Why Narratives Are More Important Than You Think – April 8, 2018

Recently I was rereading The Hobbit, written by a man who truly (I don’t use this word lightly) understood and could utilize the most foundational elements of Story (down even to the particular level of linguistic mechanics), and I came across a scene that in a childlike, simplistic way defines why narrative is, at times, a better tool with which to persuade than a solid argument or visual aids.

In this scene Gandalf, the thirteen dwarves, and Bilbo approach the abode of the skin-changer and descendant of ancient bears, Beorn. Beorn is angered very easily, and as the troop must ask for aid, advice, and provision, they’re advised by the wizard not to impose themselves. Gandalf says to the dwarves that they should enter two at a time in five-minute intervals, so as not to shock Beorn with too great a parade of company. Sensible enough.

Gandalf, with Bilbo, meets with Beorn first. And without mentioning the gang of dwarves behind him, he proceeds to tell Beorn the tale they’ve been entangled in up to this point. He tells of goblins and stone-giants hurling rocks in play; he tells of their capture, of their escape; he tells of their peril and plight, etc., etc.

Throughout his telling though, his story is interrupted at five minute intervals by the entrance of two more dwarves. Beorn is eager to welcome them, each pair that arrives, not because he is an accommodating host, but because he’s eager to hear the end of the story.

Mr. Baggins saw then how clever Gandalf had been. The interruptions had really made Beorn more interested in the story, and the story had kept him from sending the dwarves off at once like suspicious beggars. He never invited people into his house, if he could help it. He had very few friends and they lived a good way away; and he never invited more than a couple of these in his house at a time. Now he had got fifteen strangers sitting in his porch!”

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This is what Tolkien knew: We can better process and withhold information when it’s presented to us in a narrative—for that information is processed and withheld itself in the essential fabric of our environment: Space-Time. Space-Time is responsible for our ability to register causal relations and thus natural, thus psychical, and thus persuasive laws.

Advertisers, like everyone, are having a hard time grappling with a complete understanding of the internet. (Bob Hoffman gave a talk for Advertising Week Europe and told the sad tale of Pepsi, who after abandoning their TV ad budget for social media marketing, touted with pride atop a loss in market share their doubly increased Facebook likes.) But what needs to be ubiquitously grasped is the honesty which is now becoming more and more of a make-or-break element in any company’s marketing campaign.

Steve Jobs says here that what advertising should do, above all, is express the core value of the company. This is overwhelmingly important now that every transaction, every tidbit of information passed, every action, every communication—every part of the development and distribution process is CATALOGUED. Our pasts are encroaching upon our present at every turn, and people are waiting with lust and pitch-forks for a good dramatic fallout.

The time of the social contract is in full-swing and your customers need to know that you have their best interests in mind.—This is not (always) done with a good, rational argument for the purchase of your product over another. Credibility is established to a greater extent through narrative ads.

As advertisers we need to understand, first, who our audience is, and, second, how best to tell their stories. I’ve already given two ways (here and here) to better understand your audience. (And I should say, it’s true that narrative ads aren’t always the best method of approach. To those who inhabit the Data/Thing ends of the Prediger spectrum, the Realistic/Conventional/Enterprising types on the RIASEC model, a rational argument approach might be more suitable to their psychological make-up. For now, though, I’d like to focus on the general majority of the Millennial Generation, those who grew up in the Web—these are the emotionally motivated, highly open bunch who are more often than not compelled to loyalty through empathy.) Now, I’d like to give you the fundamentals of storytelling. The goal you should hope to achieve with these tools is reflection and interaction in your already-established core audience.

* * *

Mac Schwerin (Advertising Is Not Storytelling) of AdWeek and Matt Klein (Stories Vs. Storytelling) of Medium both point out the difference between a story and storytelling—the distinction between a story and a narrative ad. Lien & Chen acknowledge this too: “[D]ifferences exist between dramatic and advertising narratives; for example, viewers must know the purpose of the commercials, the narrative ads are more time constricted, and people tend to view ads in low-involvement conditions (Escalas, 1998; Friestad & Wright, 1994). Because of these differences, conclusions drawn from dramatic research cannot be applied to the advertising field.”

This is absolutely true; and what I want to distinguish is a claim that a story in your advertising campaign is beneficial from the claim—the claim I’m making—that you should include your customers in a larger, archetypal narrative.

Schwerin reminds us that advertising is not storytelling. But advertising needs to include an interactive element that absorbs the consumer in the larger narrative of causal choices. If, as he points out, the Apple Store was Apple’s greatest advertisement (next to their 1984 SuperBowl Ad), then it’s because this is an act of world-building, which brings the consumer into the larger world of Apple when the consumer is in the position of the consumer.


It’s important to explain what I mean by this:

The purpose of advertising, stated above by Steve Jobs, is to create a core value reflective of that which the consumer is meant to govern his/her actions when portraying his/her role in the process of choosing to purchase (i.e. consuming) a given product. The purpose is not to impose upon the consumer a value system, but to be that which the consumer can relate with—advertising, that is, is meant to insert the product and brand in the mind of the consumer when his/her value system conducts action in the choosing of a product that can provide a certain benefit.

The advertisement is not meant to trick them, but to relate with them, to the point that they, when considering which product to buy, will be reminded of your product through relation via interactivity.

You want to understand the narrative of purchase? The cycle through which your consumer basis goes through when choosing to purchase a product in your industry?

This is an archetypal story. And storytellers all around know it. (Here’s a clip of Vonnegut explaining the different story structures we, as humans, love. The first is the most basic. “People LOVE that story! They NEVER get sick of it!” That’s because they live it daily.)


