Anyone who knows me well knows I’m a sucker for the next political film about Central America.
Even with a kid in a military college, I still have idols like Jimmy Carter and Archbishop Oscar Romero. And one of my all time favorite authors is Graham Greene.
But in the first 25 minutes of Our Brand is Crisis, a fictionalized account of a Bolivian presidential election, I realized this story had some big lessons for copywriters.
If you need to write copy that sells anything, consider watching this movie with three ideas in mind.
1 – Your sales page should have one big idea.
It’s 2002 in Bolivia. Failing presidential candidate Pedro Castillo (a fictional version of the real former president, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada) is watching his numbers drop lower and lower in the polls. As the election draws near, he hires an American political consulting firm (based on the real life Greenberg Carville Shrum firm) to revive his campaign.
The firm brings the troubled but brilliant strategist ‘Calamity’ Jane Bodine (totally fictional and played by Sandra Bullock) out of self-imposed retirement to lead the effort. And in the beginning, she does absolutely nothing.
Or so we think. The truth? She’s been listening.
She hears a campaign message that’s all over the place. Castillo is giving the Bolivian voters good reasons to vote for him, but the messages are scattered and confusing.
She puts the campaign on track by centering every single message around a single idea:
Bolivia is in crisis. The economy is about to tank. We’re on the brink of collapse. There could be riots in the streets. And their candidate is the solution to the problem.
What’s your big idea?
When you present your product or service, are you confusing or distracting your reader? Find a big idea and let it rule your sales page. Then let it bring your prospects directly to the solution you offer.
“You will never win fame and fortune unless you invent big ideas. It takes a big idea to attract the attention of consumers and get them to buy your product. Unless your advertising contains a big idea, it will pass like a ship in the night.” – David Ogilvy
2 – Tell us who you really, really are.
There are some nasty politics in this movie. The opposing campaign knows Castillo inside and out. Castillo has been setting himself up as a man of the people. His opponent, however, knows that he is everything but that.
Our candidate has just run a set of heart-wrenching ads that portrays Castillo as a compassionate hero. He appears among common workers and catches children as they fall through blue skies filled with puffy white clouds.
When he defends himself against a street provocateur with a quick punch to the face, the myth is busted.
It looks like disaster.
The answer? They decide to show who he really, really is. A leader who will take direct and immediate action.
He’s strong enough and tough enough to defend Bolivia against outside interests and inner turmoil. When he starts telling the truth, his numbers rise.
If you aren’t clear and consistent about who you really are throughout your digital media, you could be looking for trouble.
Even if your message is all rainbows and sunsets … if your sales page conflicts with the messages you send over the phone, in your emails, on Facebook, or in your About page, you’ll lose valuable trust.
You need trust if you want customers.
3 – Do what you say you’re going to do.
While on a campaign trip, our candidate makes a critical promise to a group of protesters blocking the road. Many people of Bolivia see him as an enemy in cahoots with Western capitalists. He’ll be the president who lets outside interests and big corporations have a free-for-all with Bolivia’s natural resources while giving them a tax break to boot.
Castillo promises one of their leaders, a respected economics professor, that he will seek public approval before making a deal with the International Monetary Fund. With a firm promise of a voter referendum, he is allowed to continue his journey.
What do you think happens? Well, this is pretty much a spoiler … you may want to stop here and check out one of my other posts if you still haven’t seen the movie.
Or I could just give you a hint – there’s a huge riot in the streets. Yep, his reputation tanks while the voting machines are still warm. See how the middle of the story goes for yourself.
What does this have to do with copywriting?
The vast majority of profits are made on the resell and the upsell.
And in our social-media-soaked world, word of mouth is more powerful than ever.
If you ever …
- make a promise
- offer a 100% guarantee
- offer a lifetime membership
- or send a message like “This offer will expire in 48 hours,”
… you’d better make good on your word.
Sure, people will buy at first. But if you want return customers that take you seriously, you must be honest about what you’ll do and deliver on your promise.
And if you don’t?
There won’t be riots – only crickets…
Instead of clicks, likes, tweets, and ka-ching$.