Today I wanted to talk about where the big ideas come from in copywriting…
There are actually 2 sources for big ideas.
To explain the first one, I have to tell you about my friend Aaron.
I’ve known Aaron since I was 7 years old. And as long as I’ve known him, Aaron wanted to be an architect. Even when we were in elementary school, he said he wanted to be an architect.
Meanwhile, at age 7 I wanted to be a doctor, then a lawyer. Then by junior high I wanted to be a forensic scientist for the FBI. Then by college it was maaaaybe a psychologist but just for a hot minute before I changed my college major to feature writing journalism.
When I graduated from college, I worked in marketing, had a one-year stint as a realtor, then back to marketing. After that … copywriter. And that’s where I’ve been ever since.
And I used to feel bad about this. Why couldn’t I just decide on something, like my friend Aaron? Was I just a flake?
Then I look at my hobbies and other interests over the years, and it’s even worse!
I took Italian for two years. (I’m not Italian, nor did I have an upcoming trip to Italy planned at that time.) I’ve studied graphic design and photography. I’m a certified yoga instructor … but I don’t teach yoga. I’ve been scuba diving in caverns in Mexico. I’ve been into tennis, martial arts, and boxing.
I’ve started and stopped piano lessons since 4th grade. I sang in solo competitions in high school. I’m obsessed with food and cooking. Of course when someone asks me what kind of food I like to cook, the answer is “everything.” I love camping and hiking. I have an organic garden. I just started raising chickens.
Meet (from left to right) Buck Buck Chicken, Hennifer Lopez, Tyrannosaurus Pecks, and Chikira.
And because of all these lessons and certifications and hobbies, I spent most of my life feeling like I just wasn’t focused enough. I even avoided new hobbies sometimes, thinking, “Oh, like you really need another hobby, April…”
But then, I read this:
“The best copywriters in the world are those who are curious about life, read a great deal, have many hobbies, like to travel, have a variety of interests, often master many skills, get bored and then look for other skills to master. They hunger for experience and knowledge… The more we experience and the more knowledge we have, the easier it is to come up with that big copy idea…”
That’s from Joe Sugarman, and that paragraph was a game changer for me. Not only is it okay that I’m not “focused” in my interests or hobbies … it’s an advantage!
It’s called general knowledge, and it’s one of the two sources for big ideas in your copy.
That’s because it gives you a huge source of material to pull from. Everything you learn, everything you try and fail at, all of it goes somewhere in the filing cabinet in your brain. And you can draw on it to connect new ideas and create powerful metaphors in your copy.
Okay, so general knowledge is the first source for your big ideas. The second source is specific knowledge. AKA, research.
Sometimes this research comes from the client, but it’s never enough. The vast majority of the time, my big ideas come from the research I do on my own: a comment I find on a blog post, a competitor’s testimonial, even a case study I found on the client’s site from years ago.
I won’t go into the details on research in this post, because it’d be far too long. But basically you need to know everything you possibly can about your audience, market, and product.
So, two takeaways for you today:
- Big ideas come from general knowledge and specific knowledge.
- If you want to be a good copywriter, celebrate and indulge your many, many, many interests. Like chickens, just for example.
And by the way, my friend Aaron? He grew up to be an insurance broker.
Ha ha, just kidding. He’s a super talented architect.