Dan Harmon, the co-showrunner and co-creator of Rick and Morty, came up with the Story Circle (below) to explain, succinctly, the “hero’s journey”. He says that he boiled down Joseph Cambell’s The Hero With A Thousand Faces to an easily understood 8-step pattern. (Here’s Harmon explaining each step of the Circle.)

This is the “nut-shelled” path we, as humans, take every day when making everyday decisions.

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YOU have a NEED, so you GO and SEARCH for it (in the process, having to adapt and struggle); eventually you FIND what you were looking for; you TAKE it, you pay the price; then you RETURN, fully CHANGED.

This is the process a consumer goes through when making a purchase—just on a smaller scale. But the basics of storytelling are so integral that they inhabit the most banal moments that we, as advertisers and consumers, rarely give consideration.

Remember: Schwerin, Klein, and Lien & Chen are all right when they say that dramatic storytelling isn’t what is necessarily useful to understanding the effectiveness of a given ad campaign.

This truth, though, does need to find common ground with studies by Hamby, et al., Kim, et al., and even Lien & Chen. These all show the dominating effectiveness of narrative ads over non-narrative ads.

What, then, is the connecting tissue between these two conflicting truths?

Schwerin actually gives the answer that Hamby, et al. finds. What was left unexamined—the hidden bridge—was the reason why narrative ads had greater persuasive power over consumers. The answer, which combines the studies of Schank & Berman and Green & Brock, is: Reflection.


Reviews can be written in a manner describing a detailed, sequential experience which is consistent with humans’ preference for communicating in stories (Schank & Berman, 2002).”

The transportation-imagery model (Green & Brock, 2000) posits that narrative processing affects outcomes such as beliefs, attitudes, and intentions directly.”

The reason why narratives reduce negative emotions, reduce counter-argumentation, and increase self-brand connection (SBC) is due, Hamby, et al. say, to, first, our preference for story-like communication and, second, to our nonvoluntary transportation into a perceived narrative.

People already view their lives in the narrative structure described above (the Harmon Circle)—the trick is to, in line with what Schwerin suggests, create an interactivity with the consumer at the point of self-debate when they GO and SEARCH for a product.

This interactivity allows for a passive entrance of your product into the self-reflective process of the consumer during transportation into their own narrative.

The doubled effect is that interactivity creates a larger narrative and personality for your product within which the consumer sees him-/herself to find a place for loyalty.


What’s absolutely necessary though, it seems to me, is to include in the interactive process your brand’s name, or a recall to your brand’s name, so that when the consumer is the midst of choice, attempting to decipher which product to choose, Your Brand or Their Brand, your brand’s name will immediately emerge.

Take this ad by Guinness.

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First off, in the front-and-center picture of a cool, perspiring glass of beer, the ad establishes to the viewer a NEED; and then right above is a riddle which encourages the viewer to GO and SEARCH for the answer; then the answer is given, or the answer is FOUND. And the sought-for answer to the riddle brought on by enticement is: GUINNESS.

When living through their personal narrative, the consumer will relive this moment and reflect on that narrative struggle when that similar enticement of beer emerges.

The NEED for beer comes; then the decision to GO and SEARCH for the right beer follows. And which brand of beer will most quickly satisfy that need? Could it be the one that previously satisfied the consumer’s need for a completed narrative? The one whose name immediately comes to mind in the struggle to find the right beer? GUINNESS?

Now obviously the narrative isn’t always the best choice for an ad—an examination of your target audience will tell you which, narrative or non-, is a better choice. If your audience is looking for, or if your product provides, a satiation of a more physical, empirical, or data-based problem, for instance, the narrative ads probably won’t have the same effect. Lien & Chen found that narrative ads, though effective, do decrease argument strength.

But the process of narrative and the integration of interaction is still important to note when it comes to analyzing persuasive techniques. Human beings, generally, process all information in the form of stories—and it’s best, I think, to take the wisdom of Gandalf (of Tolkien) and utilize the persuasive power of the most fundamental way we make decisions in our daily lives, the power of stories.


The RIASEC Model & Marketing Practice – March 11, 2018

The RIASEC model, along with the FFM, aren’t discussed or referenced very often in marketing conversations. If I think from a different perspective than just mere curiosity, I think I can understand why: The models are abstract—they’re based in deep psychology, as opposed to certain surface level experiments in consumer behavior papers describing specific audience re-/actions, and because of these the models can be difficult to apply practically.

BECAUSE, however, it has a foundation in deeper clinical psychology, BECAUSE of its abstractness, combined, of course, with empirical data that prove these models exist—BECAUSE of these things, I’m sure, that once mastered, these models can explain your target audience on a fundamental level, from which you can speak TO them (instead of AT them).

Besides (if I can speak selfishly for a moment) it’d make conversation with other copywriters and those in marketing far more interesting if they suddenly began to describe and understand their target audience through the use of such psychologic models like RIASEC and FFM. So with that said, let’s begin:

(I’ve split this post into four sections: HISTORY, OVERLAP BETWEEN STUDIES, EXAMPLE, and CONCLUSION—so skip ahead to whichever part interests you if time is an issue.)


A woman named Margaret M. Nauta wrote a more involved article on the history and development of the RIASEC model here; so regarding the early relations between RIASEC and other vocational circumplexes; I’ll leave up to you to read (—its development alongside and off of SVIB and KPR is something I personally would like to look more into). But, in this article, I’ll only go over the basics.

If you remember what I said about the FFM (“It’s a taxonomic model of generalized abstracted traits with universal applicability”), then the translation of this definition onto the RIASEC isn’t much more than a skip and a jump.

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The RIASEC circumplex, once called the RIASEC hexagon (shown above), is a taxonomic model used by career psychologists and vocational coaches (“the most widely used model for organizing career interest assessment instruments,” Nauta says) in order to define one’s vocational identity.

