Can a Copywriter be Too Enthusiastic?

February 1st, 2007 by Bob Bly

When you write copy for a product, do you do a better job if you are a true believer in the product … or a cynical skeptic?

It’s been said that the copywriter must be enthusiastic, because enthusiasm for a product — or its lack — is transmitted in the writing.

On the other hand, if the copywriter is NOT sold on the product, he will have to sell himself on it before he can sell others.

That means he is more likely than the rapidly enthusiastic copywriter to come up with objections, which anticipate the objections prospects will have, and work out powerful, logical arguments to overcome them.

Therefore, the copy he writes will in theory be stronger than the copywriter who is a “cheerleader” for the product — enthusiastic, yes, not not really questioning its claims.

So when you write copy … or hire a copywriter … which are you looking for?

Enthusiasm?

Or a hard-nosed “show me” attitude?

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This entry was posted on Thursday, February 1st, 2007 at 12:53 pm and is filed under Direct Marketing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

35 responses about “Can a Copywriter be Too Enthusiastic?”

  1. Brent Goodman said:

    Bob,

    I’d have to vote for the “show me” attitude because it means the copywriter is thinking like his audience: “What’s in it for me?” “How’s it any different from my current choice?”

    Too much cheerleading can easily be dismissed as fluff. A copywriter who sells like a converted skeptic will write with more authority & credibility, I believe.

  2. Rich Barber said:

    Are you presenting to us a false choice? What if I want a copywriter who enthusiastically questions my product’s benefits?

  3. Sean Woodruff said:

    I want one of each to test against each other.

  4. Jim Logan said:

    You should take the enthusiastic one. The non-believer will be no more motivated to overcome their negative feelings than the enthusiastic person will be to dig up dirt on something they love.

    So, given a choice of two people at opposite ends of the scale, you should take the enthusiastic one because nobody wants to buy from someone who looks at their offering as a glass half empty.

    This is a common problem in sales. Salespeople who don’t believe in their own product, when faced with an objection, fail to overcome it more than the enthusiastic salesperson who believes.

  5. Ali Manson said:

    Hey Bob,

    A tricky question, and one which doesn’t have a right answer in my book.

    I’d have to say that, being a hardened skeptic myself, the best way to overcome objections is to write like you yourself have the exact same objections as the reader might have…

    Enthusiasm is great, and has its place. But in my eyes, when enthusiasm ON ITS OWN is used to try and sell something, I find it to be like a small child trying to convince you how much better YOUR life will be if you buy them this new toy they want…

    But cynicism ON ITS OWN will not sell either.

    A combination of the two is always required, but the enthusiasm level needs to be tailored to the target market.

    It’s a fine balance, but a good writer should know how to get it right. And if that balance is achieved, the piece can really make the register ring!

  6. Michael A. Stelzner said:

    Bob;

    I would rather write about the next generation of mobile computing than the migration of turkeys.

    I think the writer must enjoy the topic.

    As far as skepticism…

    It is healthy. It forces us to ask more questions, which can result in a better piece.

    Mike

  7. Suzanne Ryan said:

    Ok…I tend to be one of those enthusiastic copywriters who gets strongly focused on the product or service and starts living it and breathing it 24/7 (I am exaggerating here but only a little).

    I think Bob raises a good question. My enthusiasm has been both my strength and weakness. Because it comes easy to me, I think I have relied on it too heavily at times to impart a message. As a result, the copy might’ve ended up more two dimensional than possessing 3-dimensional depth.

    I think a balance between enthusiasm and skepticism is the way to go. I’ve learned to look for target audience objections, but perhaps it’s even better to explore and include my own objections.

    Thanks Bob!

  8. John Schulte said:

    If I’m writing, I really need to believe in the product I’m writing about. When I believe in it, I become passionate, this passion I believe helps me write in a way that motivates others to action because they believe in what I’m saying. Above all else, the potential customer must “believe” what you say is true.

    That said; anyone that has seen as many goof-ball products and projects that I have over the years would naturally start off being doubtful of claims and promises the client makes for his/her product.

    At the beginning stage you do have a “show me” attitude. It is this attitude that allows us to find the facts that will either sell us on the product, and worth working on, or you find it’s bull, and you turn it down. If I can’t be sold on a thing, I won’t do the project.

    So, in essence, it is really a combination of both.

    I will clarify one point; my passion requirements are for bigger longer term projects that will require a lot of thought and writing. If someone wants a mail order ad done for a wristwatch or a hat, I don’t really have to be sold/enthusiastic on that particular product.

    There is an interesting article written in 1941 by Paul Muchnick titled: “What Do Sales Letters Need Today?” Posted here: http://www.nmoa.org/Museum/much1.htm
    It relates to this subject, and you would never guess that the letter was written so long ago.

    JDS

  9. Jonathan Kantor said:

    Writers and prostitutes have a lot in common. One can write as a skeptic, it’ll just cost you more.

  10. copywriting services said:

    Hi,

    When writing copy I’d like to go for subjects I am naturally enthused about. That makes the job easier for me as a copywriter.

    I never had the chance to write for something I was skeptical about in the first place. ( I am a Copywriting student, btw)

    However, I think it would be a challenge both emotionally as well as logically to bring forth a sales argument.

    I am looking for such challenges :)

    Sincerely,
    Edward Santosh

    PS: By using the keyword I am aiming to rank high, I am trying to build one way link too. Hope you don’t mind that.

    PPS: Thanks for the article John. I printed it out. I sure do appreciate it like many others.

  11. Mordechai (Morty) Schiller said:

    Bob–I think Suzanne has the right idea. You need BOTH enthusiasm and enough detachment to anticipate objections.

    Perhaps the best example this balance is John Caples’s ad “They Laughed When I Sat Down at the Piano…” It goes from wry skepticism (of the onlookers) to getting carried away by the thrill of the music. If I may quote:

    “Instantly a tense silence fell on the guests. The laughter died on their lips as if by magic. I played through the first few bars of Beethoven’s immortal Moonlight Sonata. I heard gasps of amazement. My friends sat breathless — spellbound!

    I played on and as I played I forgot the people around me. I forgot the hour, the place, the breathless listeners. The little world I lived in seemed to fade — seemed to grow dim — unreal. Only the music was real.” (Read the full ad at http://passaicparc.com/killer/caples.html)

    The playful opening set the stage for the wallop of the finale. I have no doubt Caples was carried away by the music playing in his head as he wrote. Bravo!

  12. Mordechai (Morty) Schiller said:

    If this ain’t advertising, what is?!

    Bob Bly asks if a copywriter can be “too enthusiastic.” In my comment, I recalled John Caples’s all time classic ad: “They Laughed When I Sat Down at the Piano” I’m not sure if it’s the greatest ad ever written….

  13. Nancy Germond said:

    That’s why I write about insurance. While others snooze when they hear the word, I enjoy the topic and it shows in my writing. I do find though, that I have to tone down my enthusiam because I believe to sell your product you have to “lead with your heart.” Most insurance industry professionals don’t like to talk about anything warm and fuzzy, much less a heart.

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