How to torture your teenage children

Feb 25, 2022

Issue #152—February 25, 2022                                               

This morning Ben Settle sent out an email to his list recounting how I once tortured my two teenage children five years ago with one of his notorious “Valentine’s” issues of Email Players.

As he told it, my teenage daughter STILL hasn’t drank out of one of the two Email Players mugs Ben had gifted me since my kids read that Valentine’s issue.

(Well, actually I noticed this morning those mugs are no longer in our kitchen cabinet… so they’ve either been sacrificed in some kind of voodoo ritual to ward off evil spirits, or she’s secretly using them at her college apartment.)

In any case, what was so bad about that February “Valentine’s” issue? It’s been a while since I looked at it, but Ben was making use of exaggerated, somewhat misogynistic (at least by modern-day standards) analogies and stereotypes to demonstrate several useful and highly profitable client and business-building strategies.

And the way this teenage children torturing incident unfolded, it was I who actually read the issue out loud to them while my son and daughter writhed in pain on the sofa and loveseat, respectively (and my husband laughed in the background, amused by all of it).

The agony of hearing such sharply contrasting ideas and stereotypes (all quite normal to say out loud when I was a teenager in the late ’70s and early 80s) was just too much for them to bear… and to interpret and apply the true meaning behind them.

That leads me to a copywriting and marketing lesson I want to share today…

We are becoming an increasingly intolerant society when it comes to differing points of views and perspectives.

Now, I admit… I can get triggered by certain viewpoints and comments, like a post my friend and top copywriter Stefan Georgi posted on Facebook the other day.

His first two points I so disagreed with that I stopped reading further. But then I went back later and read the rest of his post and found that I agreed with 90% of what he was saying.

And that’s the reality I’ve personally experienced with close friends and family members who have wildly divergent views when it comes to politics and other issues. Many times when you actually shut up and listen to each other, you’ll find there’s a lot of “middle ground” on which you both can agree.

(If only members of Congress worked the same way!)

But here’s my point…

As a copywriter or marketer, you live or die by that “middle ground”!

You have the challenge before you of writing or speaking to one person and making them feel understood… but at the same time casting a wide enough net so you can make as many people as possible feel that way and not leave anyone out.

Finding ways to do this with your copy and sales messaging is crucial, whether you’re writing emails, Facebook ads, sales pages, VSLs, or any other ad or promo.

The problem is, if you’re spending more and more time in your self-constructed, polarized, media and social “bubble”, you may be less and less able to know who that “middle ground” is and how to talk to them.

I’ll never forget hearing the advice the late legendary copywriter Gene Schwartz gave during his famous day-long lecture at Phillips Publishing that’s directly related to this topic.

He told us to always keep our pulse on where the mainstream U.S. audience had their heads at. What best-selling books were they reading? What top-grossing movies were they seeing? What were they hearing about on the mainstream news (i.e., ABC, NBC, CBS, etc… NOT Fox, MSNBC, or other far right or left-leaning channels)?

With thousands of “news” sources out there these days (I use quote marks since the majority of them fail to follow established journalistic standards or are just masquerading as news when they are simply “infotainment”)…

…a wealth of social media options that let us create our own self-enclosed “silos” insulating us from views and opinions we disagree with…

…and the recent two-year pandemic that’s forced many of us to stay home in our “bunkers” away from the usual family gatherings, parties, weddings, conferences, vacations, and working in offices with actual co-workers…

Many of us simply aren’t exposed to opposing viewpoints on a regular basis. And it makes us less able to stand back, be objective, and talk to that “middle ground” or even know who they are.

(Yes, I’m convinced they still exist! They’re actually MOST of us to be honest… no matter how we may self-identify.)

Unless you are writing to an audience you KNOW universally holds certain beliefs, you are making a huge mistake if you don’t break out of your “bubble” and keep yourself tuned in to what your market is actually feeling, thinking, and believing.

So you just might benefit from going more “mainstream” in how you consume your media, entertainment, and other inputs… keeping an open mind… and taking in opposing views, without getting “triggered”.

It was a lot easier to do all this 20+ years ago when I first began freelance copywriting. Most of us watched one of 3 TV channels and many of the same hit shows, almost all of us got our news from the local print newspaper and from popular magazines like Time and Newsweek.

Oh, and there WAS no social media sucking up our time and putting us all into our self-contained silos. (Those were the days!)

It’s a lot harder now to find that elusive mainstream or “middle ground”… but it’s out there, and it’s still the majority of us. You just have to listen for it.

Yours for smarter marketing,


P.S. If you want to apply my six-step, A-list-level copywriting research process that helps you write more successful, higher-converting ads and promos, I’m opening up the doors again to my brand-new Research Beast course. You can save $200 when you get it within the next week.

I’m in the process of adding word-for-word transcripts for each of the video trainings (and plan to add more video trainings over the next month or so). In fact, I’m going to keep adding more cool things to this course, which 100% of people I recently surveyed who just bought it was already worth at least or far more than what I’m charging for it. So the price very well could go up.

One tool you’ll discover–the PRISM template–will really help you zero in on that “middle ground” that lets you speak to as many of the right prospects as possible. Plus I share with you the same survey and interview questions I’ve used to uncover all kinds of copywriting “gold”. And of course, much more…

You can find out more and snap it up at these special savings when you go here.