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Long Copy Sells: Why You Should Include The Kitchen Sink

Updated: Oct 14, 2020

Brand folks will often try to focus on one product or brand benefit or differentiator in their communications. Response marketing folks are more inclined to include many benefits and features to sell.

Long copy sells. Short copy simply states.

Long copy sells. Long commercials sell. Over and over, across many industries we have found that a 60 second DRTV commercial is more than twice as effective as a :30. Over and over again long copy letters outperform one-pagers. Long copy response print ads work better than short copy.

Often someone wants to test condensing down the control letter or cut down the 60-second TV spot. “Take out the repetitions”, “Take out the fluff” (you know that part that tells a story and connects readers to the product or the company). “Boil it down to the minimum” they say. Well it’s been tried – a lot. And it doesn’t work. You can give it a go for yourself, but you better brush up your resume while you’re about it.

Another thing people want to try is selling copy based on just one thing. Unless you only have one thing to talk about or you find that only the people who are interested in that one thing make for profitable customers don’t go down this path either. We have many real examples of this. Since I don’t want to spotlight clients who we consider friends and also because I don’t want to cross the confidentiality agreements and embolden corporate lawyers who don’t need much emboldening let’s look at an example.

Imagine you make household vacuum cleaners. Imagine you do some research and find out that a lot of customers think your vacuum cleaners do a really good job of cleaning cars. Further imagine you know that most of your prospects have cars. Should you put all your efforts into telling prospects that your vacuums are great for cleaning cars? Should you leave out the fact that they do a good job on carpets, tile and wooden floors in the home? Should you totally ignore that fact that your vacuum sucks pet hair like no other? Should you completely forget to mention that your vacuums are the easiest to empty, that no bag is required? That it's almost silent? Of course not. Not unless you have a specific marketing plan aimed at car detailing companies.

In the early development stages of communications, at the brief stage, there’s always much discussion as to what to include and what’s most important. Sometimes there’s even some debate as to how much to include. But generally someone has already decided on the length of the TV spot or the size of the print ad. Media and creative really needs to be discussed together.

The reason most clients and agencies don’t want to include everything is because, well, as I said, someone already decided it was a 30 second ad (or whatever) and they get paid to work out what’s most important based on the expensive research they have undertaken. So they are supposed to know upfront what's supposed to be included.

But there comes a moment in the development of a TV ad, or magazine ad or email or website or radio spot or mail pack or whatever, when discussion turns to whether to leave something in or take it out. Usually this moment has arrived because there’s a shortage of space or time.

Sometimes someone will say something like “No one reads anymore” or “No one has time for all that” or “We are confusing people by saying too much” or “Let’s just keep it simple”.

There are several reasons why I believe all these are hogwash:

1. The consumer is not an idiot.

2. People in the buying phase want to read a good deal.

3. People often have either tunnel vision or Scotomization.

David Ogilvy said something that checks off #1 and #2. So I’m going with that. It’s pretty succinct. He said:

“The consumer isn’t a moron; she is your wife. You insult her intelligence if you assume that a mere slogan and a few vapid adjectives will persuade her to buy anything. She wants all the information you can give her.”

Let’s turn to number 3. Medically speaking tunnel vision is the loss of peripheral vision so you only see what’s right ahead. A scotoma is a blind spot in an otherwise normal vision. These ocular terms can be translated to their psychological states. They’re highly instructive. Psychologists understand these terms. As marketers we need to too.

Since it is the political season here in the US let’s dive in using the political example we’re all familiar with.

Let’s begin with tunnel vision. If the only thing a voter cares about is protecting second amendment rights and their ability to carry military grade guns they will likely vote Republican. They have tunnel vision – that’s all they care about. If someone only cares about healthcare they will likely vote Democratic. That’s the tunnel vision part.

If you can find just one thing about your product or brand that makes people buy it, great, you’re all set. See you later!

Most likely your prospective customers are looking for a few reasons to persuade them just like many Americans weighing each Presidential candidate. So let’s look at what’s going on.

There will be other Americans who may see several things they like in the Republican agenda. If they want low taxes for the rich, abortion to be illegal and perhaps even believe that everyone should be able to buy and carry military grade guns wherever they want they will create a scotoma to other character related issues. They may know that the incumbent president candidate cheats on his taxes, cheated on his exams, probably cheated on his wife and he lied about his health to avoid Vietnam, lied about his wealth to appear successful and lied about the dangers of Covid 19. They may be prepared to turn a blind eye to issues and traits they don’t approve of. This is Scotomization. You can look it up. It’s a real thing.

Similarly, customers who are even vaguely interested in your product will be weighing all the reasons to buy. They are perfectly capable of tuning out or turning a blind eye to some of things that don’t interest them.

Drayton Bird, my personal marketing hero and author of Commonsense Direct and Digital Marketing, offers a number of theories about the success of long copy this in this gem of an article . Among them, the Multiple Triggers Theory ties into the concept of Scotomization.

If you think you’ve never experienced these conditions, think again.

Confronted with a box of donuts most people will have some tunnel vision; zeroing in on one donut. Moreover, they will have a sense of Scotomization regarding the ones they don’t like and all the reasons they shouldn’t eat donuts.

So when you have the dilemma of whether to include something, you can pretty much include the kitchen sink. So long as it’s a good story and there’s an emotional hook – more of those thorny issues in another blog – you should be good.

Prospective customers are smart.

They’re looking for information.

If you have to make decisions about leaving out a benefit, concentrate on things that shoppers want; not what everyone wants. You’ll find it’s a pretty long list anyway. They can filter out, tune out or turn a blind eye to whatever they really don’t want to see or hear about. But for heaven’s sake give them the chance to do some of their own filtering. Your ROI will improve dramatically.

About the kitchen sink; well, maybe you don’t need to put that in, maybe you should test it.

Contact Us

If you want to connect with us at WhiteStripe and discuss what you should talk about, or not talk about, in your communications approach, or any other part of your marketing plan, please go to and connect with us. We’d be pleased to help.


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