The psychologist who researched and formulated the model was a Johns-Hopkins professor named John L. Holland. Refinement of his theory, through three decades, led to not only the circumplex itself, but also the test and guide for career counselors to easily place and describe someone in their vocational identity—the Self-Directed Search (SDS).

Holland’s belief, at its core, was that an individual’s career choices were motivated significantly by that individual’s biologic/psychologic personality type. Someone’s career is an extension and expression of more than just their interests—but of their beliefs, their sensibilities, their fundamental psychologic make-up. Here Nauta describes Holland’s thought process while developing the SDS: “The SDS reflected Holland’s assertion that the RIASEC types are personality types, as it included not only preferences for occupational titles but also items assessing wider beliefs about the self, including preferences for various activities and self-rated competencies.”

The RIASEC, like the FFM, are taxonomic models of personality types/categories.

After researching the FFM I wondered if it were possible to categorize people similarly by job. Obviously, I thought, the CEO of an ad agency is going to have different predilections, different quirks and interests than the CEO of a pharmaceutical company (turns out there isn’t much personality difference), and both must differ greatly and fundamentally then, say, a pilates instructor (there is a vast difference).

According to Holland these assumptions are true.

Shifting one’s approach depending on who one is talking to, in order to achieve a certain goal is commonplace—but a guide on where to shift isn’t.

Since I already researched and feel the jury’s out on the validity of the FFM, I took a look mainly into correlations between the Big Five (Neuroticism, Openness to Experience, Agreeableness, Extraversion, and Conscientiousness—descriptions of these are the subject of my fifth blog) and the RIASEC traits (Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional).

If you’d like to find which jobs fall under which RIASEC trait, go to the O*NET website listed below.



Also, here’s a description of each RIASEC type, from “Slovene Adaptation of Holland’s Self-Directed Search”

R: REALISTIC type prefers activities, involving unambiguous, ordered, and systematic handling of objects, tools, machines, and animals. Dislikes investigative, social, or therapeutic activities. These tendencies cause the development of manual, mechanical, agricultural, and technical aptitudes, abilities, skills, and achievements on one side—but deficits in social and educational achievements. Values concrete things, money, power, and social status. Is described as asocial, inflexible, practical, conforming, materialistic, self-effacing, frank, natural, thrifty, genuine, normal, uninsightful, hardheaded, persistent, and uninvolved.

I: INVESTIGATIVE type prefers activities, involving observational, symbolic, systematic, and creative investigation of physical, biological, and cultural phenomena in order of understanding and control. Dislikes persuasion of others, social, and repetitive activities. Values science and knowledge. Is analytical, independent, rational, cautious, intellectual, reserved, critical, introspective, retiring, complex, pessimistic, unassuming, curious, precise, and unpopular.

A: ARTISTIC type prefers ambiguous, free, and nonsystematic activities to create artistic forms in material, abstract, or human domain. Dislikes systematic or ordered activities. These tendencies cause the development of artistic abilities in the field of language, music or theater; connected with deficit in clerical and enterprising abilities. Values artistic qualities and beauty. Is described as complicated, imaginative, intuitive, disorderly, impractical, non conforming, emotional, impulsive, open, expressive, independent, original, idealistic, introspective, and sensitive.

S: SOCIAL type prefers activities that involve work with people with the intent of informing, education, development, or healing. Dislikes ambiguous, systematic, and ordered activities, including work with machines, tools, and materials. These tendencies cause the development of competencies to regulate human relations, and to educate; connected with a deficit of manual and technical abilities. Values social and ethical values. Is ascendant, helpful, responsible, cooperative, idealistic, sociable, emphatic, kind, tactful, friendly, patient, understanding, generous, persuasive, and warm.

E: ENTERPRISING type prefers activities, involving work with people to achieve some organizational or economic goal. Values political and economic achievements—but dislikes detailed observation and symbolic or systematic activities. These tendencies lead to development of leadership, interpersonal and persuasive competencies, but a deficit in scientific competencies. Is acquisitive, energetic, flirtatious, adventurous, excitement-seeking, optimistic, agreeable, self-confident, ambitious, exhibitionistic, sociable, domineering, extroverted, and talkative.

C: CONVENTIONAL type (in older versions called Clerical also) prefers activities, involving unambiguous, ordered, and systematic work with data. Dislikes ambiguous, unordered, free, investigative, and unsystematic activities. Values business and economical achievements. These tendencies cause the development of clerical, computational and business competencies—but a deficit in artistic competencies. Is described as careful, inflexible, persistent, conforming, inhibited, practical, conscientious, methodical, prudish, defensive, obedient, thrifty, efficient, orderly, and unimaginative.”


To get a good understanding I read a few different papers, so I’ll show each of their data and discuss the similarities between the findings.

Armstrong & Anthoney’s findings are interesting mainly because of their approach:

The linear multiple regression-based technique of property vector fitting (Jones & Koehly, 1993; Kruskal & Wish, 1978) is put forward here as a strategy for integrating individual differences variables into Holland’s model. This technique allows for the placement of a variable into a multidimensional space (i.e., the RIASEC interest structure) as a vector emerging from the origin of the dimensional coordinate system. The angle of the property vector is calculated from the regression coefficients obtained from an analysis of how well the RIASEC structural coordinates predict observed scores for the variable on each of the six types. Property vector fitting results illustrate the structural relations among interests and other individual differences characteristics by indicating the orientation of characteristics in the interest structure and by comparing the relative orientations of different characteristics. Instead of focusing on the magnitude of particular bivariate relationships, this analysis systematically models the relative strength of associations between characteristics and the RIASEC structure. Bootstrapping (Efron & Tibshirani, 1993) will be used to generate confidence intervals for the magnitude of effect (R2) and direction (angle theta) of each property vector.” (Armstrong & Anthoney, 2009, “Personality facets and RIASEC interests: An integrated model”)

