Marketing November 30, 2013 Last updated September 18th, 2018 1,516 Reads share

What ‘Toy Story’ Can Teach You About Copywriting

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If you’re like 98.3 percent of all adults, you’ve sat through 5.7 screenings of a “Toy Story” movie with some children in the room.

Here’s a question for you: Why did both you and the children really enjoy the movie? You’ll probably want to answer that question with something like, “Well, it was entertaining. It was funny.”

We need to go deeper than that. Why are these movies funny to both adults and children? The answer lies in the fact that the screenwriters wrote different levels of humor into the stories.

Buzz Gets Excited

You probably noticed that there was some funny dialog or sight gags that went over the heads of the kids, like when Buzz Lightyear meets Jessie the Yodeling Cowgirl in “Toy Story 2” and the excited spaceman’s wings spring into the upright and locked position, so to speak.

It’s about levels.

I recently wrote here about the importance of understanding the people you’re selling to and how to lead them into the decision to buy or perform the action you desire. Now we’re going to build on that teaching and discuss the points that can transform a “salesy” piece of writing into a work of art—with apologies to Hemingway, Faulkner, et al.

Beginning jugglers need to keep at least three balls in the air to even call themselves jugglers. When you’re creating copy designed to sell, or motivate someone into action, you generally need to be juggling three balls, these are the different levels you need to be writing to.

Ball #1

The first ball you need to toss into the air is the entertainment value of your piece. Let’s use this article as an example. I’ve been trying to keep you entertained with my illustrations pulled from the great “Toy Story” animated movies. There’s a good chance that you read the opening of this because you saw the movie reference in the headline or found the graphic somewhat entertaining.

The entertainment value of your copy can also be business oriented. Many of us who are deeply engrossed in our professions and the success of our companies find well-written business articles very entertaining. They probably don’t make us laugh out loud, but they pull us in and take us on a ride.

Don’t forget about the entertainment value your copy needs to offer.

Ball #2

Woven alongside your entertainment must be your information. You need to convey your message in a clear and straightforward manner. Save your clever prose for your entertainment level—but don’t go overboard there either.

The “keep-it-simple-stupid” rule hasn’t failed yet. Also, don’t dally too long on entertainment before you begin to inform. People value their time today more than ever. We are a very impatient lot and this is doubly true with what we read on our computer screens, whether it’s a webpage or an email.

However, and this is very important: If you have compelling information and a high entertainment value, people will stick with you through a long piece of copywriting. Do not buy the conventional wisdom that folks on the Internet won’t read more than a few sentences.

While it’s true that many people bail out pretty quickly, the reason is because most of the writing on the Internet is so poor it doesn’t warrant reading. Before you publish anything on your site or send out an email, have your most honest critic read it over. Edit.

Ball #3

All of this leads to the call to action. You want the person who is reading your copy to do something. For success you need to make the call to action simple and not ask for too much. You must have also made your case with the information you presented.

When you understand the psychology of your potential customers, you should be able to gauge how “strong” your call to action can be. This article gives some really solid advice on CTAs, and I think you’ll find that they dovetail quite nicely with the points I’ve been making here.

The goal is to be conscious of all three of these “balls” as you’re writing. When you do that you’ll be able to pull in your prospects, entertain them a bit, inform them a lot and convert many along the way.

Photo credit: “Friendship,” © 2010 Harry Li, used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license:


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Megan Wright

Megan Wright

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