Unleash Your Secret Deadly Marketing Power! Results Guaranteed!

Posted 23rd July 2010

My designer buddy Enzo Case loves this stuff too, so we decided to mock up a “comic book”  campaign. We started with a Charles Atlas tribute,  played around with a story and a strip ad, and finished with a fully-worked Direct Mail piece.

So read on, and learn how vintage comic ads can unleash your own Secret Deadly Marketing Power. . .
Johnny Atlas

The Insult That Made A Man Out Of "Enz"


I Wanted To Be An Artist

Enz Wanted To Be An Artist - Now You Can Too!


Secret Marketing Power!

Secret Marketing Power Can Be Yours! (Can You Spot Us?)


We Put The Mojo In Dojo!
Learn The Deadly Art Of Karate Marketing! 

Thanks for reading. Next time you’re stuck for inspiration, why not try an old skool marketing approach? Who knows what Super Hero adventures your business might have. . .

WARNING: Secret Deadly Marketing Power is a potent weapon. Handle with care!

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Categories: Copywriting
Johnny Cullen

Summer’s Here. Is Your Copywriting Beach Beautiful?

Posted 16th July 2010

Don’t let the opposition kick sand in your face this summer. Learn how “Dynamic Storytelling” can turn your business from zero to hero in only days!

“You too can have a body (copy) like mine!”

Why did these adverts become so successful? It’s because Charles knew how to tell a “Dynamic Story”. . .

Discover the power of “Dynamic Storytelling”!

  • People use stories to make sense of the world throughout their lives, from fairy tales to fables
  • A convincing story helps readers make a powerful emotional bond with your business
  • Nobody wants another boring old product list, so be creative
  • The stronger the story the better your readers will respond to it – which is great for your sales

Need an example? It’s over to you, Mr Atlas. . .

“I was that seven stone weakling”

  • The classic Charles Atlas advert told one unforgettable story
  • A bully sees a “seven stone weakling” on the beach, kicks sand in his face and steals his girlfriend
  • Enraged, said weakling orders a Charles Atlas bodybuilding course and starts training
  • Quickly transformed into an Adonis, he revisits the beach, flattens the bully and reclaims his girlfriend (hey, it was the 1950s!)
  • The weakling turns out be a young Charles Atlas – adding instant credibility to the ad’s claims and offering hope to the reader

Want to follow in Charles’ multi-million dollar footsteps? Make sure you. . .

Let “Dynamic Storytelling” beef up your business!

  • Use situations and characters readers can instantly recognise and relate to
  • Pick a memorable name for your brand/ product  (“Charles Atlas” was born Angelo Siciliano)
  • Show that your business quickly and dramatically solves your reader’s problem
  • Target your reader’s emotional needs – focus on benefits (“girls”), not features (“muscles”)

Finished your copy? Then use striking visuals and testimonials to drive home the lesson, and. . . .

Now you’re ready to hit the beach!

Thanks for reading. When you’re copywriting this summer, remember Charles Atlas and try a bit of “Dynamic Storytelling”. Your business will be turning heads before you know it. . .
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Johnny Cullen

The Smooth Guide to Copywriting (Or Why Drinking a Bellini is Good for You)

Posted 16th June 2010

La dolce vitaWant to write better copy this summer? Then try a dash of Italian style. . .

Italians are a stylish lot, and their timeless, understated chic is world-famous. So this summer, why not take a similar approach to your written work? Follow this smooth guide to copywriting and your business will soon be living la dolce vita. . .

1) Why drinking a Bellini is good for you

Invented at Harry’s Bar in Venice, a Bellini is a refreshing mix of fresh peach juice and Prosecco. Drinking a Bellini has two main benefits for copywriters:

  • It teaches us to only use simple, freshly squeezed ingredients
  • It tastes fantastic (especially by the pool)

So remember, don’t try and do too much with each piece of copy – when it comes to messaging, less is more.

