What Can Rodney Dangerfield Teach Us About Great Copywriting?

MacArthur Museum Great CopywritingMy family and I visited the MacArthur Memorial while in Virginia during Spring Break. The wind was cutting and cold, and we filed into the old courthouse building wearing Virginia Beach souvenir sweatshirts purchased to supplement our meager spring break apparel. But the gray skies couldn’t dampen the spark that ignited my curiosity about General MacArthur years ago. That I was all-too-happy to learn more about an “old soldier” who climbed the army ranks a century ago also reminded me why a great copywriter is essential to your business’s success.

You might think a dedicated, impassioned and talented history teacher ignited my interest in MacArthur. Nope. Up until last week, when I thought of General MacArthur, I thought of Rodney Dangerfield.

“Back to School” is a comedy classic in which Dangerfield goes back to college to rekindle his relationship with his son, also a college student. In one unforgettable scene, Dangerfield is interrogated by crazy history teacher, Sam Kinnison. Essentially, Kinnison presses Dangerfield to supply the reason the Americans failed to invade North Korea. Flustered Dangerfield answers that Truman was too weak to let MacArthur push the Chinese back to the Great Wall. Of course, that’s my blog-rated version of Dangerfield’s answer. You can watch the whole scene on YouTube.

Rodney Dangerfield’s memorable line was the stuff of great copywriting.

Copywriters Are Succinct

Countless hours in a lecture hall with a good teacher isn’t as memorable as Rodney’s simple statement. In this case, Rodney zeroed in on MacArthur’s highly controversial stance—and his public opposition to Truman’s—on the Chinese presence in North Korea.

Oftentimes, business owners are so knowledgeable about their subject that they overwhelm their prospects with too many words. A copywriter’s job is to highlight the most interesting part of a subject matter to entice the reader to learn more.

Copywriter’s Communicate Emotion

With all the facts teachers have to cram into a semester, they often don’t have time to delve into the emotional climates of historical events. Rodney’s highly emotional statement communicates how important the MacArthur controversy was to the general public.

Likewise, business owners omit emotion from their sales copy. Even business owners who can tap into prospects’ emotions in person-to-person sales tend to revert back to logic when writing sales copy. A copywriter knows the art of creating copy that speaks to a reader’s heart.

Copywriters Ignite Curiosity

If you didn’t love history while in school, maybe it was because the teacher focused more on facts than questions. Just like Rodney’s statement tells us there is more to the story, good copy serves as a gateway to knowledge.

Business owners can focus too much on facts and not enough on what makes prospects convert: their desire to learn more. When a prospect makes that phone call or signs up for that email list, it’s so that they can ask you more questions. How much do you charge? Can you work with my unique situation? A copywriter’s job is to invite these questions with copy that hints at a larger picture.

Rodney Dangerfield’s simple, succinct, and emotional statement made me curious about General MacArthur. From it, I knew that MacArthur’s dismissal (a boring school fact) was a highly charged controversy in his time. The fact that MacArthur made his way into popular culture through a comedic movie ignited me to learn more. The qualities of Rodney Dangerfield’s statement prompted me to eagerly walk through the doors of MacArthur’s Memorial. In the same way, quality copywriting can inspire readers to learn more about your business.


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