Is Good Copywriting Unethical?

Good morning 🙂 

I got an interesting private message the other day from one of our Copy Accelerator members. ✉

The short version is that he’s been having an internal struggle…

Brought on by the fact that he feels like he is sometimes “stretching the truth” for his clients. 

He wanted to know if doing that was okay…

And he asked my opinion.

The first thing I told him is that really, everyone has their own ethical compass…

So it’s not for me to decide where people draw a line in the sand. 🤷‍♂

But of course, that answer wouldn’t make for a very interesting article, now would it?

So, let me go ahead and explore this topic with you on a deeper level. 

I think there’s a big difference between “selling” and “lying.” 

Your fundamental job as a copywriter is to sell.

And you do that by being exciting. (!)

This means your copy needs to be exciting, and you need to make the product sound exciting, too. 

People buy based on emotion above all else.

And your role as a copywriter is to agitate that emotion and turn it into excitement (whether nervous excitement, thrilled excitement, fearful excitement… whatever). 

And what’s inherently implied in this statement…

Is that you’re going to probably need to get creative on how you sell something. 

For example, let's look at a home workout program. 

When it comes to the story of how the product you’re selling was created…

It’s not very exciting if you say: 

“I wanted to make money and get rich. My friends have a home workout program and they make a lot of money. So I figured I should make one too. So I talked to my trainer friend, read some books, and put together a workout program in like a month that I’m now offering to you. 

It’s got 12 workouts in them. They cover different muscle groups. Each one is like thirty minutes long. I think they’re pretty solid, and if you do them every day for a few months I’m confident you’re going to get in good shape.”

Obviously you’re not gonna sell a whole lot of copies of the home workout program doing something like that…

The story has gotta be more dramatic and exciting.

It’s gotta go something like this: 

“So once I finally discovered the TRUTH about why most home workout programs fail…

Along with the secret to what makes a good home workout successful…

I started searching for a program I could buy online that would help me to finally get the results I wanted. 

I used Google, asked friends for recommendations, and tore through every corner of the web…

And yet, despite all my searching…

I simply couldn’t find ANYTHING that incorporated the key workout discoveries I’d made – the ones I’ve been sharing with you inside this presentation. 

They just didn’t exist.

And at this point, I had a decision to make. 

I could either give up on my quest altogether…

Or, I could do the hard thing…

And create a program on my own. 

It was tempting to just give up…

Especially since I’m not a personal trainer, or a workout expert, or anything like that. 

Giving up would have been easy. And saved me a ton of money and time…

It really was tempting. 

But then, I thought about all the people who are truly struggling to get the results they want.

I thought about my own struggle, and how frustrating it was to always feel invisible and alone…

And the more I thought about it…

The more I realized that this was something I HAD to do. 

Not just for me, but for everyone like me.

So I started pouring through every home workout and exercise I could find that could be modified using the discovery I just shared with you. 

I tore through books, articles, scientific studies – you name it. 

I took everything that worked, then I looked at how I could make it better. 

By the time I was done, I had about 30 workouts…

But I was going after QUALITY and not quantity here…

So I took these workouts to NAME, a personal friend who has been a certified personal trainer for XX years, and helped YY men and women get in incredible shape. 

I asked NAME to take what I’d put together and TEAR IT APART. 

I said that I only wanted the workouts that were the simplest, easiest to follow, and most effective. 

This had to be something that ANYONE could do, starting immediately…

From the comfort of their own home…

And regardless of if they’d never stepped foot inside a gym before in their life. 

Well, NAME didn’t go easy on me…

Not only did he cut out several of the workouts that he said were unnecessary…

But he also made several brilliant tweaks to the ones he liked.

Seemingly small changes that made each workout dramatically more powerful. 

NAME was like a mad scientist in his laboratory. It really was something to watch…

And finally, after more than a month of tweaking, testing and revising…

We knew we’d created something special…

A breakthrough program that anyone could use.

It’s called PRODUCT NAME and…”

See the difference?

I mean, I’m sure you do. It’s not very subtle…

And you tell me: is the latter version really a lie? 

I don’t know…

I mean, it’s playing with the truth a little bit…

But more than anything, it’s just making the discovery wayyyyyyy more exciting…

And the second version is sure as heck going to sell a lot more copies than the first version, right?

So that's the way I view it.

And at some point, you have to make a utilitarian calculation with all of this. 

You have to think about the greater good.

If your workout program is really and truly powerful and effective…

If it can help a TON of people to be healthier, fitter, happier, and more confident…

If it can help them get into better shape, which could ultimately even save their lives…

Then is it really immoral to ratchet up the excitement levels here…

So that you increase the probability of someone buying your product?

I personally feel, “no, it’s not immoral”…

And I’m confident that pretty much every single one of the best copywriters and marketers out there would agree…

Because really, making something common seem breathtakingly exciting…

Like I said, that’s the essence of selling –

Good copywriters are like alchemists…

Transforming mud into gold…

And if you’re not comfortable with this fact…

Then in my opinion, you should probably find a different career path pronto. 

 

 

– SPG 

P.S. This post originally came from an email I sent to my private list. If you want to see more stuff like this from me, you can apply to join my list using this link.