Great copywriters hook readers in word by word, line by line.
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: In addition to writing, Amy Harrison likes to rip copywriting techniques apart to see how they work. She then shares her findings through tips, templates, and free resources on her site Harrisonamy Copywriting.