How Eugene Schwartz’s Branding Secret Ignites Direct Response Sales

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Before I became a copywriter, I spent 29 years working with brands. The power of those brands allowed me to create multi-million dollar businesses around the globe.

That’s a nice piece of change.

It worked because each brand had a clear identity that resonated with certain consumers. In fact, the product itself was often secondary. How people connected with the brand – how the brand made them feel – is what drove sales.

That feeling is the emotion direct response copywriters tap into when we write. It’s our pixie dust.

So I wasn’t expecting the kind of reaction I got to the idea of “branding” among my new direct response copy tribe.

“We don’t do brands.” And that was the kindest of the various ways it was expressed to me.

Geesh … what’s the rub?

I was concerned that being branded a “brandophile” (sorry, I couldn’t help myself) would leave me an outcast.

That is until I read Eugene Schwartz’s 1966 classic, Breakthrough Advertising. As a copywriter, it’s one of the must read books.

“One of the most potent discoveries of motivation research,” according to Schwartz, “is that a product, or a store, or a whole group of products has a distinct and complete personality to the consumer. This personality is a complex quality, embracing many traits.”

In case you missed it that has brand written all over it.

In my former brand world, we went to great lengths to identify a brand’s personality.

From that we built its unique selling proposition (USP). And then the brand message – what people could expect when they engaged with the brand.

These are part of a brand’s emotional identity. A brand’s emotional identity is what people connect with… and it lays the foundation for massive growth.

To give you an example of what I mean by emotional identity, let’s look at brand personality in the automobile industry. The purpose of a car is to get you from one place to another. But the kind of car, the brand, makes the difference in how the driver feels making the trip.

What qualities and traits come to mind when you think of Jeep, Tesla and Rolls Royce? They each have their own personality. And their personality will lead you to draw conclusions about the car owner – what they value and what they want the world to think of them.

Tapping into these qualities and traits is crucial to writing good copy. That means a copywriter can’t write without understanding the brand behind the product.

Schwartz goes into this even further in his chapter on Identification. To me, that chapter could include the subhead:

Your Brand Is Your Secret Weapon To Achieving Direct Response Super Sales

As marketers and copywriters, we know the decision to buy is first made on an emotional level. Then it’s validated rationally.

Schwartz describes this as the two separate buying reasons every product offers:

1. Functional (the product’s features)

2. A non-functional, or “super-functional” value

At the core of the super-functional value is emotion. Schwartz calls it the Longing for Identification.

“The desire of your prospect to act out certain roles in his life… To define himself to the world around him – to express the qualities within himself that he values, and the positions he as attained.”

In other words, the brands you use tell the world about who you are as a person. Or at least how you want the world to see you. And good copy will show the product is the best way for the prospect to achieve the kind of identification he longs for.

So understanding the brand is just as important as understanding the prospect. And how you connect the two will make or break your copy.

While discovering your brand isn’t complicated, it does take some time and thought.

You need to know the right questions to ask.

Schwartz focuses on personality, so let’s start there, too …

If you’re a business owner, the two questions below will help reveal your brand’s personality. If you’re a copywriter, ask your client for their brand guide. It should describe the brand’s emotional identity. If they don’t have one, add these to the list of questions to ask before you write:

1. How would you describe your brand to someone as if it were a person?

Words and phrases like “quality” and “white glove treatment” don’t work here. To get a better sense of what I mean, here are some examples of brand personality:

Virgin – Maverick, fun, edgy, and hedonistic.

Starbucks – Relaxed, personable and outgoing.

Now think of a handful of personality traits that describe your brand.

2. How do you want people to feel when they engage with your brand?

Describe what you want your customer’s experience to feel like. It will help you define the personality traits you want associated with your brand — that pixie dust essential for connecting your brand and your prospect. And one of Schwartz’s secrets to direct response super sales.

So if you’re involved with direct response, chances are you’ve been “doing brands” all along. Even if you never thought of it that way. And if you haven’t been, take a page or two out of Schwartz’s playbook. Rumor has it, it worked pretty well for him.

Want more help with your brand identity? Pick up a free copy of Brand Magnetism… 3 simple steps to attracting customers and keep them coming back for more. It will walk you through a process to get clear on your brand.

And if you want your own copy of Eugene Schwartz’s Breakthrough Advertising or his other hard to find book, The Brilliance Breakthrough, drop me a note. I’ll point you in the right direction: Nicole@pipermarketingsolutions.com.

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Nicole Piper
Nicole Piper
Nicole Piper is a global brand strategist and loyalty marketer turned direct response copywriter. Today Nicole helps clients understand and clarify how their brand shows up in front of their best customers. She writes copy that intentionally reflects the brand message to both build sales and set the framework for an ongoing customer relationship.Prior to launching Piper Marketing Solutions, Nicole built multi-million dollar businesses in over 30 countries for numerous high-profile properties including MTV, Nickelodeon, The Sharper Image, and Pokemon. Nicole is an AWAI certified copywriter.
Showing 8 comments
  • Bonnie Schooler
    Reply

    Great info Nicole! Makes it easy to understand and explain to clients! Best explanation I have heard!

  • James
    Reply

    Nailed it! I love how you tied brand to personality, USP, and the Big Idea. A great example is Ogilvy’s Hathaway Shirts concept. Thinking about branding also helps marketers develop consistency throughout their marketing package.

    • Nicole Piper
      Reply

      Hey James,

      Ogilvy’s Hathaway Shirt is a great example! And yes, consistency is critical. It’s key for building customer loyalty.

      Thanks for posting.

      Nicole

  • Evan
    Reply

    It goes both ways… When I was doing agency ads, you literally couldn’t pay me enough to do direct response.

    Back then, I wouldn’t pee on a long copy ad if it was on fire.

    • Nicole Piper
      Reply

      Hey Evan,

      I didn’t know that, but I’m not surprised. There are certainly enough successes with both disciplines at this point to conclude they each serve a purpose.

      Many thanks for your comment.

      Nicole

  • Blake Ingram
    Reply

    Great piece.

    The firs time around I read that section I breezed through it a bit and missed the whole point it seems!

    Time to go and re-read it.

    • Nicole Piper
      Reply

      Thanks Blake. The book is so full of great info it’s definitely worth a 2nd read! (Or 3rd… maybe 4th…)

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