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Why Copy is Still King

October 14th, 2005 by Bob Bly

Semantics ? the language you use to describe your product and offer ? can make a huge difference in bottom-line results.

If that were not true, no car dealer would advertise ?pre-owned automobiles.? They would just sell used cars.

Another example: Collin Street Bakery, headquartered in Texas, was struggling to generate sales for its fruitcake.

The cakes are delicious. But ?fruitcake? has a negative image.

One of the reasons Collin Street fruitcakes taste so good is they are made with pecans grown on the Texas river banks.

So Collin Street Bakery repositioned their fruitcake, calling it a ?Native Texas Pecan Cake.?

The results: response rates to direct mail selling the cakes increased 60% ? and the promotion was so successful, the bakery mailed 12 million pieces of mail.


This entry was posted on Friday, October 14th, 2005 at 6:22 am 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.

78 responses about “Why Copy is Still King”

  1. Pam Gitta said:

    This is a fascinating subject to me. Connotations carry such weight in our world, and one word can definitely mean the difference between sinking and swimming. It sounds like the folks on Collin Street made a brilliant move.

  2. Steve Slaunwhite said:

    My favorite is from the credit card companies. They say “You’re pre-approved” in their direct mailings. Which means, of course, you’re NOT approved. Yet.

  3. TSMI\'s Trade Show Marketing Report said:
    Copy Is Still King. Long Live Fruitcake. And Bob Bly.
    I’ve mentioned several time on this blog my continuing offer to test a #10 envelope of my creation against whatever your best, most beautiful brochure is. If the response of my #10 doesn’t beat your brochure, you don’t pay me.

  4. Gravitational Marketing Blog said:
    Perception Is Reality
    It doesn’t surprise me that Bob Bly would post this entry with the subject – “Copy Is King.”The discussion here is a powerful one that I thought was very important to…

  5. Marketing eYe said:
    Selecting the Right Words
    …Like it or not, words make a huge difference in sales. A slight change of word can lead to a very unfair change in response rates…

  6. Nick said:

    Nice blog.I like this.

  7. Andy Wibbels said:

    My favorite remains when they call Saturday Night Live reruns ‘encore presentation.’ Like it is so darned good we just have to repeat it.

  8. Phil Dunn said:

    The military has the best euphemisms and semantics-shifting language. War is a tough sell, so you see all kinds of re-purposing, like “police action,” “military advisors,” “covert action,” and “strategic defense.”

    You see the semantics game happening with terrorists, too. Do the terms “insurgenta,” “rebels,” and “militants” sound familiar?

  9. Ray Edwards said:

    Nail on the head, again, Bob. Some tidbits your readers might like to test in their own promotions: instead of “order form” try “acceptance form”; instead of “contract” try “letter of agreement”; instead of “buy now” (particularly on a direct response website) try “Click here to download yours”. All proven in tests to make a difference – just by changing the words slightly.

  10. Sean Woodruff said:

    So, why is it called ‘copy’ instead of ‘writing for sales’? I’d love to know the history of that.

  11. Gary Hennerberg said:

    Bob, I’m flattered that you have shared the story about Collin Street Bakery. As the writer who developed this highly successful package where we repositioned “fruitcake” to “Native Texas Pecan Cake,” this is truly a fascinating story. It took a journey with testing new packages, and conducting focus groups with prospective customers (who didn’t purchase “fruitcake”) to understand that people really don’t want to buy fruitcake. But it ultimately took imagination while hearing a simply story over lunch with my client about pecans and why Collin Street Bakery’s pecans are truly different than that of other bakers. It was weaved into an interesting, sales-oriented story that lifted response an astounding 60%. And this isn’t the first time I’ve had this type of success with the power of words. Unquestionably, copy is king.

  12. Gary Hennerberg said:

    After posting my response, I realized that I need to give credit to the design for this package. In my 28 years in this business, I’ve come to realize that “Creative is King.” The Collin Street Bakery success was also due, in great part, to the complete departure of the graphic treatment. My graphic design partner, Perry Steinhoff (, used a rustic woodgrain motif on the OE and brochure, picking up on “the old West” feel of Native Texas Pecan Cakes. The photography is beautiful. He increased the size of type on the brochure, to better accommodate the visual acuity of our target demographic (people age 60+). Additionally, we reworked the order form to an “Easy as 1-2-3” format, and allowed more space to write gift list names. Great copy, repositioning with the right words, plus great design are a powerful one-two punch in developing a sales-generating package.

  13. Robert said:

    Copy is King!
    No, Creative is King!


    Concept is king!

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  21. Trust Building (in its many forms) with Copy « Word Bang said:

    […] 1. Sheering away the beauty of language– the utility of words is this: a great page of really well-written web copy can be crammed with numerous closely related organic keyphrases. (Bob Bly has a short and sweet example of this in his post, Why Copy is Still King) […]

  22. ProCopywritingTactics said:

    I heard about this at length on the AWAI 2005 bootcamp audios. It was really a very interesting story and just goes to show how important positioning, copywriting and marketing is.

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