Armstrong & Anthoney attempted to integrate the Five Factors with and on the RIASEC interest structure. This is due to Holland’s beliefs about vocational identity: congruence, consistency, differentiation, and identity. Holland believed career choices to a large extent were reflections of personalities, and that work environments, similarly, reflected and were reflected by their respective careers. And so we get:

Congruence – “the degree of fit between an individual’s personality type and the work environment type” (Nauta, 2010)

Consistency – “a measure of the overlap or internal coherence of an individual’s or environment’s type scores, is represented by greater proximity on the hexagon” (Nauta)

Differentiation – “the degree to which a person or environment clearly resembles some RIASEC types and not others, reflects greater clarity with respect to making vocational choices” (Nauta)

Identity – “the degree to which an individual has a clear picture of one’s ‘goals, interests, and talents’ or, among environments, reflects the degree to which a work setting has clear goals, tasks, and rewards that remain stable over time” (Nauta)


Nauta points out that while Holland’s congruency theory has received empirical support, the support found for consistency and differentiation (which both mean, put simply, that the traits adjacent to your defining trait are more reflective of you personality than the trait directly opposite on the interest structure) is relatively moderate. Nonetheless, Armstrong & Anthoney have found and shown some of that moderate support.

Armstrong & Anthoney first showed how the RIASEC model is formulated using multidimensional scaling on data gathered from the Interest Profiler and data gathered from a Dutch paper by De Fruyt and Mervielde, who used a Dutch translation of Holland’s SDS, which they called the BZO95. After using this linear multiple regression technique they found that they’re personal data skewed the Enterprising factor a bit to the center and revised the scoring system to get a better, revised scale.


Then they used multidimensional scaling (property vector fitting) to take the bootstrapped data and apply an angle theta which could then be integrated onto the hexagonic structure in an attempt to maintain consistency and differentiation in the interpretation of the data. It also, luckily, provides a visual aid for us.


What’s incredibly helpful for those looking for particular personality descriptions is the application of the facets of each trait, as opposed to just the trait itself.

Armstrong & Anthoney also used two different facet taxonomies of the FFM, two different tests used to place someone in the FFM structure: the NEO-PI-R (Revised NEO Personality Inventory) and the IPIP (International Personality Item Pool). Both are shown here:

And if we make a crude overlap, dividing each group of facets from both the IPIP and the NEO-PI-R into their respective traits we get these structural systems. (The IPIP facets are underlined; and beside each structure I’ve placed the labeling of each facet for both the NEO-PI-R and IPIP.)



(Because of its visual aid I’ll be comparing the findings from the other two findings with these crude recreations.)

Here are the results of the Armstrong & Anthoney study in the most simplistic nutshell:

Openness to Experience: strongly correlated Social and Artistic (NEO-PI-R doesn’t test for Intelligence (O5) which correlates heavily with Investigative)

Conscientiousness: heavily correlated with Conventional and Enterprising

Extraversion: heavily correlated with Enterprising and Social (somewhat with Conventional)

Agreeableness: somewhat related to Social

Neuroticism: correlation with Artistic and Social, and minor correlation with Investigative

To give a reminder of what each of the FFM factors indicate, here’s a quote from my fifth blog:

Factor I – OPENNESS TO EXPERIENCE: (inventive/curious vs. consistent/cautious) Appreciation for art, emotion, adventure, unusual ideas, curiosity, and variety of experience. Openness reflects the degree of intellectual curiosity, creativity and a preference for novelty and variety. Some disagreement remains about how to interpret the openness factor, which is sometimes called ‘intellect’ rather than openness to experience.

Factor II – CONSCIENTIOUSNESS: (efficient/organized vs. easy-going careless) A tendency to show self-discipline, act dutifully, and aim for achievement; planned rather than spontaneous behavior; organized, and dependable.

Factor III – EXTRAVERSION: (outgoing/energetic vs. solitary/reserved) Energy, positive emotions, assertiveness, sociability and the tendency to seek stimulation in the company of others, and talkativeness.

Factor IV – AGREEABLENESS: (friendly/compassionate vs. cold/unkind) A tendency to be compassionate and cooperative rather than suspicious and antagonistic towards others.

Factor V – NEUROTICISM: (sensitive/nervous vs. secure/confident) The tendency to experience unpleasant emotions easily, such as anger, anxiety, depression, or vulnerability. Neuroticism also refers to the degree of emotional stability and impulse control, and is sometimes referred by its low pole—’emotional stability’.”

This indicates that, for instance, a biology teacher (who falls under the Social and Investigative traits (look up on O*NET site listed above)) is going to fall under the Openness category, the Agreeable category, and/or the Neurotic category.

Think of each FFM category as having separate needs.

Extraversion – Need to be with people (e.g. can’t stand isolation)

Conscientious – Need to be occupied (e.g. can’t stand unemployment)

Open – Need creativity and freedom (e.g. can’t stand rules)

Agreeable – Need intimate relationships (e.g. can’t stand conflict)

Neuroticism – Need freedom from complexity (e.g. can’t stand major responsibility)

From these we determine what kind of person a biology teacher is most likely to be: Most likely, Open (i.e. creative and curious) and Agreeable (i.e. active and deep engagement with students). And it’s from these that approaches can be determined or copy can be tailored.

But let’s move on and quickly go through the other two papers, which should be easy to rush through as comparisons with the visual aids above.

Next up is De Fruyt & Mervielde (1996, “The Five-Factor Model of Personality and Holland’s RIASEC Interest Types”).

