How far will a swipe file go?

6 replies
Curious: how far would modifying a swipe file go?

Would the safest way to learn the basics of copywriting be take a proven ad and modify it enough not to infringe on copyright?

E.g. "They all laughed when I sat down to playing piano, but when I started to play"

Would something like this work:

"They all laughed when I entered the ring, but when the bell rung!..."

Also, how do you know if copy makes sense? Is it simply experience or gut feeling?

Whenever ewenmack does these "which ad is better A or B", I'm usually lost.

The thing I get neither hot nor cold even when I see good copy.I only know it's good because I'm told it's good.

Granted, I'm not a very good target. I think I only bought two things off on the strength of copy in my lifetime ever.

But I assume most copywriters don't want or buy all the products they write copy for.

So how do you develop this instinct?
#file #swipe
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  • Profile picture of the author 1Bryan
    What does "They all laughed when I X ... but when I Y ..."


    It promises a future that's surprisingly heroic.

    That's what you swipe. Not the words, "They all laughed ..."

    Go watch Susan Boyle's full audition video on YouTube. That's the moment you are promising the reader.

    And that's why it works.

    I've swiped it successfully before and never once used the words, "They all laughed"
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  • Profile picture of the author Sid Owsley
    Hi socialentry,
    Knowing what works and what doesn't in almost anything comes down to testing, trial and error, and being willing to make adjustments. You'll develop the instinct to know what works and what doesn't as you gain more experience in copywriting.
    Yeah, there are tools you can find to help you with your copywriting but you still have to put in the time to gain experience and your gut instinct will develop from doing this.
    So do the testing get feedback and make adjustments accordingly.

    Enjoy your outcome!
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  • Profile picture of the author Raydal
    You may find this video helpful.

    -Ray Edwards
    The most powerful and concentrated copywriting training online today bar none! Autoresponder Writing Email SECRETS
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  • Profile picture of the author colmodwyer
    My experience is it's virtually impossible to know what will work and what won't... if that was possible, there should be a copywriter that can write blockbusters 100% of the time. He/she doesn't exist.

    There's a claim Bencivenga could beat a control 85% of the time. I don't believe it. But if true, we're talking about one the best copywriters that ever lived, and he can't predict what'll win all the time.

    With experience, you get better at spotting good copy from bad with regard to writing... cadence, structure, etc... but predicting whether the Big Idea will hit with the prospect or not is a total crapshoot.

    The benefit of a swipe file helps with learning the fundamentals, and sometimes, ideas like Caples' piano promo can be applied to multiple products, markets, etc. But sometimes they'll also fall flat.

    So it's sort of a two-fold benefit, sometimes there's ideas you can borrow, but also, it's good just to read a lot of good promos, let it sink in and develop your skill and your own ideas.

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  • Originally Posted by socialentry View Post

    Curious: how far would modifying a swipe file go?

    Would the safest way to learn the basics of copywriting be take a proven ad and modify it enough not to infringe on copyright?

    A swipe file gives you examples of what works.

    But like it's been mentioned won't tell you why it works.

    You need to actually study copywriting, and use it many times in your own eventually start grasping why something works..and why it doesn't.

    What need does the copy fill?
    What appeal is being used?
    What image is the reader holding in their mind?
    What is the ultimate (end) benefit that he reader wants?

    When I was learning copywriting (to help in my selling), I went to the library and looked at direct response ads that lasted a year or more. I assumed that they were consistently profitable.

    And I tried to figure out what they had in common....and what specific differences they had that still worked.

    Honestly, I did that at least once a week for two years. And I read the classics on advertising and copywriting.

    And after two years, I had just the beginning of an understanding of what makes a sales letter/ad pay.

    On the other hand, it was the information that gave me the single biggest boost in selling. Knowing why something works is far more valuable than just knowing that it works.
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  • Profile picture of the author Copylifemike
    In short, swipe files should be used to help you brew up your own ideas and get creative thinking a jump start.

    Use them as a reference, never try to re-write them.

    Always be original.

    I don't use much for swipe files although I can appreciate them.

    I'd rather really focus on the basics, the foundation of copy and improve by utilizing everything I learn.

    You'll create your own tool box and tricks as you practice more and more.
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