Theoretically everybody is capable of remembering everything that ever happened to them and perceiving everything that’s happening around them. Luckily this never occurs. … [We] only absorb what we want or need and block out the rest. … We also only notice things which are directly relevant to our daily business. In consequence, we tend to reduce our environment to visual Muzak — a perpetual symphony of shapes and patterns. Blinkered by habit we glance around rather than look with acuity. In effect the eye sleeps until the mind wakes it with a question.
The Art of Looking Sideways, Alan Fletcher, p.178
Breaking Through The Clutter
I love that passage! It stood out for me as soon as I read it.
Our job as copywriters, our goal as business owners, our aim when we participate in various social media endeavors is to break through the clutter and wake our reader’s eyes with a question. To catch their attention. (To put it less elegantly.)
Naturally the big dilemma is finding the right question that will do that.
It’s a moving target because the question is different for everyone and it even changes for the same person over time.
What you notice when you’re hungry and looking for a place to have lunch will be vastly different from what you notice when the needle dips below “E” and you need to find someplace to stop for gas. Both will be different from what you notice when you’re out shopping for an anniversary gift. Even that is different from where you’ll put your focus if you’re in a rush to be somewhere else.
All of this is true even if you were traveling down the same street each time.
Yes, there is what the eye literally sees and what the mind literally pays attention to…
If I’m hungry and looking for lunch, I will probably notice restaurants. But I may also notice grocery stores. I may notice someone walking down the sidewalk carrying a lunchbox. I may notice a tree with ripe apples on it.
There is also a more figurative focus…
I may notice a grassy park and think it looks like a nice place to picnic. I may hear a song on the radio that reminds me of food. I may think of a place where I ate once but then my mind might wander to the person I was with and then hop again to some other experience we shared together.
What does any of this have to do with copywriting and marketing? Most important is that copywriting is not just about writing. If that were so, all you’d really need is a typist with good spelling and passable grammar.
No, copywriting is something much deeper and more subtle.
It’s about understanding human nature. It’s about defining your ideal target audience (hint: it’s never “everyone“) then figuring out what is most likely to wake up their eyes.
Copywriting is fundamentally about motivating others to take action.
If I’ve woken up your eyes then the actions I want you to take right now are:
- To connect with me on LinkedIn
- Retweet just one of these passages from the article above. (All you’ll have to do is click on the link already provided for you.)