–and loved it. Haven’t given a thought to Broca’s area since Neuroanatomy years and years ago, but it’s true what you say about it. And although, as a novelist, I can’t give readers either pudding or sprouts, I have learned to catch their attention with a murder or near-murder at the start of a book, before they can get bored.
    Thanks so much for sharing.

    • I discovered Broca’s areas pretty recently and loved its significance to writing. Great to hear from someone who is very familiar with it (and to know I got my facts right!)

      I would think a murder, or near murder would be a top notch way to wake someone up and get their attention!

  14. The statement: “Basically, as we become more familiar with language, our Broca area skips over what feels predictable …”

    My mind apparently does this so routinely, that when I read : “2. Birds of a feather flock conjointly …” my brain didn’t see “conjointly” and it filled it in with “together.” It was only after I was farther down the page that I caught it. There was a different word there! Doh!

    Your point is well proven!

  15. Thanks for breaking it down so nicely, Amy. Enjoyed your article!

  16. Great article! I really like how you explained the ‘pudding before sprouts’ idea, specifically the part about children smelling a moral a mile away. We adults aren’t that different; we hate movies and books that seem to ‘preach’ at us or tries to force feed us an idea.

    This approach reminds me of a Baz Luhrmann movie (Romeo+Juliet, Moulin Rouge, The Great Gastby). He dazzles you with the setting during the first act, so you’re completely drawn in, and weaves in the conflict during the second. You’re noticing the conflict, but you’re still so taken atmosphere he’s created. So then when he hits you with the climax in the third act, you’re blown away because it shakes you out of your dreamlike state. But it because you’re so invested in the characters and the world that he’s created, it resonates deeply with you, rather than isolates you.

    And in many ways, that’s what a great copywriter does; s/he creates a little world for you and gets you invested in what he is saying, so when the hook is finally thrown, you’ll catch it.

  17. Amy, enjoyed reading this article.

  18. Hi,

    Once again, great article. I have a folder of bookmarks named “Legendary Articles”. I might have about 150 articles on it. A good portion is from Copyblogger. :)

    A question: what text font do you use? Please, please, please tell me. I tried to see CSS code using a firefox plugin it got me no where. Is it a Google web font? I will use it in all my websites once I find out!

    Pedro

  19. To Amy:

    Broca’s area in the brain,
    And pudding before sprouts.
    Come sunshine hail or rain,
    You’ve got this copy nailed – no doubt!

    Jon and Demian set the tone,
    And most of us were awed.
    But you showed ‘em that they weren’t alone,
    As the rest of us dropped our jaws.

    :)

    That was the first draft typed on my iPad mini as my 3 yr pulled at my arm. So please be merciful.

    • That really made me chuckle! With a 3 year old on your arm, I’m impressed and appreciate the perseverance in finishing it. 3 year-olds know a thing or 2 about persuasion, and getting attention!

  20. Rhymes and making up words. Um, that’s not what my company operating in the financial sector expects of me, I’m afraid :)

    But thanks for the inspiration anyway Amy!

  21. Very good post. I certainly love this site. Keep writing!

  22. Great article Amy, I agree we have a lot to thank Dr Seuss for.

    Recently at a dinner party a friend proudly told me an expression ‘he always says’ – like a philosophy of his. I told him it reminded me of a very famous quote, it was on the tip of my tongue and I was sure it was from a famous classic philosopher.

    Turns out (at least according to my quick Google search) it was from Dr Seuss:

    “Those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter”

    thanks for sharing these ideas,

    Alan

    • I love that quote.

      I first came across it written as graffiti on a pub bathroom wall where we used to play in my bluegrass band. I’d always see it before going on and it used to give me a boost of confidence :-)

  23. Can you write in in a box? Can you write it with a fox? Can you write it here or there? Can you write it anywhere?

  24. Dr.Seuss did amazing copy and also created wonderful characters. We also have a lot to learn from him in creating a mascot or a personality for our brands.

    I enjoyed the article!

    • Really glad you enjoyed it. I was just talking to someone tonight who found that developing a personality for her brand meant clients came to her because they wanted to work specifically with her and were attracted to the personality (as well as her skills).

      Just like readers are attracted to Seuss’s work, rather than any other kids’ books.

  25. WOW! Thank you, one more book-to-read in my list!)

    • I highly recommend that book. The way it’s laid out makes it very easy to flip through, dip in and out of, but it’s got some cracking info in there!

  26. Dr. Seuss has always inspired me in my childhood and his creative, logical style will never get old especially for content marketing and building a unique style associated with your personal brand.

  27. Thank you Amy for this awesome post.

    I’d take the powers of rhyming and rhythm somehow seriously. The reason is, I can write them with easy and yes, they can persuade a reader to continue reading… then ker-ching, success.

    And about coming up with those new words… well, when I was getting my toes into the copywriting world…I came up with ‘comfortimely’ for a taxi company ad, and my mentor said… it’s not so catchy…

    But hey, doesn’t that make any sense for a taxi company? Well, I thought it did.

    Anyway, your post just reminds me that I was on the right track…

    • Who knows, the Comfortimely Taxi company could be the next big thing :-)

      • Yeah, why not?

        Anyway…I just wanted to congratulate you for your dedication to every comment. This is really inspiring. I do know that it can be tough to do…but you, Amy, you are awesome!

        And I like your video clips on your AmyTV. aMoyzin stuff in theee:)

  28. Thanks for your article, Amy.

    I had never thought of doing copywriting but your article has tweaked my interest. I’m going to try it for the group I work with in order to keep the bailiff from the door. Here are a couple of practice verses:

    I’m just a budding writer
    with things yet to publish
    but pud before sprouts
    is something to relish

    A Seuss book was mine
    in the long distant past
    but the message he gave
    is one that will last.

  29. Amy, it would be nice if we all had Dr. Seuss’s ability to convey deep moral messages in a few hundred words or less. In today’s social world, end users have less attention span than ever and social networks often have character constraints. I work at Sprocket Media, and we’ve found that one of the keys to solid writing and audience reception is succinctness – not just brevity, but making sure that the content is concise, persuasive and impactful. I’d love to see this explored further in a future post! – Cindy Elhaj

  30. Great article, Amy! Thanks.

  31. The world according to Dr. Seuss is a wonderful, magical world to me. I have never grown tired of his stories and much more importantly I have never seen a child who could not resist this crazy world.
    Thank you for validating the need to put pudding first then spouts. I am a retired teacher and a children’s writer. Children need to experience the magical world of make-believe. Embracing imagination and pretend as a child makes for a more well-rounded adult. I find that revisiting the world of Dr. Seuss as an adult brings out the child in me, and that is even better than Pudding!!