The Power of Celebrity

Issue #58—March 1, 2019

It's the first day of March and it's still winter here in DC. I'm ready for Spring to come (by the end of the month it'll be here!)

Speaking of DC, that's a good segue to our topic this week: leveraging celebrity in your copy and marketing. After all, DC is the home of our current celebrity President.

That's about as political as we're going to get on that topic...but you can see just how powerful gaining a high level of celebrity (or notoriety) can be. It can help land you in the highest and most powerful office in the land.

But let's focus on using celebrity to boost your sales and profits (and if you're a copywriter, your royalty checks, too.) It's a tactic that's been used in direct response for decades--there's nothing new about it.

Wasn't it just a few years ago that we were getting grossed out by a deceased Elvis Presley's six-to-nine-foot colon that was being used to sell probiotic supplements? Yeah, we're not even going to go there, either.

Yet I'm seeing, or maybe just noticing, a lot more famous actresses, musicians, and pro athletes playing a featured role in online and direct mail promos these days. In fact, I've been using this tactic myself.

One of my current controls talks about how some of our most beloved sports figures (especially those appealing to an older generation) could have been helped had they only known about this new "Stanford solution" for joint pain (this phrase is used in the subject line of the email driving traffic to it). Let's take a look at the beginning of this online sales page...

As you can see, I'm capitalizing on celebrity/sports fame, the prestige of Stanford, and throwing in a dose of nostalgia all at the same time. Because what person over age 55 doesn't remember watching Dorothy Hamil crush it at those 1976 Olympics (and you can bet many of the women reading this even mimicked her famous hairstyle or knew someone who did!)

What older guy doesn't remember Jack Nicklaus' record-breaking championship streak? (And I threw in Shaq O'Neal for the slightly younger generation behind them who may also be reading this.)

It all pulls the reader in, and hooks them into reading. That is the sole job of your headline and your opening paragraphs. It's not the usual "I'm selling something here". You keep wondering where it will lead--and continue reading.

The vast majority of the promo has nothing to do with these celebrities' battered joints and destroyed sports careers. Of course, I quickly turn it back to the prospect soon after these opening paragraphs. They'll only read about the celebrities for so long before they ask, "What's in it for me?"

I found a very similar approach in an oversized magalog promo I got in the mail the other day. I've seen it multiple times so I know it must be a control. Let's take a look.

What's in Kim's Mailbox?

The promo I'm about to share with you is for one of the oldest and I'm sure largest-circulation alternative health newsletters around, Second Opinion. It's published by Soundview, one of my long-time clients. I don't know who wrote this promotion (UPDATE: it was Parris Lampropoulus!), but it's very well done...not just the copy, but the design strategy as well.

Let's take a look at the front cover (I apologize in advance for the picture quality, it was too big to fit on my scanner...)

It's like the medical version of The National Enquirer...which I didn't even know existed (lol).

But seriously, don't we all have an involuntary reflex that almost FORCES us to take a second look at something like this, especially if we were in line at the grocery store?

It stands out in the same way stuffed into your mailbox with bills (and not as much "junk mail" as the good ol' days). The main headline jolts you out of your shoes and makes you read what comes next.

And what comes next is really great copy. Because it's connecting these celebrities and whatever their dreadful fates were to what you're about to learn.

The big promise or hook here is that what's inside is going to give you an advantage these rich, powerful, and beloved celebrities didn't have. It's got such an emotional pull and built-in urgency, you just have to turn the page...

The headline at the top provides continuity and a smooth transition from the front cover, along with a sort of "speed of result" claim.

It then dramatizes different stories of each of the featured celebrities, using their images once more but also introducing the doctor behind the publication in a bio sidebar at the bottom of the page. Let's see how things continue on this opening spread on page 3...

Each of these 6 or 7 celebrity vignettes contribute to building the case---one after the other---that none of these deaths had to happen in the first place.

They also brilliantly cover a wide range of illnesses that likely hit at least one the prospect is insatiably curious to learn more about: joint problems, heart attack, sepsis, medical mistakes, and more.

And then they finish this page with three powerful bullets that tease you further inside the promotion. It very much feels, in some ways, like the approach the late Jim Rutz used for one of the most successful alternative health newsletter promotions ever mailed with the headline, "Read This or Die".

It was a similar premise---it's pointless to die of something when there's already a cure for it (but you just don't know what it is yet). But this promotion we're looking at injects a huge dose of celebrity as a way in and to build its case...and we're helplessly hooked into reading it.

Think about how you can use celebrity in your promotions to boost response and get your next hot control. Obviously you need to tread carefully here...don't make it seem like a particular (living) celebrity is endorsing your product.

(I'm not sure how many thousands of companies used Dr. Oz without his permission, and he was aggressive from what I hear about going after all of them).

But these kinds of "public domain" celebrity stories and images are fair game for your next promo. So use them!

That's all I've got today. Please check out my upcoming Copywriting Velocity event if you haven't already...and figure out how to get yourself to DC for it. One of the many things you'll get to hear is me breaking down several of my most successful controls.

And I've got some great guests joining me---including Carline Anglade-Cole, who I just announced yesterday afternoon. The special "early bird" price ends tonight, so don't put it off much longer!

Yours for smarter marketing,


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