Must Direct Response Copy be Obnoxious?

I really want to avoid the typical arguments between the direct marketing camp and the forces of branding: I'm not really one of those 'Branding is for Cattle' direct response copywriters who goes bonkers on the branding and 'awareness' copywriters.

But some of my prospects have more of a positioning background. And are sometimes and justifiably afraid of direct response copywriting and copywriters. And of lots of sentences beginning with 'and...' And they're especially afraid of this...


Hollywood 'Doctor to the Stars' finally reveals the SECRET of...


* How to look 15 years younger...TODAY *


So you:

Attract hordes of 'admirers'

Gain superstar vitality

Party like a rock star

Do better in business...and in bed!

New drug-free, pain-free, and totally natural Russian plant extract is available FOR FREE but only for a limited time.


Dear Terminal Loser:

Do you look in the mirror and think, "you know...if I could just go back in time 15 years..."


And I understand the hesitation. "No, no, no...that's not quite what I'm looking for!"

There's a place in the world for the type of direct response copywriting you see above. And I'm happy to write it and help the people with products and services sell their products and services--provided it's all legit and it's not pornographic.

Now, let's take a look at the other end of the spectrum at some 'branding copy.' I typed in 'San Jose Branding Agency' into Google and one of the results led me here. Liquid Agency Brand Marketing. Some big clients and big names. Rap stars. Etc.

To me, the site makes a major 'rookie' mistake: telling me how brilliant they are instead of telling me how they solve problems and/or provide solutions. I have to dig for the solutions--another rookie mistake. But let's take a look at some classic 'branding' copy from the site.

Olive: When it comes to music this brand rocks! Olive has become a favorite brand for music lovers and Liquid is proud to have played a role in its success.

If I supplied the above sentences to one of my clients, they would fire me. And justifiably so.

Let's take a look at some more...from the "Agency" page.

Branding is a process. Not an event. The best way to create disappointment is not to clarify expectations. That’s why we’ve developed our own process for delivering work that is not only remarkably on target, but also eliminates the kind of surprises that no one appreciates - like the ones that have to do with budget and schedules. Successful branding starts with a clear understanding of the market conditions, the competitive landscape, and the target audiences. Our research teams collect the data and extract the kind of insights that are invaluable for strategic planning.

A 10th grader could write that drivel and you'll find it on the websites of branding 'experts' all over the world.

So...dear potential you want:

A. drivel that's 'safe' and sanitized and reads 'nicely'


B. copy that stresses benefits, uses all the direct response techniques, and strives to get the desired result?

B? Thought so.

Well you want direct response copy.

Direct response copy does NOT have to be obnoxious or in your face or replete with BOLD SUBHEADS, Johnson Boxes, Copy Doodles, bouncing pop-ups and other 'in your face' stuff. Direct response copy can be subtly presented, toned down, and designed intelligently--and STILL...

  • Drive response
  • Protect brand identity
  • Produce a measurable ROI
  • Get the reader to take the next step in the sales process

Again--our friends in the branding world don't like those three little letters: ROI.

Let's return to our branding buddies at Liquid.

The company says it played a role in the success of Olive--which I've never heard of. But if I click 'read more' to find some actual numbers. I learn all about the process and, of course, there's an AWARD...but there's NOTHING THAT DETAILS THE PRECISE ROI. Olive spent XXXXX and got XXXX for its investment...where is that?

Take a look at this branding boulderdash.

Now--let's take a look at the website of a direct response agency: Creative Direct Marketing Group.

First--the headline on the home page is a corker:

Welcome to Creative Direct Marketing Group…
where you’ll learn how to increase your profits

It's not a headline you'll find on a branding agency's site. The corresponding headline would be:

We'll win obscure awards, make you look good, and your image will be global. And the'll never forget those!

Again. What do you really want? Do you want to look good? Or increase your profits?

From the Creative Direct Marketing Group Site...actual results in their case studies area.

The results “blew away” the client’s expectations, with the first newsletter alone exceeding projections by over 350%. Each subsequent newsletter launch also exceeded or met expectations, and each has been a success for the Note: to view these newsletters online go to and look for “featured products.”

Here's the case study.

Their site is packed full of direct response copy--and it's not obnoxious.

If image and brand awarness are all that matters, then DON'T hire me. But if response matters, then I can help. Click here for actual results. And, as you can see, I can tone down the copy so it resonates comfortably with the reader.

Let's go through some direct response fundamentals...argue with any of these as you like...

  • It's about the reader, not the company.
  • Benefits not features.
  • The reader is asking, "what's in it for me?" I'm going to answer that question all day.
  • Irresistible offer.
  • Next step.
  • Guarantee.
  • Attention. Interest. Desire. Action.

And more...

Branding copywriters, like branding agencies, don't want to go anywhere near results. I do. I want to know all about ROI and how I can help to improve it. And you're afraid of an accountable copywriter?