2) Dress to impress

  • Milan is the world’s fashion capital
  • The Milanese make looking good seem effortless, but it actually involves lots of hard work and preparation
  • Bespoke tailoring is more flattering and lasts longer, so don’t get your copywriting off-the-peg either
  • Pay attention to every detail and your business will soon be turning heads

3) Make mine an espresso

  • Italian coffee is small, strong and wonderful
  • Over here most coffee comes in pints, costs about £5 and resembles hot mud
  • Remember the espresso and don’t confuse quality with quantity in your copywriting
  • Never use instant copy – all that freeze-dried stuff about “solutions” and “synergy” is a real turn-off

4) Love your language

5) Inject some Italian passion into your copywriting

  • The Italians are famous for their passion for food, drink, sport, history and culture
  • And if you’ve ever seen the Palio di Siena, you’ll know what I mean
  • Inject some passion into your writing and you’ll make instant emotional connections with your audience
  • As a copywriter it is your job to excite, inspire and connect with your readers
  • So work hard and never, ever be boring

Thanks for reading.

If you’re having a rough time copywriting this summer, remember this guide to playing it smooth. Imagine you’re dining in Montepulciano, or sipping espresso in St Mark’s Square. Better still mix up a Bellini (all in the name of hard work, of course).
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Johnny Cullen

How “The Wizard of Oz” Can Send Your Copywriting Over the Rainbow

Posted 12th May 2010

Ruby slippers
  • Feel like you’ve been hit by a tornado?
  • Struggling to write in Technicolor?
  • Clicking your heels together not helping?

You’re not alone. Every copywriter needs some “good magic” now and then. In the absence of any ruby slippers, here are five ways that “The Wizard of Oz” can send your copywriting over the rainbow. . .

1) “We’re off to see the Wizard”

Dorothy and her pals the Tin Man, Scarecrow and the Lion may be an odd mix, but they’ve got:

  • A common goal (“we’re off to see the Wizard”)
  • A defined strategy (“follow the yellow brick road”)
  • Specific individual goals (get brain/ heart/ courage/ home safely)

This is an excellent approach to adopt in your copywriting. Get your brief clear from the start, and you’ll save yourself big trouble later.

2)” If I only had a brain”

The Scarecrow wrongly thinks he’s stupid, so don’t make the same mistake with your readers:

3) “If I only had a heart”

The Tin Man hopes the Wizard will give him a heart. Don’t let your readers think you’re missing one as well. Make sure you:

  • Find out everything about your target audiences’ wants and needs
  • Explain clearly and concisely how your business can help fulfil them
  • Use testimonials and case studies to strengthen your case

4) “If I only had the nerve”

Remember how The Wizard of Oz jumps from sepia to Technicolor? That’s the effect you’re after with your copywriting. Be brave in your writing, and:

Getting decent work signed off isn’t always easy and can take nerve (sorry, “noive”). Like the not-so-cowardly Lion, be ready to fight your corner.

5) “There’s no place like home”

Made way back in 1939, The Wizard of Oz” is still watched by millions today. It has inspired sequels, prequels and a popular BBC show. And while the world may have changed since The Wizard of Oz” first screened, our hopes and dreams remain largely the same.

Never forget that for your readers, just like for Dorothy, “there’s no place like home”. “Home” involves deep-seated psychological drivers like:

  • Safety and security
  • Building a family
  • Keeping up with the Joneses

For maximum success, these are the drivers your copywriting should target.

Thanks for reading.

“The Wizard of Oz” teaches us how important self-confidence is. The Scarecrow was never stupid, the Tin Man did have feelings and the Lion was no coward. Even Dorothy could have gone home all along.

So the next time your copywriting needs a lift over the rainbow, work hard and believe in yourself. And remember this five point guide!
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Johnny Cullen

How to Write Bullet-Proof Copy in Five Easy Stages

Posted 27th April 2010

“Dear Father Christmas. . .”

Picture the scene. You’ve got an important copy deadline looming. Are you:

  • Fighting hard to get your best work signed off?
  • Feeling under attack from all sides?
  • Tempted to surrender just to finish the damn thing?

If you’ve answered “yes” to any of the above, relax. Even battle-hardened copywriters get spooked occasionally. But give in too easily on good work and you’ll:

  • Cost your business valuable sales and leads
  • Damage your reputation

Don’t despair though! Here’s how to make your copywriting bullet-proof in five easy stages. . .

