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Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2009 at 9:50 am

On Target Copywriting and the next “Buns of Steel”

By Jeff Sexton
August 5th, 2009

You probably won’t like the website I’m about to show you.

Lou vs BradIn fact, you may not like the product, either, simply because you’re probably not part of their targeted audience.  So make up your mind now to look past that in order to see the marketing decisions behind both the product and the site.

Let’s start by imagining that you’ve just been challenged to enter the fitness category. Not to sell some machine or piece of equipment, but to sell a workout program.  You can pick any angle of approach you want, and let’s assume you have the wherewithal to find the science or content to make the angle of approach you pick the “real deal.”

What angle of approach would you choose?

And for what audience would you tailor your messaging?

Now, let’s walk through the likely thought process behind the mystery website

  • As far as dedicated gym rats go, who really makes up the bulk of that audience? Men.  Younger men, in fact.  I’m guessing, but I’d say probably between the ages of 18-35.
  • Why do they work out? The same reason why most people work out, if you ignore the rationalized claims and scratch deeper into their real motivations: they want to look good.  And given this age group, that means looking good to women; they want to attract more chicks.
  • Now here’s the million dollar question: how may workout programs are brazen enough to say, “This workout is THE workout for attracting women”? Answer: none.  At least none that I’ve ever come across, until – out of professional curiosity alone, mind you – I clicked on a banner ad for The Adonis Effect.

IconNow, do I actually like the Website?  No.  I think the cartoon character at the beginning is a huge turnoff.  So is forcing visitors to engage with your “Calculate your Adonis Index” tool before letting them past the splash pages and onto the real sales copy.  Nor do I make any claims for the validity of the statements made on this site or by these entrepreneurs.

Buns of SteelWhat I DO like is the incredibly intelligent approach to marketing a workout program. The last workout program to take such a brazen approach was the infamous buns of steal videotape.  You know, the tape that became a cultural icon, that spawned a 22-tape “of steel” series, and that launched Tamilee Web into fitness icon status?

Always make sure your messaging/copy is On Target

While I don’t think The Adonis Effect will become as high-profile as Buns of Steel (and that might well be a Marketing to Women lesson for you right there), I do think it’ll make a killing off its target audience.  And here’s the take-away lesson from that:

Always make sure your messaging/copy is speaking to the real, deeply felt, emotional needs of the prospective customer.  Crummy writing that’s on target will always beat great writing that’s directed at anything other than the heart of the reader. And of course, that goes for websites as well.

You can ding The Adonis Effect for it’s cheesy Website(s) – along with any number of usability and persuasive faux pas – all you want, but the essential message is on target. And I’d be willing to bet money on their success because of that one factor.

Why Persona-based copy matters – and which copywriting legend would (likely) agree

Back when Holly Buchanan and I used to routinely teach Persuasive Online Copywriting, we’d have the class write a short piece of copy based on a standard demographic/target-audience profile, then we’d replace that crappy (but typical) marketing profile with personas and have the students re-write their copy.

Invariably, the second pieces of copy blew away the first – not because we had magically turned the students into better writers, but always because the copy went from stereotypical advertising appeals to emotionally on target copy for intended audience.

And you know who else preached this same “On Target” message?  The late Gary Halbert.  Just watch this video and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about at around the 1:40 mark:

YouTube Preview Image

P.S.  Although a public/open session of Persuasive Online Copywriting hasn’t been held in about a year, you can still get the majority of the lessons from that 1-day course by attending Writing for the Radio and Internet at Wizard AcademyChris Maddock and I co-teach that 2-day course, with Chris focusing on improving core writing skills while I teach a specific methodology for creating and linking on target web copy.

[Editor's note: the author of this post is now blogging at]

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Comments (17)

  1. It is very important to always have the copy be designed and written to your specific audience. Even if you don’t like how it sounds put yourself in the shoes of your audience and think about what they want to see.

  2. I like the idea of a “brazen” marketing message. Many people are familiar with the idea of conducting audience/market research, but many people are afraid to truly act on that research.

  3. [...] to selling – and see why it works. Jeff Sexton at GrokDotCom does just that, looking at “on-target” copywriting on a silly, silly site and examining why it [...]

  4. Very intelligent and straight forward approach.Yes the website design is not that good.But still the strong lines is enough to make it a killing fitness program.

  5. [...] way to solve it. Look at this copy from Jeff Sexton’s sample fitness/training website from his post. p.s. Once, a very long time ago, when I had just gotten my license, I was with my father in a [...]

  6. what a great post!
    The target audience are really important.
    What’s more,having the copy to your specific audience always plays an role.

  7. Loved your initial comparison. It is applicable to almost every realm of advertising. “Keep It Simple” is the rule. Many companies get wrapped up in the details of there service all the while ignoring their central message.

  8. #

    What’s more,having the copy to your specific audience always plays an role.I like the idea of a “brazen” marketing message. Many people are familiar with the idea of conducting audience/market research.

  9. Ooow….Nice N good Job Mate…
    Very intelligent and straight forward approach.Yes the website design is not that good.

  10. Thanks For informatiosn is your site…

  11. Is very nice ..Useful for me…

  12. That’s really nice share friend..

  13. Many people are familiar with the idea of conducting audience/market research.Once, a very long time ago, when I had just gotten my license,

  14. Really cool information. This has really not come to our part of the world. Looking forward to it. Cheers

  15. Really great article. Appreciate the effort. Cheers

  16. Hmm another good article and thought provoking. I have being looking through some of your old entries and they are really good. I do a lot of online marketing and a lot of your work has being helping me to rethink the way that I am advertising and marketing to people. I have struggled with the ‘On Target’ marketing but this has helped clarified what it is and how strong it can be. Really great stuff keep it up.

  17. Nice work, keep it up.

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Jeff is a Persuasion Architect, Web copywriter, blogger, and instructor of FutureNow's Persuasive Online Copywriting workshop. Follow Jeff Sexton on twitter

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