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Episode 016 - The Big Idea - Part 1

Published by: David Garfinkel on 08-07-2017





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Some copy ideas change history. They're called "Big Ideas," and that's what today's show is about.

He and his team pretty much redefined the music industry, the face of personal computing, and the way we use our phones. I'm talking about Steve Jobs, of course. In 2009, Fortune magazine said, "the past decade in business belongs to Jobs." In 2017, Recode, a tech website, said, "No single device will have as much impact as the iPhone in the next 10 years."

But I don't want to talk about technology or business right now. I want to talk about creativity, and not just any kind of creativity. I want to talk about that holy grail of product design and marketing and also copywriting, called the Big Idea.

Steve Jobs came up with a few Big Ideas that pretty much changed the course of history on planet Earth. Forever.

Here's what Karen Blumenthal, a Wall Street Journal reporter and author of "Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different," wrote about him in her book:

"Jobs attributed at least some of the success to the company's intense process of elimination, which meant rejecting far more things than it accepted.

" ‘People think focus means saying yes to the thing you've got to focus on,' he said. ‘But that's not what it means at all. It means saying no to the one hundred good ideas there are. You have to pick carefully.'"

If Steve Jobs left a legacy to the world's future creators of Big Ideas, those 39 words are it.

They're worth saying again:

" ‘People think focus means saying yes to the thing you've got to focus on,' Steve Jobs said. ‘But that's not what it means at all. It means saying no to the one hundred good ideas there are. You have to pick carefully.'"

Today's episode is about Big Ideas in copywriting – what they are, and how to come up with them.

Now, here's a big idea for you before we get started:

Copy is powerful. You're responsible for how you use what you hear on this podcast. Most of the time, common sense is all you need. But if you make extreme claims… and/or if you're writing copy for offers in highly regulated industries like health, finance, and business opportunity… you may want to get a legal review after you write and before you start using your copy. My larger clients do this all the time.

Alright. Let's continue.

In copy, what is a Big Idea?

- A big idea is something new… important… and creative. That is used in copy to sell something. First, about creativity and creative people. explanation from Jordan Peterson: creative people (artists, entrepreneurs) at the shore of an island. Can see what others can't. Now Peterson points out that while the artists are often productive, they're not making much money in many cases.

Sometimes they're broke. That's because either they are so far ahead of the times that they are producing what the market does not yet want… or they're producing things that the market will never want… or, they're not skilled at marketing and selling what they have, if it is something the market would want if they knew about it and had it sold to them in an appealing way.So let's look at this same scenario as it applies to copywriters. An experienced and skilled copywriter can stand at the water's edge and get a sense of what's next in the culture, in the marketplace, and come up with a creative idea that can boost sales big time for a product.Important: The new idea is not the copywriter making up a brand new desire in the marketplace that he or she came up with in some brilliant flash of random creativity. The product the copywriter will be selling is still based on existing, predictable, and largely unchanging desires of the market. What's new is the way the copywriter came up with to get a prospect's interest and to sell the product that already taps into existing desires. That said…

- A Big Idea is a concept, maybe a headline, maybe something else, that's so fresh and original it can redefine an industry, or start a new one, by itself- Gene Schwartz talks about this in the introduction to "Breakthrough Advertising: copy that opens up "an entirely new market for an existing product

(example: imagine you came up with a pitch to sell Segways to golfers, that they could use instead of golf carts. There are about 25 million golfers just in the U.S. So that would be a Big Idea… )… or copy that gives an old product a brand new slant (example: bring back fax machines as a way to foil hackers)… or copy that provides a competitively-battered product a new weapon—not only to protect itself against its imitators but actually damage or destroy the loyalty of the competitors' following." (example: a Big Idea to make the Blackberry only smartphone people wanted to buy)

- So again, and this is crucial, notice a Big Idea is not necessarily about coming up with a new product idea. It's more about coming up with a breakthrough copywriting idea… whether the product is brand new or well established.

A Big Idea can also be something that dominates an industry. A real example:

- Wall Street Journal "Two Young Men" letter. Story – college reunion; classmates – one was CEO, one was department manager at the same company who worked for the CEO. Difference: CEO read the Wall Street Journal.

I don't know of any other publication that sent out a sales letter implying you would become a CEO if you subscribed."Two Young Men" highest sales of any tracked ad known: $2 billion

A Big Idea can turn a niche product into a mass-market product. Another real example:
-Stansberry and Associates – investment newsletter firm in Baltimore

- Copywriter Mike Palmer: End of America

- Idea… economic trends that would remove the US dollar as the world reserve currency – the yardstick against which every other country's currency was measured – and cause economic disaster in the US

- Was used to sell a newsletter, which was about other financial topics

- I used to hear it on satellite radio – a commercial for the video sales letter. Was talking to a mentoring client about this recently. He remembered the same thing.

- Obviously, The End of America was a Big Idea that became a HUGE hit for Stansberry.


Keywords: big idea golden thread copywriting

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