1) Build your own early warning system

In a famous 1958 interview, legendary US author Ernest Hemingway (pictured above) said:

“The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shock-proof, shit detector. This is the writer’s radar and all great writers have had it.”

Always keep your “radar” switched on. The stronger your copywriting is, the harder it is for anyone to shoot down. . .

2) Learn from the best

The best writers aren’t copywriters. Like Hemingway, they’re poets, playwrights and authors. Want to be a better writer? Start by being a better reader.

Stick a decent book in your bag or lap-top case. Got five minutes spare? Get reading!

3) Find out who the Top Guns admire

Top Gun copywriters from Ogilvy onwards have recommended writers like P.G. Wodehouse, Herman Melville and Graham Greene. Even Mad Men’s Don Draper likes a bit of poetry now and again.

It makes sense to find out who’s influencing the most successful copywriters in town. The interviews in Roger Horberry’s “Brilliant Copywriting” are an ideal place to begin.

4) Always keep your eyes open

  • Like many writers, Hemingway always carried a notebook
  • It’s an excellent habit to adopt
  • Scribble down any ideas and observations – you never know when they’ll prove useful

5) Trust your instincts

  • Work hard and your “writer’s radar” will become increasingly efficient
  • As your confidence grows, you’ll feel better equipped to defend your copywriting
  • Think any of your copy is sub-standard? Then it probably is – so strip it out

This last point is crucial. You must be your own harshest critic. What do I mean? Well, we’ll leave the last word to Hemingway:

“I rewrote the ending to A Farewell to Arms, the last page of it, thirty-nine times before I was satisfied.”

Thanks for reading. Copy changes are a fact of life for any writer. But there’s plenty you can do to fend off trigger-happy bosses and clients. Just follow this guide and you’ll be well on your way to staying bullet-proof!
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Johnny Cullen

Seven Things ABBA Can Teach You About Brilliant Copywriting

Posted 9th April 2010

ABBABack in the Golden Age of Disco, Swedish super group ABBA ruled the world. They had two hot girls, two cool guys and record sales of around 375 million.

ABBA wrote chart-topping, catchy numbers that still retail over 25 years later. To send your own sales platinum, why not follow their winning approach in your copywriting?

With the help of some of their greatest hits, here are  seven things ABBA can teach you about brilliant copywriting. . .

1) Money, Money, Money

  • Copywriting is essentially salesmanship in print
  • If your writing doesn’t sell, ditch it
  • Cut anything old, dull or overly jargon-y. If you’re not in, you’re out (as they said in the 70s!)

2) The Name of the Game

  • Ask yourself “What can my business do for my customers?”
  • Make customer benefits your copy’s focus
  • Write for your readers – not yourself or colleagues

3) SOS

  • To write effectively, you must: a) understand your customers’ problems; and b) show you can solve them
  • Identify your customers’ wants, needs and aspirations –and zone in on them

4) Take a Chance on Me

  • To persuade people to use you and not your competitors, make your case quickly and clearly
  • Testimonials, case studies, and supporting figures all help
  • Use language people understand. If you’re a 70s tribute band, say you’re a 70s tribute band. Don’t call yourself a “retrospective entertainment solutions provider” –  it’s a) confusing; and b) tragic

5) Ring Ring

  • Identify your copy’s main purpose
  • Stick to it
  • Always have clear calls-to-action (e.g. “Ring us today on 0207. . .”)
  • Check contact details are correct and displayed clearly

6) The Winner Takes It All

  • No-one’s waiting for you to contact them
  • You must work hard to engage readers
  • This means regularly delivering high-quality copy across online and offline media
  • If you don’t, your opposition will!

7) Thank You for the Music

Thanks for reading. And to send your business to Number One, remember ABBA’s seven steps to brilliant copywriting. . .

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Johnny Cullen

How Turning Japanese Can Really Make Your Copywriting Blossom

Posted 25th March 2010

 Cherry Blossom

Oh! oh! is all I can say  

For the cherries that grow  

On Mount Yoshino  

 (Yasuhara Teishitsu)  

It’s spring and the cherry blossom season is upon us. Japanese haiku poets love this beautiful time of year, and often use cherry blossom as a metaphor for love and life. 

But what is “haiku”? And what can it teach us about successful copywriting? Read on and find out. . . 