These two began by translating Holland’s SDS into Dutch, the BZO95, as well as translating the NEO-PI-R into Dutch. They then used PCA (Principal Component Analysis) to prove the existence of the Five Factor Components in their Dutch translation of the NEO-PI-R and a MTMM (multitrait-multimethod) approach to validating their BZO95 translation as a proper translated structure of the English RIASEC.

They then used, first, a simple Pearson coefficient to show relations between the NEO-PI-R facets and the RIASEC traits, shown below:


Then they used multi-regression to show correlations between the FFM traits as a whole relative to the RIASEC traits—the standardized slopes between each factor and each trait is shown below, along with the multi-regression coefficient and R-squared.

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So what are their results boiled down?

Openness to Experience: correlated with Artistic and Social (partly with Investigative (O5) and ENT (O4&5))

Conscientiousness: correlated with Conventional and partly with Enterprising (and negatively correlated with Artistic)

Extraversion: correlated with Social and Enterprising (moderately negatively correlated with Conventional)

Agreeableness: partly correlated with Social (partly negatively correlated with Enterprising and Conventional)

Neuroticism: inversely correlated with Enterprising (and N1 is negatively correlated with Realistic)

Put side by side with Armstrong & Anthoney’s research the overlap is shown to be tremendous:

A&A:DF&M - Comparison

The main difference we can see is the moderate negative correlation of Extraversion with Enterprising in the De Fruyt & Mervielde findings, compared with the moderate positive correlation of Extraversion with Enterprising in the Armstrong & Anthoney.

But for the most part the relationship between the FFM and the RIASEC so far is strong and relatively clear.

However, some of you will notice (and should notice) the lack of representation in the Realistic and Investigative fields by the FFM. This is something that consistently showed itself, this absence of representation. And it’s something that nearly all the papers I read mentioned.

A paper, though, by Derek A. McKay and David M Tokar (2012, “The HEXACO and five-factor models of personality in relation to RIASEC vocational interests”) found a way around this lack of representation—by using a different (though by only a slight amount) taxonomic structure other than the FFM: the HEXACO model.

HEXACO stands for:

H: Honesty-Humility (honest, modest vs. dishonest, boastful)

E: Emotionality (anxious, vulnerable vs. self-assured, stable)

X: Extraversion (outgoing, sociable vs. shy, withdrawn)

A: Agreeableness (tolerant, gentle vs. intolerant, harsh)

C: Conscientiousness (organized, diligent vs. sloppy, reckless)

O: Openness (creative, unconventional vs. unimaginative, conventional)

Extraversion, Conscientiousness, Openness, Emotionality, and Agreeableness all correlate with the respective FFM trait (Extraversion, Conscientiousness, Openness, Neuroticism, and Agreeableness), except in the Emotionality and Agreeableness (as compared with Neuroticism and Agreeableness) the facets of Anger and Sentimentality have been switched. That is, in Neuroticism there is an inclusion of Anger that isn’t in Emotionality—instead this (low) Anger is in HEXACO’s Agreeableness; and the Sentimentality normally associated with FFM’s Agreeableness is in HEXACO’s Emotionality.

The last significant difference is in the inclusion of Honesty-Humility which measures for honesty and modesty, as opposed to dishonesty and proclivity to boast.

The change however in the Emotionality and Agreeableness traits was enough to bring about expression in the RIASEC model. As McKay & Tokar say, “Emotionality (a variant of FFM Neuroticism) related inversely with Realistic (for both men and women) and Investigative (women only) interests. These relations are noteworthy because previous research (as well as the current results; see Table 3) has indicated that FFM Neuroticism relates minimally to any of the RIASEC vocational interests (Larson et al., 2002). Although similar to Neuroticism, Emotionality excludes the anger that typically is included in this domain, and includes the sentimentality that typically is considered a facet of FFM Agreeableness (Ashton & Lee, 2007). According to Lee and Ashton (n.d.), individuals low in Emotionality feel detached from and little empathy for others. These descriptions correspond somewhat with Holland’s (1997) characterizations of the Realistic (e.g., ‘perceives self as lacking ability in human relations,’ p. 22) and Investigative (e.g., ‘pays less attention to personal feelings or the social environment,’ p. 23) types.”

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Everything else in McKay & Tokar’s paper aligns with both De Fruyt & Mervielde’s results and Armstrong & Anthoney’s results, and even the negative correlation between Emotionality and Realistic is similar to De Fruyt & Mervielde’s findings.—But from here we can gather an application to marketing and target audience identification and description.


Let’s take a look at how these factors manifest themselves in marketing that works—how do certain business personalities reflect these trait factors, both the RIASEC and FFM?

Here’s an article from AdAge from a couple years back about Siemens new ad campaign and new slogan: “Ingenuity for Life”. The senior VP of marketing communications at Siemens, Greg Gibbons, described the new campaign as a chance to display the company’s impact on business and society.

Here’s the main webpage for the campaign.

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I looked up on the O*NET website (https://www.onetonline.org/find/) the word “technology” to get a sense of where technologists fall in the RIASEC…

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…and clicked on “Instructional Designer and Technologist”. Obviously, if I were serious about writing and researching the best copy for this company I’d want to look into more than just one job type—but for now this works.

You can see here the RIASEC factors this job type falls under: Mainly Social and Enterprising, while, more secondary, we have Artistic and Investigative.

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People in Social jobs prefer to engage in work with people in order to help and inform, while Enterprising prefer to work with people in order to achieve some higher goal, namely an organizational or economic goal.

