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Help Me Find My “Missing” Copywriting Formula

September 5th, 2008 by Bob Bly

In my long copywriting career, I must have come across two dozen “formulas” for writing copy.

The most famous one is AIDA (attention, interest, desire, action). There was another one called Star Hook Chain, though I can’t remember that that meant. As for the other copywriting formulas, the rest have largely faded from my mind. And that’s where you can help me and other readers of this blog interested in writing persuasive copy.

Can you, in a comment on this post, share with us any of the lost copywriting formulas — perhaps one you use yourself, or maybe just one you remember?

My recollection is that most of those old formulas made a lot of sense, and all copywriters today could profit from them — if only we knew what they are.


This entry was posted on Friday, September 5th, 2008 at 2:04 pm and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

94 responses about “Help Me Find My “Missing” Copywriting Formula”

  1. Ross said:

    One is ACCA, isn’t it? Awareness, Comprehension, Conviction, Action?

  2. Ryan said:

    I think KISS applies here. I think that this could be a formula because there are so many blogs around by extremely intelligent people that sometimes I think I can’t compete with them. So I don’t start anything. I’m so jealous about how they can articulate about the smallest thing or complex idea and make semse. Then I realized that they are only writing for themselves, not for their readers.

  3. Gerold Braun said:

    4P – Picture, Promise, Proof, Push;
    As with any good formula, this one helps keeping focus. I use it a lot.

  4. Robert Rosenthal said:

    I always liked, “Kill the body and the head will die.” Oh, wait — that’s boxing. Nevermind.

  5. Marc DeLuca said:

    How about a spin off of the police problem-solving model known as “SARA” which stands for Scanning, Analysis, Response, and Assessment?

    It seems to apply perfectly!

  6. mm said:


  7. Louis Burns said:

    A star, a story and a solution.

  8. Ben Settle said:

    One reliable (and simple) formula is: Star-Story-Solution.

    Was used a lot by the late Gary Halbert.


  9. Internet Marketing Archives» Blog Archive » 'Help Me Find My 'Missing' Copywriting Formula' by Bob Bly said:

    […] Help Me Find My ‘Missing’ Copywriting Formula… […]

  10. Lou Wasser said:

    It’s more of a warning than a formula. And I learned it from a noted journalist, not a copywriter.

    But I think you’ll agree the lesson is valuable for copywriters.

    “You’ve got seven seconds before your reader abandons you for ‘Dear Abby.’ “

  11. Alton Gansky said:

    I’ve used and adapted Monroe’s Motivational Sequence. It was designed for speeches but I’ve used it for everything from articles to corporate videos. Here ’tis:

    Attention step
    Need step
    Satisfaction step
    Visualization step
    Action step.

    Al Gansky

  12. Brett said:

    Don’t know how tried and true it is, but . . . .

    Write about something that’s interesting in an interesting way for interested people.

  13. Ken Norkin - freelance copywriter said:

    Some old speechwriting advice I’ve heard over and over:

    Tell them what you’re going to tell them.

    Tell them.

    Tell them what you told them.

  14. Ken said:

    How about find a starving crowd…find out what they’d like to eat, then feed it to them

  15. Bob Bly said:

    Ken: in my opinion, Halbert’s starving crowd theory is the single most important piece of marketing advice I ever heard in my life.

  16. Brett said:

    Ken – completely agree with Bob. I haven’t heard that before, but I love it. The weighty simplicity alone is a great lesson in good copy.

  17. firestone said:


    Beliefs, Feelings, Desires

    Unique, Useful, Ultra-Specific, Urgent

    Emotional, Personal, Intellectual

    Fear, Anger, Greed, Salvation, Flattery, Exclusivity, Guilt

    Get, Get rid of, Relieve, Avoid, Protect, Prevent

  18. Dr. Andrew Linick-The Copyologist® said:

    Bob-you’re the greatest master copywriter in the 21st Century! I’m so proud of you. I was scanning your blog tonight and had to answer your question.

    The most lucrative six-word mail-order copy formula I’ve used over the last 40 years is:

    Create a need and fulfill it!

    Here’s another one.

    When your benefit copy outweighs your product’s perceived value, you make a sale!

    Write overwhelming emotional appeals enticing your prospects inner most desire to own your product. Anticipate answering all your prospects objections perfectly. Then enthusiastically close using proven exciting reasons why (s)he can’t live without it NOW!

    Here’s another simple one: Keep your benefit copy moving!

    One of my favorite copy formulas which I added to, comes from the legendary master copywriter and strategist Bob Stone:

    1. Promise a major benefit in your headline or first paragraph—your most important selling benefit.

    2. Immediately expand on your most important benefit.

    3. Tell the reader/viewer specifically what she is going to receive.

    4. Back up your persuasive selling copy with proof and testimonials.

    5. Show the reader/viewer what she will lose if she does not act NOW!

    6. Rephrase your most compelling benefits in your closing offer.

    7. Incite immediate action to order—now.

    The Robert Collier Formula is similar to the AIDA one. As one of the greatest direct mail copy experts of all times, he insisted the right order for sales copy was:


    Earle Buckly’s Formula for successful direct mail letter copy is:
    Interest • Desire • Conviction • Action

    Victor O. Schwab’s AAPPA formula (one of the giants in traditional mail order advertising)
    A—Get Attention
    A—Show People an Advantage
    P—Prove it
    P—Persuade People to Grasp This Advantage
    A—Ask for Action

    There are dozens more mail order old-timers like myself and dm/mo advertising pioneers who have written copy formulas. If you want to know more of them, email me at Happy to share the list.

  19. Dave Gardner said:


    Want — What does the potential customer WANT

    Headline(s) — What’s the point of the copy?

    Offer — What’s being offered?

    Action — The Request/Prompt for ACTION!

    I just read this the other day, but can’t remember where I read it. It seems good, however.

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