What is haiku? 

  • Haiku is a type of Japanese poetry
  • A haiku has three lines and is usually only 17 syllables long
  • The attraction is that it’s a simple format, but is very hard to do well

Haiku isn’t just an Oriental thing though. Beatnik writers like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg loved haiku, as did J.D. Salinger

OK. But how can haiku improve my copywriting? 

As well as being good fun, writing haiku is a great exercise in: 

  • Making quick and powerful connections with your readers
  • Simplifying your messages
  • Ruthless editing

All of these points are crucial for writing engaging, persuasive copy. 

Why haiku is perfect training for online selling 

Want to sell effectively online? Then you’ve got to move quickly and write well. Think about how little space you get with: 

  • Pay-Per-Click adverts – 15 words or so
  • Email marketing headlines – 5-10 words (at most)
  • Tweets – 140 characters maximum

Be honest. Could some haiku practice transform your conversion rates and click-throughs? 

Try and be memorable 

  • Many haiku poets are still widely read hundreds of years later
  • This is because their writing is of the highest possible quality
  • On a commercial scale, well-written campaigns can run for decades and generate huge financial returns

Let’s look at three famous advertising slogans: 

  • “A Mars a day helps you work rest and play” – written in 1966, still running in Australia
  • “Because you’re worth it”- L’Oreal’s slogan proved a perfect fit for all its target markets
  • “Just do it” – three words, and virtually a philosophy

What do they have in common? Like haiku, they use minimum words but carry maximum impact. So what’s the big secret? It’s pretty simple really. . . 

Don’t be lazy! 

  • Writing haiku is fun but you must work hard to avoid sounding trite
  • Likewise with successful copywriting
  • The less space you’ve got, the harder you have to work to get your message across

Think about your readers, and the best way to emotionally connect with them. The better the connection is, the better your chance of a sale. Nobody likes clichés and corporate jargon, so strip them out! 


We’ve seen how Japanese haiku poets quickly and powerfully create strong, emotional reactions in their readers. And we’ve seen how their mix of discipline and creativity can teach us lots about successful copywriting. 

As one last example, here’s Irish poet Seamus Heaney’s modern take on a haiku: 

Dangerous pavements.

But I face the ice this year 

With my father’s stick. 

Good, isn’t it? No wasted space, simple messages, and a memorable emotional effect. 

So remember this Japanese approach next time you’re writing brochures, blogs or tweets – and anything else! 


Teishitsu, Yasuhara. Translated from Japanese by G. Bownas and A. Thwaite, London: Penguin.

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Johnny Cullen

A Beginner’s Guide to 3D Copywriting

Posted 25th February 2010

AvatarHow to put your company name in lights. . .

It’s easy for any business to forget its customers and clients have lives outside work. But your target audiences don’t operate in just two dimensions, so neither must you. 

For solid gold copywriting success, you’ll need an all-round, “3D” picture of what your audiences like reading, watching, and listening. (And that probably includes blockbusters like Avatar!) 

Are you ready to meet your public?  

Award-winning copywriter Chas Bayfield, the chap behind high-profile campaigns for Tango and Bird’s Eye, has this advice for wannabe writers: 

“Go where the people are, eat in McDonald’s, read trashy magazines, sit in Starbucks a lot, watch the world, travel on buses, go by coach, not first class, and just realise that the people you need to talk to live in the real world themselves and not in some little media bubble.” 

(From Brilliant Copywriting by R.Horberry.) 

Follow Chas’ lead, and remember to: 

  • Identify how your customers like to communicate (e.g. online? offline?)
  • Use language they are comfortable with
  • Tailor your copy accordingly

Above all, be interesting!  

Sorry to say, but nobody’s waiting for your business to get in touch. People don’t sit around thinking “Please, someone send me another brochure! Or press release! Or sales email!” 

Copywriting Top Gun Howard Gossage explains: 

“The real fact of the matter is that nobody reads ads. People read what interests them. Sometimes it’s an ad.” 

He’s right, isn’t he? Even if you’re writing for business audiences, your readers are still people. So the more interested you are in their wants and needs, the more interested they’ll be in you. After all, that’s what persuasive copywriting is all about! 

