Hi, my name is Roy, and this is a cello.
In a moment, I’ll share with you what this cello taught me about how to be a better copywriter, and specifically, how I consistently churn out the best possible copy every time I write.
But before I can do that, I need to pull back the curtain on what I just did — and talk to you about pattern interrupts.
My study of hypnotic principles continues to yield new and interesting topics for my daily Breakthrough Marketing Secrets essays.
The introduction above is a pattern interrupt.
Among the most famous teachers of pattern interrupts in copywriting is Jon Benson, who popularized the Video Sales Letter, or VSL.
Being a good marketer and packager of ideas, Jon created a formula for writing VSLs.
And in that formula, Jon always starts with a pattern interrupt, like the above. In fact, I modeled the exact phrasing of my pattern interrupt on Jon’s work.
A pattern interrupt is designed to cause momentary confusion.
This is used in hypnosis (and its sister practice, NLP) to temporarily occupy the conscious awareness, so the hypnotist can direct a command to the subconscious.
The idea is that in a moment of confusion, all conscious processing goes toward addressing the confusion.
But the subconscious is still processing what’s coming next, as the conscious mind tries to figure out what exactly is going on.
Legendary hypnotist Milton Erickson regularly used confusion as a tool to induce hypnosis. And, in fact, many of his most famous inductions copied by hypnotists today rely on some level of confusion while the hypnotist slips in commands for prospect to “relax, and go into a deep trance now, only going deeper as you hear these words inside yourself.”
But I’m not telling YOU to go into a trance — naturally I just need to show you what they would do, if they were trying to hypnotize you!
Since you’re still wide awake, you should know confusion is a powerful tool, in getting the conscious mind to temporarily stop filtering, so you can convey a very important piece of information straight to the subconscious.
And if you get really good at it — well, you’ll have to discover for yourself just what is possible!
The secret to successful pattern interrupts…
It’s all about breaking expectations.
In hypnosis, a very common style of induction is the “handshake induction.” There are quite a few variations on this. But what they all have in common is that you never really get a good handshake from the hypnotist!
What happens is the hypnotist simply behaves just as you’d expect them to behave, if they were about to shake your hand. They reach for your hand, which you naturally and instinctively respond to by reaching toward their hand, expecting a handshake.
They do something to throw you off. One relies on grabbing your right arm with their left before you can even start the handshake, and manipulating it to confuse you and draw your attention, as they induce trance. Another starts as a more standard handshake, which turns into slowing the shake or twisting the wrist, again to cause confusion, as they induce trance.
There are probably quite a few more, but you get the point.
You have unwritten expectations for what a handshake will be. They break your expectation, and use the momentary confusion to redirect you toward their desired outcome.
This works especially well in video sales letters and other video marketing, where the video plays automatically and you can breeze through the first few seconds before they know what hit them.
I once saw a very good control for a diabetes product that started, “My name is NAME, and this is a cinnamon roll.” If you’re going to a page about diabetes, you do NOT expect to see a picture of a nice, delicious cinnamon roll.
In this essay (and yes, I’m still coming back to it), I started with a cello. Now, you’re used to some pretty strange stuff from me, but I don’t often start a marketing essay talking about cellos, so it breaks your expectations.
Once you’ve broken expectations, you have a moment where the conscious mind is trying to straighten out the confusion (or more than a moment!) where you’re able to more directly inject a promise of what your audience is going to get next.
That’s where I threw in, “In a moment, I’ll share with you what this cello taught me about how to be a better copywriter, and specifically, how I consistently churn out the best possible copy every time I write.”
Now, you’d probably accept that promise from me anyway, because you and me go back. We’ve got a relationship.
But, in a marketing situation where you’re reaching out to new customers, you don’t have that relationship to fall back on when making a claim or promise, so a pattern interrupt can give you that extra little in to convince them to stick around and see what you have to say.
Now, about that cello — for real this time…
I promised I pay this off, and in order to close the nested loop (another hypnotic concept that’s useful in copy, that I won’t talk about today)…
Let me tell you what a cello has to do with consistently writing your best possible copy.
You see, about a year ago, my oldest son started taking cello lessons. Normally, I take him every Tuesday night.
And when we get there, his instructor always starts every lesson by helping him tune his cello.
The other week, she mentioned that she was spending a lot of time tuning cellos these days, because the cold Nebraska winter makes all the molecules in the cello slow down, which contracts the wood, and throws off the tune.
Now, a cello is always capable of producing incredible music.
Sit a great cellist down with their cello, and they will make the most beautiful sounds come out of that cello.
In fact, no matter how good of a cellist you are, on any given day, you’re capable of playing your best on that cello.
But if that cello isn’t regularly tuned, the sounds and music it produces grow worse and worse, no matter how good of a cellist is playing! A cello has to be regularly tuned — best if you make sure you have it in tune every time you start playing, as a professional cellist will do — if you want to use it to play your very best.
I was on the phone with my coach this morning, and came up with this. And I said that the value of my weekly calls with him was not that he necessarily adds anything to my talents or capabilities. But rather, that he’s constantly keeping me in tune with what I’m already capable of.
And I realized the same thing applies to reading an essay like this. You open this email and read it every day not necessarily because I’m always revealing some brand new copywriting epiphany (although it can feel like that when I’m on a roll)… But rather because every time you read it, or go through one of my trainings, or hear any great marketing principle…
You’re simply making sure you’re always in tune.
And the more consistently you make sure you’re keeping yourself in tune while also improving your playing ability, the more you’re going to sing at any skill, and in your life as a whole.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,