Intelligent Disobedience & How to Overcome it Through Copywriting

June 14th 2012       Sally Ormond       Call to action, copywriting tips, intelligent disobedience

This post first appeared on our other blog, but as it’s extremely relevant to any type of content generation we decided to re-post it here for you.

You’ve finally done it.

It was a job that remained on your to-do list for months, but finally, you’ve completed your new website copy or brochure content.

Your copy is error free (well, as far you can see), reads superbly and most importantly, can now be crossed off your to-do list.

Once it’s been uploaded or your shiny brochures have been received back from the printers (smelling divine), you sit back and wait for your phone to start ringing and the deluge of emails to pour into your inbox.

Strange, nothing’s happening…


Dogs can teach you a lot about copywriting

These lovable rogues are my dogs – Jerry and Scooby.Overcoming intelligent disobedience

As all dog owners will understand, they love to test my patience every time we go for a walk.

Jerry (the Springer Spaniel) is 11 now and slightly hard of hearing. Therefore, the commands he obeys are the ones he hears – and that’s not many.

Scooby (the Chocolate Labrador) on the other hand is only 5. He can hear and see me perfectly well, but that doesn’t mean he’ll always do as he’s told.

You see, Scooby has a condition known as ‘Intelligent Disobedience’. In other words, he’ll only do what I want him to do if there’s something in it for him.

The fields around us are littered with rather unpleasant dead rabbits (myxomatosis seems to be rife this year). There is nothing Scooby loves more than to find these rabbits and either play or attempt to eat them (dogs will be dogs).

If I tell him ‘no’ in a stern tone, his thought process goes something like this:

Hmmm, she wants me to put this rabbit down. But I found it so it’s mine. She’s not going to run across this ploughed field after me so, no, I’m not going to put it down.

A prime example of his Intelligent Disobedience – he’s thought about the command, decided there’s nothing it for him and therefore chooses to ignore me.

However, if I shout ‘no’ as I place my hand in my jacket pocket – the one he knows contains his favourite doggy treats – this is more likely to be his response:

I don’t want to put my rabbit down. Hang on, her hand’s in her pocket…hmmm, do I want a smelly rabbit or one of those delicious treats she buys me. No contest, goodbye rabbit – I’m coming mum!!

This time, even though Scooby didn’t really want to put his rabbit down he knew that if he did he would be rewarded with his favourite treat.


What on earth does this have to do with copywriting?

You are probably beginning to think I’ve finally lost it.

Bear with me, all will become clear.

Let’s go back to the copy we talked about at the start of this blog. Something’s wrong because it’s not converting readers into customers.

The most likely cause is that you haven’t written it for your reader. Everything you write must be aimed at your customers. It has to tell them what they want to know, not what you think they ought to know.

In a nutshell that means writing about the benefits of your product or service.

For example, if you were writing about a sofa and told your reader it comes in 6 colours, seats 3 people and has wooden casters, the most likely reaction would be ‘so what?’

But if you told them:

  • It’s made of hand stitched fine Italian leather
  • It’s the latest design, so this is your chance to be the first to own such a luxurious piece of furniture
  • It will transform any room, creating an air of chic luxury
  • The same sofa is currently gracing no less than 3 movie star homes

Your reader is more likely to think ‘yes, I must have that sofa!’


Well, the first scenario simply tells them what the sofa is and doesn’t offer them anything in return for their investment.

Yes, I know, they will get the sofa – but’s that all.

In the second scenario, you are not only selling a sofa, you’re also selling a life style. Basically, it’s telling your reader that not only will they get the sofa, they’ll also own the latest design, a piece of furniture that will create an air of luxurious chic in their home, in fact a movie star life style!

An extreme example I grant you, but it serves as an illustration of how selling the benefits of your product will make your reader decided to buy.


Over to you

If you want to avoid Intelligent Disobedience in your customers, always make sure your copy sells the benefits of your products or services.

That means concentrating on what your product/service will do for your customer. Whether it’s aesthetic like the above example or more tangible (i.e. saving them money etc.), your customers will want to know what’s in it for them if they buy from you.

How do you sell the benefits of your product/service? Have you come up with any innovative techniques that really work? If so, leave a comment below and share them with us.

Tags: Call to action, copywriting tips, intelligent disobedience
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Comments (1)

Rock Paper Copy 5 years ago.

So true, the marketers often say 'people don't buy what you sell, they buy how you make them feel'. It's the story that they want, and are happy to choose a company with a good story (branding) over company selling cheaper products.