How to bash other products effectively (while elevating your own)

Jun 27, 2022

Issue #158

Whether you’re a seasoned marketer or wet-behind-the-ears copywriter, chances are you’ve heard about the importance of figuring out what stage of market sophistication your product or service is in.

It’s a crucial part of my research process that I cover in-depth in my Research Beast course (use coupon code SAVE30 at checkout through the end of the month to save 30%). But it’s not something I came up with myself.

The great Gene Schwartz was the brilliant copywriter who came up with it and presented it in his Breakthrough Advertising book… a must-read (when you’re ready for it… it’s definitely more advanced stuff!)

As you’re about to see, it’s crucial to know which stage you’re in before you write your copy. Many of the markets the products and services we write for or market these days are in the third or fourth stage of market sophistication.

When the market for your product has reached this more advanced stage, pure benefit-oriented headlines begin to fall on deaf ears. Your market has already heard it all before.

“Fish oil clears your arteries” or “Coenzyme Q10 keeps your heart beating strong” are no longer new promises. You need to stand out in a new way, or with a different mechanism.

One tactic that works to accomplish this is to “villainize” all the competing products and elevate your product above them. But this has to be done skillfully to be effective.

You can’t just bash other products. There needs to some hint of doubt already in your prospect’s mind that you can call out to the forefront… and you must provide credible, undeniable proof to your claim of inferiority versus your product’s superiority.

You can tap into emotions like mistrust or doubt with headlines like “Why bilberry doesn’t work!” or “The great calcium hoax” (both long-running controls in the health niche).

The trick is there actually needs to be a story. Finding that story is the golden nugget that leads to your big idea. From there, it’s about executing it correctly.

Just remember: too much negativity turns buyers off. While fear or distrust can be powerful motivators to read your copy, you almost always have to have some kind of solution or some kind of benefit not far behind it that gives your prospect hope.

Because if you paint things as being too terrible or hopeless, you’ll just make your prospect feel like giving up–and they won’t read any further.

I wrote a financial promo with the headline “The Surprise Winners and Losers in Today’s Grim Market Reality” a few decades ago (when the stock market had been in the toilet) that beat the legendary Jim Rutz’s control. It acknowledged the prospect’s negative perspective while still giving hope. Let’s take a look…

Even the editorial-like sidebar in the left column has a headline that acknowledges the prospect’s pain point while also giving hope: How Fortunes Are Lost and Won (Back). The copy that follows shows empathy for where the prospect’s head is at and tells them “your financial future is far brighter than you can possibly imagine right now.”

If you read the copy in the third column of the opening letter, I’m using copy that literally packs an emotional punch: “…if the tech bubble burst was a sharp left hook to the jaw and the market’s subsequent 45 percent loss a gut-wrenching jab to the abdomen, this dismal projection is like a full body blow set to finish the job”.

(Note: I don’t know what’s with all these boxing analogies this week… really, I’m not a closet boxing fan!)

But back to bashing your competition. Hopefully there’s something unique and better about your product. If you’re selling plain old run-of-the-mill turmeric, then you probably don’t have much of a story.

On the other hand, if you’re selling a special form that gets absorbed into your body 2,000% better than ordinary turmeric, now you’ve got something.

Note: having a unique mechanism for your product is CRUCIAL when you want to build belief and stand out in a market that’s in its third or 4th stage of sophistication. Even better, you want to weave that unique mechanism into your main headline or other prominent copy early on.

To show you exactly how I do that myself, I’ve got six in-depth breakdowns of some of my most successful, longest-running controls in my Million-Dollar Controls master class… PLUS a bonus breakdown where I go deep into my Rutz-beating Personal Finance promo. (You can use coupon code SAVE30 at checkout through the end of the month to save 30% on it, too).

Hope that helps you see how to better differentiate your product or service while elevating above the sea of competitors. It’s more important these days than ever!

Yours for smarter marketing,


P.S. I had a great deal of fun on yesterday’s Inner Circle copy critique call with my friend and top A-List copywriter David Deutsch. It was great to see some of my Copy Insiders there as well!

Like Daryl Thompson, who wrote me afterwards to say, “Thanks for the comments and suggestions to improve my AMZ Protocol copy today. Much appreciated!”

And new-to-the-fold Copy Insider Sebastian Michaels who wrote to say, “You were great! Thanks for your suggestions on my page. I’m going to tweak the headline and lead and roll it out next month!”

You may have missed this eye-opening 90-minute call LIVE yesterday, but you can get full, unfettered access to the recording and so much more when you join David’s Inner Circle here. It’s just $97 a month… one of the best deals you’ll find anywhere to get this kind of high-level copy analysis and feedback!

P.P.S. Keep your eyes peeled for an exciting announcement soon… you’re going to want to get your hands on it to kick off your summertime fun! Stay tuned…