Also, it’s interesting to note the FFM factors which relate to these four RIASEC categories: Extraversion (correlating with Social and Enterprising) and Openness to Experience (correlating with Artistic and, to some small degree, Investigative). Extraverts require contact with people, and businesses that wish to reflect the personality of their consumers (thus harvesting trust between the two) would do wise to emphasize the benefit of contact and unity.

And this is smartly what you see with the Siemens copy here. The words “create,” “benefits,” “society,” “innovation,” and “spirit” all work fundamentally to describe on a deep psychological level those who are Open (curious, creative), Extraverted (those who feed off contact and unity), and those who engage in Social and Enterprising careers. The business persona created, like all great marketing, connects with the consumer through a genuine and deep reflection of the target audience’s personality (or at least that part of their personality that would want to buy your product).

Here’s a quote from Mr. Gibbons from the AdAge article: “‘Some of these launch motifs — precision, accuracy, timing — are genuine customer needs that we have been talking to our customers about, whether they are in aerospace, food and beverage or manufacturing,’ Mr. Gibbons said. ‘They all have similar needs.’”

In case you accuse this of abstract interpretation (a valid criticism), I’ll give another example from a company with completely different motives, completely different products offered and therefore a completely different persona to portray to its consumers.

Here’s the main page for Gold Gym’s website.

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I look up “fitness” on the O*NET site…

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…and click on “Athletic Trainers” as well as “Fitness Trainers” (remember, when conducting serious research you’d want to take several different positions to get a better idea of the overall persona).

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The RIASEC traits are Social, Realistic, and Investigative. This one’s particularly interesting because the FFM factors don’t quite match up too well with either Realistic or Social.

But there’s enough to work with.

Remember that in the HEXACO model, Emotionality (unstable vs. stable), correlated inversely with Realistic—meaning the kind of personality we can expect to be reflected from Gold’s Gym is one of stability and self-assuredness, confidence. This is what people going to the gym expect to find.

In regards to Social, you’re probably working with Extraversion and/or Openness—but I might emphasize Openness because of its slight correlation with Investigative.

Remember also that Realistic involves concrete matter, a high valuation of the material, of physicality and order. The activities preferred are systematic and structured.

And this is what we see: The steps are listed, the benefits are short and focus on the aid of others, not for the sake of organizational goals, but for the sake of development.

The wording is also perfectly chosen with its emphasis on the physical: “path,” “ropes,” “step”.


Just to recap, here’s the relation between the two research papers described above, the overlapping correlations between the FFM factors and the RIASEC circumplex.

A&A:DF&M - Comparison

It seems fairly simple, but once utilized the effect could be drastic. I’ve already gone over that tailored copy to the Five Factors is statistically beneficial, hitting the consumer on a fundamental level.

There truly is a chance with these two models and their integration to talk TO consumers as opposed to AT them.

Spread this around. I think there’s more to be said and understood about this and I’d like to be in on the discussion as much as anyone.

Maybe I’m an idiot, but I don’t here these models discussed too often in articles on marketing. I’d like to hear your comments on this.

Thanks for reading, guys. See you next time.

Enjoy yourself and life.


Cameron Edward Reilly (ER Copy)

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ercopywriting

Email: cameronedwardreilly@gmail.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ercopywriting/


I’ll give you three guesses what Freud interpreted the birds that emerged in his subjects’ dreams to mean. I’ll even give you a hint:—It’s erections. (What did you expect?)

And if the not-so-sly colon followed by a hyphen followed by the word “erections” wasn’t enough to put you off, then maybe you’re one of those likably typical types who, when confided to about sex in a more-or-less private setting such as this, you’re much more liable to get off than be put off (more or less, that is).

Freud may be universally mocked for relating everything under the sun back to sex, but he gives me an excuse to talk to you about a few things that are sure-fire to keep your eyes glued to the words on the page: 1) Sex; 2) Hypnotic Induction; and 3) How the first two things relate to good copy and marketing.

I was about to start reading E. Haldeman-Julius’s The First Hundred Million (highly recommended, by the way) and found the introduction had been written by the Prince of Print, “Sir Gary of Halbert,” Gary Halbert. Halbert tells us that “the first hundred million” refers to the first hundred million Little Blue Books E. Haldeman-Julius sold. These Little Blue Books had over 2,000 different titles, each on a different topic, and their sales gave rise to a narrative which described what Americans really wanted to read.

I’ll give you three guesses what it was. Here’s a hint:

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Halbert throws around some numbers:

The Evolution of Marriage” sold 20,000 copies.

Prostitution of the Modern World”, however, sold 129,500 copies!

Debate on Birth Control” sold 27,000 copies.

And “Modern Aspect of Birth Control”? It was read by 73,000 people.

(Halbert makes the clever comment, “I guess they didn’t want to hear all the arguments, they just wanted to know how to do it,” a mindset I think we can all appreciate and sympathize with.)

So the cliché “Sex Sells”? Well, it’s a cliché for a reason. And it’s the same reason (admittedly, among many) that Freud is such a household name.

It’s important to remember though that copy that triggers such a primal, emotional, subconscious response needs, needs, absolutely needs to associate the satisfaction of that subconscious desire and discomfort with the product your client has hired you to promote.

You might be already guessing how this leads into the second point I mentioned above. But if you don’t know where I’m going with this, don’t worry, I won’t leave you hanging. Keep reading. I’m first going to go over a little history to provide a better context to what hypnotic induction has to do with marketing and copywriting.


I mentioned Freud earlier because he’s what triggered this insight in me to write this post. I had been reading about his early interests in hypnotism, his apprenticeship and association with some of the original developers (Bernheim, Breuer, Charcot), when the relation with marketing occurred to me and I decided to jot it down for you now.

But the history of Freud isn’t interesting to you. As Halbert says, you don’t want to learn the facts, just how to do it. I can appreciate and sympathize.