Here’s how to do it 

  • Address your readers directly – put the emphasis on “you”
  • Adopt a friendly, approachable tone if possible
  • Credit your readers with some intelligence
  • Use appropriate topical references/ examples to liven things up

So what have we learned? 

Well, if you want your copywriting to break all box office records, you’ve got to think in 3D. Get out in the world, learn about your audiences, and give them something they’d happily pay for. 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to catch a movie (all in the name of research, obviously!).

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Johnny Cullen

Kiss Kiss, Buy Buy. . .

Posted 15th February 2010

Kiss Kiss“We’re not selling cosmetics – we’re selling hope”  (Charles Revson, founder of Revlon). 

Beauty billionaire Charles Revson may seem an unlikely copywriting hero. But follow his benefits-led sales approach and your copy will soon be kissing with confidence. . . 

What do your customers really want? 

To identify what your customers really want from your business, focus on customer benefits, not product features. Marketing hot shot Theodore Levitt summed it up nicely: 

“People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.” 

Example: Look ten years younger in just 28 days! 

Remember that effective copywriting is all about the reader, not the writer. Want an example? Imagine you’re trying to sell a new brand of anti-wrinkle cream. This fab product: 

  • Contains new Factor X micro-repair formula
  • Makes users look ten years younger in 28 days

The first point is a feature, the second a benefit. Which do you think is the stronger sales message? 

Emotions sell, facts tell 

Benefits are usually emotion-based (“look younger”). Features are usually more rational (the scientific-sounding “micro-repair formula”). Always lead with emotional benefits, and use features to rationalise your buyers’ decisions. 

So if you’re writing about the new anti-wrinkle cream, you’d probably say something like: 

“Want to look ten years younger in just 28 days?  Well now you can – thanks to our new, exclusive Factor X micro-repair formula. . .” 

Because you’re worth it 

To recap, for successful copywriting: 

  • Identify what your customers want
  • State your benefits clearly
  • Emotion is more persuasive than logic
  • For maximum effect, support emotional messages with rationalising information

(Now, where can I get my hands on that anti-wrinkle cream?)

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Johnny Cullen

Help! Where Do I Get Decent Creative Ideas From?

Posted 1st February 2010

Mad Men AdvertPicture the scene. You need a copywriting idea (and quickly). Maybe it’s an advert, a press release or a web page. The deadline’s looming, but your mind – and your computer screen – is blank. What are you going to do? 

Don’t panic. There’s a fab little book could save your sanity. Written by James Webb Young, it’s called “A Technique for Producing Ideas”

First published in 1965,  “A Technique. . .” has helped countless copywriters write successful business copy. (In fact, it’s so fly that even the great Bill Bernbach wrote an introduction.) 

Your technique for producing ideas 

“A Technique. . .” is only 48 pages long. But in true copywriter style, let’s boil it down to four stages. . . 

1) Do your research 

This is the biggie. You’ve simply got to put the hours in. Study your product, your target audiences and your competitors. The more you know about your product, the easier it’ll be to sell it. 

Keep updated on news and pop culture too – clever topical references can instantly lift copy (and make your organisation sound personable). 

Copywriter and Mad Men-inspiration David Ogilvy was the research daddy. Ogilvy spent three weeks researching Rolls-Royce cars before discovering that: 

“At sixty miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock”. 

This became one of the most famous advertising slogans ever, and helped launched Ogilvy’s stellar, multi-million pound career. So although research can be a grind, remember it’s worth it! 

2) Leave it to stew 

Finished your research? Written up your notes? Well done.  Now sit back, switch off and let your subconscious do the rest. You’ll be surprised when inspiration strikes. . . 

3) Write it down 

If you’ve done enough research the writing process should be pretty straightforward. Get typing! 

4) Be your own harshest critic 

Take your copy and shine a harsh, bright light on it. (You can even adopt a Cold War accent if you like.) 

Do your key messages come across in an engaging, informed and effective way? Does your copy soar or bore? Remove anything that’s dull, predictable or clichéd, and polish the rest until it shines. The result? Creative copy that will knock your readers’ socks off. 

Here’s to you Mr Webb Young!

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Categories: Copywriting
Johnny Cullen