Nobody Gets Excited Anymore

I’m a student of copywriting, since it cuts to the chase of what I think all good writing should do, and that is generate an emotion (at a minimum) and action, in the case of good copy.

Just about everyone who has a blog with any traffic seems to be in the business of selling you something.  Nothing wrong with that, it’s just that it is hard to tell sometimes exactly what is being offered.  For all the fascinating information, nobody is going to offer you a few pages to browse from their various ebooks that will change your life, make you location-independent, and allow you to make money in your sleep – or whatever the hook is.

And the description of all these life-changing materials in the most case is pretty damn bland.  “This course includes videos, workbooks, and our ebook”  Whoopee!  That reads like a packing list, not advertising copy!

We could learn a lot from this man.  I remember seeing these catalogs when I was a kid.  They were like receiving all the accumulated man-knowledge in the world in one 500-page compendium.   Ol’ George could spin a tale about his products that we just don’t see any more.  I’ve got one of the old catalogs on my desk now…bought it at an antique show.  How many companies have catalogs that were not only pored over by their customers as soon as they arrived, but are avidly collected after the company is gone?

There are some examples in the link above, but here’s one I just flipped to randomly.

“HERTER’S Fisherman’s Scale.  This famous fisherman’s scale is the standard for weighing fish at camps and resorts the world over.  It is sturdily made and if kept oiled will last several lifetimes.  The scale is 4 inches long not counting the ring at the top and the hook at the bottom.  Made in Germany with old world craftsmanship.  Be sure to order one.”

Wow – makes me feel like ordering a fish scale!  I don’t want just some crap fish scale!  I want the standard one, like all the good fish camps use.  It’s really an investment, not just a fish scale, since if I take care of it it’ll outlast me!  My grandkids will thank me because they won’t have to waste money on a fish scale someday!

The price for this fish scale?  57 cents.  You can imagine the heat George poured on the expensive stuff!  And it wasn’t just fluff – Herter’s sold everything for the outdoorsman from boat to the fishing rod to the lure to catch the fish and the skillet to fry it in.  And it was quality stuff…the goods still are actively sought after and collected today.

Herter’s did a big business selling fly-tying equipment and materials.  A lot of that stuff was the feathers and fur of exotic animals that started to be protected in the early 70’s.  I also believe new laws about the shipment of firearms and ammunition by mail hurt their business.  The business folded, but the name remained popular enough among outdoor folks that the huge Cabela’s sporting goods chain bought the rights to the name.

My point, now that you’ve absorbed a little Midwestern outdoor history, is that we don’t  see this type of straightforward, exciting copy anymore.  We see descriptions, some vague “benefit statements”, but nothing that hits you in the gut like this type of copywriting can.  It’s almost as if people don’t believe in their own products enough to talk them up.

Maybe I’m just old, but I kinda miss this P.T. Barnum approach to advertising.  It made things more fun.  The detached, bloodless approach today seems to only want to appeal to our desire to be one of the “cool kids” who have the latest – all completely identical, but latest- gadgets.  We’ve overconsumed to the point it’s not even fun anymore.

Sure wish I could get my hands on one of those fish scales.  Might even make me want to start fishing again!

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2 thoughts on “Nobody Gets Excited Anymore

  1. I guess I don’t think about this because I don’t buy much stuff, and catalogs are a frustrating temptation for me. I want it all. But I definitely see a minimalist trend in advertising, to the point where sometimes you don’t know what they’re selling, what it does, or what the name of it is. Kind of like those pretentious business cards with the type so tiny and screened back you can’t read it.

    My mother once told me that getting the Sears catalog was the biggest deal of the year for her and her six sisters.

    Good to reflect on this, thanks.

    • Most catalogs that end up in my mailbox today aren’t even all that tempting! But growing up in pre-Internet Small Town USA if you wanted to buy anything other than the small selection of what was available, catalogs were a big deal. Especially since so many of them had everything! You could buy a house from Sears!

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