I’ll quickly go over Freud’s description of the process of induction, or as he calls it “transference”, then we’ll get into the nitty-gritty of the how-to. Now, this is not absolutely essential information—and I’ll let you know this now, that I try in all of my blog posts to split them up into bite-size sections, so if at any moment you want to skip ahead (in any post I write) I encourage you to do so.

But though the history might not be essential, it’s certainly important if you want to get as much as you can out of hypnotic induction as a technique and framework for writing effective copy.

Back to Freud’s description.

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Freud, it’s true, tried to distance himself later in life from hypnosis and what was then termed “direct suggestibility”, believing them to be hindrances to the subject’s ability to self-analyze, believing them akin to narcotics to which the subject could potentially become addicted—but it’s this obstacle to analysis that has solid overlap with the Freudian concept called “transference”.

The process of transference is very similar to the process of hypnotic induction.

Do me a favor. Imagine for me one of your fantasies. And I don’t mean a goal that you hope to achieve, but a fantasy that maybe you keep hidden—a forbidden fantasy; one of those fantasies that another part of your brain says you shouldn’t be having. (It’s okay, everyone’s got ’em.)

The part of your brain that desires this fantasy, Freud says, is the id, which is unconscious; and the part that’s critical of the fantasy, the super-ego, which is conscious, though only partially.

Marketers and copywriters try to trigger that unconscious part of your brain, the subcortical parts of the brain. The amygdala/brain-stem is associated with fear, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and the hypothalamus is associated with sadness, and so on. When triggered the brain thirsts for satisfaction, which comes from the associated fantasy you imagined for me, which then associates with the super-ego’s response.

As promised, I won’t get too much into the technicals, but “transference” simply refers to the process when an analyst becomes a new association, as the super-ego. The analyst triggers that memory, that fantasy, in the subject, and rather than forbidding it, as the super-ego would, the analyist instead allows it and thus becomes a new association of satisfaction.

This is Freud’s explanation of the phenomenon in which a psycho-analytic patient begins to hold deep feelings toward the analyst.

Marketers and copywriters would do well to harness this process of infatuation. You would do well to harness this knowledge no matter what industry you’re in. Always keep in mind the forbidden fantasy you imagined for me to remember this process. (And, no need to fret, I won’t judge you for the sick, vile things you dream of; as long as you won’t judge me for mine.)

So let’s now move past those enticing images to the how-to. I’ll teach you what I’ve learned about the relation between this process, hypnotic induction, and marketing.


While learning about hypnotic induction I came across several different methods hypnotherapists use to relax their patients. And in that search I came across this video by a hypnotist named Michael White who gives a great, succinct explanation of what induction is meant to accomplish:

1st: Achieve compliance and rapport. Build trust.

2nd: Get the subject’s attention.

3rd: Bypass critical factor.

4th: Stimulate the subconscious.

This is exactly what good copy needs to do to gain good feelings from a customer in order to associate those feelings with the client’s product—similar to what the analyst does when transference occurs in a patient.

You can also easily see its similarity to the famous AIDA (Attention—Interest—Desire—Action) marketers love to teach new up-and-comers. But here I’ve given you a more in depth understanding of why AIDA works: the customer is being induced through seductive hypnotism!

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Now before we move on, let’s be clear about something.

There’s a lot of misinformation about hypnotism. And part of the fear and/or scruples people have with hypnotism stems from these misunderstandings. I think of David Ogilvy describing the terror and moral qualms after directing an ad that directly attempted to hypnotize consumers into buying a client’s product. “Suspecting that hypnotism might be an element in successful advertising, I engaged a professional hypnotist to make a commercial. When I saw it in the projection room, it was so powerful that I had visions of millions of suggestible consumers getting up from their armchairs and rushing like zombies through the traffic on their way to buy the product at the nearest store.” Ogilvy then proceeded to burn the copy of the ad, fearful of causing a national scandal.

This is not hypnotism. That’s subliminal messaging. Which is not scientifically based.

Now, 1) As many hypnotists/-therapists will tell you, every person under the influence of hypnosis is merely in a highly suggestible state of trance, i.e. “sleep-state”. Every hypnotist I came across made it very clear that subjects in a trance can never be compelled to do something they don’t want to do. Like the marketer, the hypnotist only has the power of persuasion.

And, 2) I’m NOT suggesting that “pure” hypnosis should be used in marketing. What I’m saying is that the power of persuasion which both the marketer and the hypnotist wield can be better understood when analyzed from a new, different perspective. So I advise you what I’ll call the Spiderman Caveat: “With great power (of persuasion) comes great responsibility (to the consumer)”; meaning, Don’t persuade people to by a shoddy product.

Let’s get back, though, to the cool sh*t.


This step’s easiest to understand. Simply get the attention of the customer. Initial emotional triggers work best, but hold off on highlighting dissatisfaction in the customer until later. (Using the word, FREE for instance grabs attention without signaling in the consumer the parts of their life that could be satisfied by the client’s product.)


This next section is tied to Interest. I’m always reminded of Alec Baldwin’s infamous speech from Glengarry Glen Ross when thinking of AIDA: “Interest: Are you interested? I know you are, ’cause it’s f*ck or walk. You close or you hit the bricks.” After you’ve gotten their initial attention—after they’ve realized and become aware of the fact that they’re not just being advertised to, but are more importantly being helped by someone who understands them on a primal, lizard-brain level—then you’re going to want to point to the product you’re representing for your client. It’s no secret people turn away quickly from ads—no one likes being advertised to—but those same people find it a lot harder to turn away from human contact. So you need to present the product personably, your copy needs to have personality—that way when you present your product you won’t get a refusal up front. This step is merely an extension off the first and seeks to gain a potential customer’s interest by naming the product.

