Okay, maybe I'm stretching things a bit by saying everyone loves a contrarian.
It's way too easy to hate them or dismiss what they say if it goes against what you want to believe.
And sometimes they're going against the grain just for the sake of being contrarian (we all know someone who likes to stir up debates on Facebook just for grins.)
But it sure is hard to ignore these contrarian types, as annoying as they can sometimes be.
That's because human beings are insatiably curious. It's why using curiosity in copy, as you well know, is a great way to hook someone into reading your email or promo and keep them engaged.
This kind of contrarian approach with your headline, email subject line, and/or lead can produce a huge boost in results. Especially if what you are saying goes against not just what the prospect is hearing everywhere else, but what he or she expects you (the product spokesperson) to say.
Like a well-known stock-picker saying, "Most stocks suck!" Or an alternative health doctor who's known for recommending supplements saying, "Lutein and Bilberry DON'T Work!" (these are both real-life headlines my A-list copywriter friends and Copy Insiders Richard Armstrong and Carline Anglade-Cole have used successfully).
I've used this "contrarian" strategy in copy myself many times. One of my earlier successes in using it was for a magalog I wrote for Soundview's Advanced Bionutritionals supplement subsidiary. It was for a cholesterol supplement with the "star" nutrient being policosanol.
Several studies showed policosanol could lower cholesterol levels dramatically. There were even a few head-to-head studies with cholesterol-lowering drugs that showed it worked as well or better--without the negative side effects.
When I was hired to write a new promo for this product (and beat the existing control it had launched with), I dug up all these studies. I also looked at the competition and market to get an idea of the stage of market sophistication and what I needed to focus on for my "big idea".
There had been a number of new entrants into the market promoting policosanol, so I knew I needed to differentiate the one I was promoting. This is where really digging into the research pays off big...
I discovered that many competing products were deriving their policosanol from bees wax, rice bran extract, and other sources that were NOT sugar cane wax, which the Advanced Bionutritionals product was extracted from. Yet sugar cane wax was the ingredient source that all of the studies and existing research had been done on.
What's more, I found a recent independent study by ConsumerLab.com on cholesterol-lowering supplements that showed how a number of them failed to contain what they said on the label.
Hence, this led to testing a few different headline variations. One was "The Case Against Cholesterol-Lowering Supplements". You can use "The Case Against _____" for any kind of contrarian headline or email subject line.
However, the headline that worked best and went on to be a multi-million dollar control was "The Problem with Policosanol". This played on the increased awareness of this nutrient at the time, plus threw in a bit of alliteration to boot.
Here's what the winning front cover that ran for at least a few years as the control looked like (you can get the full PDF here and it's also included in my Virtual LA Boot Camp Intensive Swipe File):
This kind of "self-contrasting content", as Copy Insider Derek Doepker calls it, is a great way to reel your target prospect in. It plays on their curiosity since you're saying something unexpected and it's not what they're hearing anywhere else.
Derek recently did a post in a Facebook group that I'm a member of that does an excellent job of explaining this tactic. With his permission, I'm sharing it here.
He mentions the policosanol promo example above that I go into much further in my Virtual LA Boot Camp Intensive. Derek smartly snapped up his copy the other day with the LAHALF half-price savings that are still in effect through Friday...
Next time you're sitting down to write a new promo or coming up with test ideas for an existing one, think about those last two questions Derek mentions above about "violating expectations". It could lead you to a new breakthrough control.
Yours for smarter marketing,