Over the line!!!

What's in Kim's Mailbox?

There's a memorable scene in the movie "The Big Lebowski" that's become legend. It's when the Dude's buddy Walter yells out to one of his fellow bowlers that he's committed a foul.

Here's how the dialogue goes in the scene...

Walter Sobchak: OVER THE LINE! Smokey: Huh? Walter Sobchak: I'm sorry, Smokey. You were over the line, that's a foul. Smokey: Bullshit. Mark it 8, Dude. Walter Sobchak: Uh, excuse me. Mark it zero. Next frame. Smokey: Bullshit, Walter. Mark it 8, Dude. Walter Sobchak: Smokey, this is not 'Nam. This is bowling. There are rules. Yes, Smokey, there ARE rules. Yet some of the copy I've seen since the Coronavirus outbreak hit has been "over the line". In one of last week's emails I told you about some warning letters that recently went out to 7 supplement and health product companies from the FDA. We're sure to see more of this, as there have been EXPLICIT warnings not to capitalize or over-hype product benefits based on "super immunity" supplements. While I personally am taking my "Coronavirus cocktail" of supplements and greens drinks each day, I also know that I still need to take steps to safeguard myself (staying home and avoiding crowds, washing hands and using hand sanitizers, carrying my Lysol wipes with me when I do go out, etc.) And while I believe it's important to boost your immune system with supplements, food, sleep, and exercise, I'm not going to kid myself that on its own it's enough. But the worry is people will think it's enough if they take a "magic pill" and then attempt to go about their lives as if they're somehow protected or it's normal times. These are NOT normal times at all. Marketers need to tread carefully--not just because it's the right thing to do, but in order to avoid big trouble. But not all will do so. That's why I fully expect we'll be hearing a lot more of the following from the FDA and FTC in coming weeks...

The email I want to share with you today is walking a thin line in terms of compliance. I got it in my inbox this morning (to be clear, it's NOT a promotion I wrote, though it is from one of my past clients).

So let's take a quick look. It's a long-copy email, which I really don't see that often these days. Yet I can see how it can be more effective, since it doesn't force you to make the decision early on whether you're going to commit to clicking though a link.

Instead, it keeps you reading, perhaps in part because you don't expect it to be long, and also because it draws you in and keeps you engaged...assuming you're the right target prospect. So by using "long-form" copy in the email, it's actually giving it a certain advantage.

Let's take a look at the email and put it under our "scope" for examination...

I realize the type may be a bit hard to read (consider it a vision exam of your close-up reading ability...maybe it's time to order a new pair of Warby's like I just did). But no worries, I've attached a PDF with the email copy in it...along with some key phrases highlighted (we'll get to that in a moment).

I love the subject line:10,000 Doses of This All-Natural Immune Boosting Pill Sold-Out in Just 3 Days. It instantly conveys both urgency and social proof. It also immediately communicates the benefit and calls out the right prospect who's interested in boosting their immune system.

While the copy is generally quite good throughout, there are several sentences that are what I like to call "loooooong-ass sentences". They need to be broken up into 2 or 3 separate sentences to keep the prospect gliding effortlessly through the copy.

They do a good job of presenting the doctor as an authority on the topic and bringing in some Harvard "cred". While the doctor's degree is actually from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, they spin the mind-body medicine training he did at the university into being a "Harvard-trained recovery specialist", which sounds especially appealing right now.

What I'm focusing on here in the copy, however, are the "under the line" and somewhat "over the line" phrases in terms of claims compliance. In the attached Word doc, I've highlighted in gray the copy that is generally within an acceptable level of risk tolerance, based on most companies I've worked with.

And some of it is copy that's done really well, and taking a creative approach to skirting risky claims (i.e., "Acts as a turbo shot to your immune system"). Alas, some of it could risk getting the company in trouble in these especially-scrutinized times.

What I've highlighted in yellow in the attached PDF is where the copy is pushing the boundaries and getting into risky territory.

Whenever you use the words "protect" or "improve", for example, you are making a drug-like claim. Keep your wording as much as possible along the lines of structure/function claims, using words like support, promote, maintain, or enhance.

Phrases that are clearly "over the line" include places where it's talking about inflammation. In general, you can't present a supplement as being an "anti-inflammatory". What you can say is an ingredient "supports healthy inflammatory response", for example.

Back to other aspects of the copy, it generally does a good job of breaking down complex mechanisms of action and explaining how the ingredients work...though some of it could be cut down/left out or use more vivid language to keep it from getting too dry.

And while the offer and guarantee are strong, and urgency with the 72-hour deadline is present, I think they could have played that up more. They need to tie in the close with the subject line that got the prospect reading in the first place.

If in fact they sold out and just restocked, they need more language like, "we expect these bottles we've just restocked to fly off the shelves" and "some of these ingredients are in tight supply or hard to get", etc. Build in scarcity.

They could also position the prospect to want to order the six-bottle option by mentioning some sort of limit per customer (6 bottles max)...we're seeing it at the grocery store with frozen meals and toilet paper, why not here?

Take a look at the attached PDF and see what you can glean from that when it comes to writing compliant copy that won't get you in hot water with the FDA/FTC.

And if you LOVE my copy breakdowns and critiques (like I keep hearing from so many of you when I meet you in person) I'm working on something cool I think you're going to love even more. Stay tuned for more news about it next week...

Yours for smarter marketing,


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