Direct response copy does not have to be obnoxious, unless it needs to be obnoxious in order to SELL the product. Here's an example of a squeeze page converting at a huge rate; it's produced a big number of qualified leads (I can't disclose due to confidentiality). It's not obnoxious. Contact me and I'll be happy to provide the numbers.

There's only one goal with direct response copy: get a result--someone taking the action you want them to take.

Every copywriter should use direct response techniques. Direct response tells the reader to take the next step in the sales process. And that's what advertising is all about. And if you're not trying to generate a response and you're in marketing, then what are you doing?

So, why are you so afraid of direct response copywriters and their techniques?


"We're here to help you make money!!!!"

* And we don't care about prizes...we care about RESPONSE! *

And Direct Response Copy Doesn't Have to Look Like This!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


So, direct response copy does not have to be obnoxious. Toned down, it can be especially effective--as the numbers demonstrate.



I'm a direct response copywriter based in Charlotte, North Carolina. I specialize in providing copy and content for the direct marketing environment. Enter your info to the right for my free series: Seven Steps to High Converting Copy. Or contact me here.

Of Dogs and Victoria's Secret...and a Copywriter

Last week, I met the local president of the Humane Society. They rescue dogs and cats...noble work. I told her I write direct response copy for direct mail and the web. She told me their most profitable fundraising comes from direct mail.

I'm always extremely curious about people's approach--especially when they're successful--so I asked, 'where do you get your list?'

  1. People who have donated before.
  2. Local Victoria's Secret shoppers.

Turns out that young women who shop for underwear also like dogs and cats. THAT, my friends, is creativity. People win awards for creativity--usually for funny/clever ads with no way to measure ROI. Real creativity produces results--like increased donations to the Humane Society. They mail just nine times a year so each mailing HAS to work.

I start every direct response copywriting project by finding out who's in the database. Direct response copywriting is a highly targeted conversation between seller and prospect.

When choosing your mailing list--can you find an 'out of the box' idea like my friends at the Humane Society?


I'm a direct response copywriter based in Charlotte, North Carolina. I specialize in providing copy and content for the direct marketing environment. Enter your info to the right for my free series: Seven Steps to High Converting Copy. Or contact me here.

The Power of Testimonials

I just visited the websites of six prominent public golf courses here in Charlotte, where I live. These courses are desperate for business. Their websites are terrible. One of them got a dismal 39/100 on HubSpot's Website Grader (

There are ZERO testimonials. Shocking. Testimonials are vital for two reasons.

  1. Proof you keep your promises.
  2. You find out what's really important to your clients/customers.

Some tips for testimonials.

  • The more the merrier. Testimonials are like snow at a ski resort--you can never have enough.
  • Get someone to harvest them; a copywriter can help--I've often put them together.
  • Make them stand out graphically. Either with a photo or some type of graphical element.
  • Ask the testimonial giver if it's OK to tidy up grammar, spelling. A testimonial that reads, "their grate at Charlotte Golf club because its they're service which are ALWAYS awesime" is like Miss World with zits.
  • Yes--if you have 100 testimonials, readers will not necessarily read all of them but the sheer volume can be impressive.
  • Audio and video testimonials--YES!

I'm rebuilding my website so the testimonials page needs some work but it's there and Squarespace makes it easy to make them stand out. I'll add more and also add some photos.

Case studies are 'advanced testimonials' and these are even more powerful. Yes--they take work to put together but, if you can't put case studies together right away, make a point to get at least three testimonials a week. With photos.


I'm a direct response copywriter based in Charlotte, North Carolina. I specialize in providing copy and content for the direct marketing environment. Enter your info to the right for my free series: Seven Steps to High Converting Copy. Or contact me here.

An interesting and powerful page on Google's site (part 5)

In this series of five blogs, I'm going through the excellent content advice on this page on Google's site. In this final part of this series I'm looking at the paragraph that begins...

Learn what is interesting to your visitors

One of the keys to content is discovering precisely what's important to your readers. You probably have a hunch but, with analytics, you can discover which content fires up your readers. Once you discover the content that works, keep feeding them similar content. From the article...

Try to improve your content mix using what you learn from these reports. By keeping an eye on what the analytics are telling you, you'll learn more about your visitors and be able to provide just the information they are looking for.

That's one of the true beauties of a blog--it's an easy way to test content. A lot of the people in the analytics game use Google Analytics, there are plenty of other tools available. Pay close attention to email unsubscribes when you send out your emails. If you're keeping people on board then your content is useful.

Controversy for the Sake of Controversy

I'm not a fighter or an argumentative type. Very few of my blogs include fighting words. But my friend, Andrew Wood, loves to get people stirred up and some of his most popular blogs have been controversial ones. Controversy is a powerful weapon in content but use it periodically. I'm going to start using it a bit more--and get controversial. I'll find out if it's interesting to visitors.


I'm a direct response copywriter based in Charlotte, North Carolina. I specialize in providing copy and content for the direct marketing environment. Enter your info to the right for my free series: Seven Steps to High Converting Copy. Or contact me here.