Urgent, Useful, Unique, Ultra-Specific: How to Boost Your Copywriting with the Four U’s
Whether you’re new to copywriting or have an established career in the field, keeping your copy clean and sharp is critical. The best copywriters have a toolkit with tricks to help them refine their copy.
If you’re new to copywriting, or just looking for another quick trick to add to your repertoire, then you may find use from applying the Four U’s.
This tool is beneficial to anyone who wants to write great copy. You can use it in writing or revising, whether you’re an expert or a novice. Read on to find out more.
The Four U’s
The Four U’s are an easy-to-remember tool that helps you keep your copy strong. While you’re writing or revising copy, be on the lookout to make sure that it follows these guidelines:
One of the most successful ad campaigns of the 21st century comes from the insurance company, Allstate.
In their commercials the agent Dennis Haysbert talks about home fires and car wrecks that happen to ordinary people at random times.
Then he asks the reader his classic question, “Are you in good hands?” These ads were highly successful, and the trick was generating a sense of urgency in viewers.
To sell more insurance, the ads reminded viewers that disaster could strike anywhere, anytime, and that they should act immediately to insure their losses. This sense of urgency was the crux of the campaign’s advertising strategy. And it worked.
When writing copy, generate ideas about why your readers need to listen to you right now. If it is hard to come up with things, don’t panic.
Great copywriters know how to find urgency and make their copy meaningful for all readers. To brainstorm ideas, you can ask yourself some guiding questions:
Incorporate urgency into your copy and see the benefits immediately. Readers will not want to miss out.
Establish the Usefulness of your Product
Any established copywriter will tell you that you’ve got to find a way to make your copy meaningful to the reader. You have to make the reader feel that what you’re telling them is useful.
A great example of this is the “Shot on iPhone” campaign. Print and video ads showed professional photographs with the tagline: “Shot on iPhone.”
The dynamic photos caught the eye, but the point of the campaign was to highlight the usefulness of the iPhone camera. Apple focused on this singular feature, knowing that so many users take advantage of it and would be excited by the high-resolution capacity of the camera.
Follow Apple’s lead and find out what makes your product beneficial to your reader. What use will the reader get from your product? How is it relevant to them?
If you can prove that what you’re writing about is useful, readers will hang on your every word.
Highlight what makes your product Unique
Did you ever see the old Wendy’s commercials where they ask, “Where’s the meat?” This is a classic example of a company trying to show how unique they are to their competitors.
Wendy’s was pointing out how other fast food chains hardly had enough meat in their burgers. They pointed out how their burgers were the best and meatiest.
This ad campaign focused on setting Wendy’s apart from other chains. You can use this idea in your copywriting too. What sets your product apart from the rest? Answering this question may seem simple, but it takes a bit of research.
Let’s say you want to prove to your reader that your product is unique. You can’t just say it’s unique and then expect them to believe you without any evidence.
You need to understand the competition first. Find out what other offerings your readers have, and then show them how your product stands apart.
If you just state that your product is interesting or unusual without proof, you had better be prepared to come up against readers who know the field well.
They will see through your argument and stop reading. Talk about the competition and what else is out there—but only briefly—and then highlight how your product is different.
Keep it Ultra-Specific
The last of the Four U’s is a reminder to keep your copy ultra-specific. All successful campaigns give specific details. These details paint a picture of the product, but they also work as memory devices. When you give a specific detail, it stands out in a reader’s memory.
Take, for example, the eternally successful Geico slogan: “15 minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance.” Could you imagine if the slogan were non-specific?
It may have read “Spend a little time enrolling in Geico and save money.” Nobody would remember that! Instead, using the number 15 to give specifics on time and savings sticks in everyone’s memory.
You can use this trick in your copywriting. Wherever possible try to include specific numbers, amounts, product details, and features. As an editing exercise, look over your copy for vague descriptive words like “good,” “a lot,” “many,” “very,” and so on. Any time you see a non-specific word like that, nix it and put in the exact detail.
Now, you want to be careful not to get bogged down with the details. If you share too many specifics it can become overwhelming for the reader.
It’s better to keep your copy succinct and clear. Identify the features you want to promote, give a few, clear specifics, and then find ways to incorporate the other 3 U’s.
Bringing it all together
Now consider a project you’re working on. As you prepare to write your copy, spend some time brainstorming. Before you put your pen to the page, do you know the Four U’s of what you’re writing about?
There may be several things that are urgent, useful, unique, or ultra-specific about your topic. Instead of trying to tackle them all, be strategic. Focus on ideas that you think will hit home with your readers. Leave out extra ideas that are less strong.
Remember, writing good copy isn’t about capturing every detail—leave that for the user manual! Develop a strategy for how you will portray your product, using the Four U’s to guide you.
Use the power of the Four U’s to boost your copy!
The Four U’s are an easy-to-use copywriting tool that will help you write compelling copy immediately. Now you know how you can apply them, and you’ve got some clear examples of how these tricks have been used in successful marketing campaigns.
Keep an eye out for effective ad campaigns. Notice how they are following the Four U’s. Is there a specific number or value? Does the copy make a comparison to competing products? Are you compelled to believe that the topic of the copy is useful to you? Do you feel like you want to keep reading and follow through right away?
By the same hand, look for and learn from ineffective ad campaigns. If you see a billboard or read an ad that feels like it’s lacking in persuasion, try to identify what they writers could have done to punch it up. Does it need more specifics? More urgency? Maybe there’s not enough description of the product’s usefulness, or it doesn’t feel like it stands out from the rest.
Now turn your critical gaze upon your own copy. Does it meet the standard of high-quality copy? Where is it lacking and where is it successful? Practice identifying the Four U’s and you will see it benefit your copy right away.
Looking for more tools to add to your tool box?
The Four U’s is just one of dozens of tricks you can develop as a copywriter.
As you build your copywriting skillset, take some time to research other tools. You can peruse the SF School of Copywriting blog for new ideas. Or, if you want to learn in a more structured program, you can take an online class through the San Francisco School of Copywriting.
Keep your eyes on the prize! Even if you’re just starting out you can write compelling copy today with the tools you have at your disposal.