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Thursday, Jul. 31, 2008 at 6:27 am

Harry Potter and the Secret of Conversion

By Brendan Regan
July 31st, 2008

harry potter previewIf you were to walk through the offices of FutureNow, you would get a sense that while we were in college any one of us could have been cast in the movie Revenge of the Nerds. A few of us got made fun of for being socially-awkward “bookworms.”

While it may not make you popular with cool kids, fancy book reading does have its benefits. So I couldn’t help but laugh when I read about a new study published in the latest issue of New Scientist magazine (subscription required).  It shows that “readers of narrative fiction scored higher on tests of empathy and social acumen than those who read non-fiction texts.”

In other words, reading fiction helps us empathize with others and grok them better. By the way, I just finished Ask the Dust by John Fante…have you read any good fiction lately?

Now let’s head out to the business world – a world dominated by analytics, numbers, feasibility studies, ROI, and other non-fiction information.  All the “non-fiction” stuff is absolutely essential to running a business, especially in a soft economy.  But, when it comes to understanding your customers, and getting them to interact with your business in profitable ways, a little fiction helps.

You can probably guess where I’m heading with this…Wouldn’t it be great if there were fictional representations of your target customers that allowed you deeper empathy and understanding of their behavior online and off? Harry Potter readers would realize Dumbledore and Voldemort wouldn’t be motivated the same way or want the same things and this would influence how you marketed to them.

P.S. Today is Harry Potter’s birthday.

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Comments (5)

  1. Happy Birthday Harry! Great article… I totally agree with you on wanting fictional representations of my customers… would be great!

  2. You know many of the greatest direct response copywriters swear by the value of reading fiction to increase their selling power when they write sales copy.

    John Carlton and Jay Conrad Levinson are two outstanding copywriters who spring to mind.

    The approach of thinking of your prospects as fictional characters is helpful too.

    It works even better if you have real live conversations with real live prospects so you can relate those experiences into those fictional characters.

    Kindest regards,
    Andrew Cavanagh

  3. I am a non reader….. I do read manuals and books on how to do things in the computer world, from Internet related stuff to Programming. Reading some of these type books is like reading a phone book sometime.

    I do think reading helps greatly in copywriting, it makes sence to me. One thing I have noticed, sometimes copywriters go over board in the other direction.

    I have hired some good ones in times past. I had one who wrote a mound of information, when I saw the copy I thought no one is going to read all of this stuff. I had to cut it in half.

    I think of the word balance, remember people skim and scan, most do not fall over every word written on a webpage. I sence that sometime copywriter are writing only to people like them, big readers.

    When it comes to the internet not everyone reads every word, Balance……

  4. Good comments, all. To Audio Bible, I think whether a web copywriter reads fiction or not, there will always be those that are what I call “self-indulgent.” And even the best writer needs an editor, to do just that…edit!

    Maybe old Ernest Hemingway would’ve been a good web copywriter…

  5. Actually i was a little thick head while reading the article.I only understood the whole meaning in the last line.Great article as always.

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