It’s of importance to note that the reason behind the countdown hypnotists use to relax their subjects regards numbers as a finite object that is easily understood, can easily be focused on, while the subject’s conscious mind (their rational mind) is relaxed. It’s often advised to those writing long copy such as blog posts to include numbers (such as lists). The effectiveness of this is similar to the hypnotic countdown. It provides a steady, objective base on which the consumer can stand while being sold a product.


In hypnotism this part refers to the classic “snapping fingers.” The purpose is to subvert fully the prefrontal cortex in order to get a response from the subcortical/emotionally responsive parts of the brain. The snapping triggers anticipating and anxious feelings from the amygdala which in the hypnotic induction is similar to Freud triggering subconscious fantasies in his subjects.

For the copywriter this is similar to eliciting an emotional response in the consumer. It’s often said that people’s purchases stem more from emotion than reason. The explanation is the bypassing of the critical factor.

Obviously the emotional response doesn’t always have to be fear or anxiety, but can be a “positive” response of joy, trust, belonging, leadership, etc. You can tailor your copy to the audience you’re speaking to, triggering the response that would most effect their specific type. Read my blog post here on the Five Factor Model to get a better understanding of how to determine your audience types and tailor your copy to appeal to that type.

But do that later. For now stick with me here while I tell you this last step.


Once the critical factor’s been bypassed, the hypnotist commands the subject in their subconscious state to sleep. For the marketer, this is the call-to-action. The consumer is in the state of mind of fantasy and primal emotion; what the copy needs to do, is create an association between the fantasy (perhaps a memory triggered by the copy), the satisfaction of that desire, and the assurance that this desire is normal and satiable (think of transference and the super-ego) with the client’s product.

That assurance also comes in the form of what the copy must do immediately after the call-to-action, which is re-assurance that the action is helpful and was rationally chosen—that the consumer’s choice was well-chosen. In hypnosis this comes in the form of another countdown and kind but stern words; in copy this comes in the form of stats (more numbers), gratitude and more facts.

What Halbert said about the consumer’s disregard of facts is true—but what the consumer absolutely wants is, if not the facts themselves, then the offering of facts, as reassurance for their choice, as a furtherance of the seductive process that leads to brand loyalty.

This reassurance leads me to the final section of this post, which is just a simple description of a specific type of induction and how it can be used in copy—namely, long copy.

So let me leave you with:


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The fractionation induction technique is, as far as I could find, one of the most effective methods hypnotherapists use to put their subjects in a trance. Pay close attention and you’ll see, with everything I’ve said above kept in mind, how its main premise can be transferred onto the process of writing solid, suggestive copy.

The main premise of fractionation? Hypnotherapists found that with each succeeding session with a patient, they were with greater ease and less time, able to put said patient in a deeper trance than in the previous session.

And lo! a new induction technique was born!

Fractionation involves putting someone in trance, then taking them out, then putting them back in for a longer period of time, taking them back out, putting them back in again, and so on—each succeeding trance deeper than the last.

The explanation is similar to the explanation above regarding the third step of induction, bypassing the critical factor.

By first putting the client in a relaxed state only to then abruptly take them out, the subconscious is fractionated, further opening it up for suggestion.

In copy—long copy, specifically—this can be done by sprinkling emotional triggers throughout. Every couple paragraphs, in one line, make the reader feel uncomfortable, stimulate a desire, trigger their thirsts; then use the reassurance step to calm them back down, make them feel safe. Advertising can sometimes make the mistake of pandering—but this can lead to the “nice-guy syndrome” which plagues many guys who complain about the so-called “friend-zone”.

As a copywriter your job isn’t to patronize the consumer, but to stimulate and remind them that their life could always be better. You’ve got to know how to be appropriately aggressive, how to make them realize that discomfort, and then how to ease them back in to comfortability via reassurance.

This is how trust and loyalty is built, through shared understanding of desires and fantasies.

Freud understood this, which is another of the many reasons why his name is so familiar 100 years later.

All right, I got to jet, but I hope you enjoyed this post. I know there are a lot of opinions on hypnosis in advertising and I’d be interested to know what you think. Leave a comment below with your thoughts.

Also, hit the like button and follow for some more blog posts coming up. Last blog I mentioned a post about the RIASEC model which should be coming up soon. The RIASEC model, I believe, could really help copywriters who specialize in B2B copy tailor their copy to match the personalities within a particular industry. Should be really interesting. Stay tuned.

If you need me for anything else–if you’re looking for some copy to be written, I’d be glad to help. My email address and twitter are down below. Right now I’m offering my first project with you free of charge. It’s my way of eliminating risk for you while also building experience for myself. I want to learn as much as I can. That is, copy that ends up working for you, tells me I’m on the right path. And if I write copy for you that doesn’t succeed on the level you hoped, that initial free of charge offer doesn’t hurt you at all and tells me where I need to change. No hard feelings. It’s one of those rare “Win-Win” scenarios.

Have a good one.

Enjoy yourself and life.


Cameron E. Reilly (ER Copy)


Twitter: https://twitter.com/ercopywriting

Email: cameronedwardreilly@gmail.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ercopywriting/

The Five Factor Model — February 4, 2018

Hey Reader,

I know, it’s been awhile. But I’ve got some interesting posts planned for the future, so stay involved and updated.

But let’s get right into it. We’ve both got things to do, places to be.

Today’s topic: THE BIG FIVE

Not to be confused with the sporting goods chain, the Big Five is known also as the Five Factor Model (FFM). It’s a taxonomic model of generalized abstracted traits with universal applicability. These traits—Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, Neuroticism (OCEAN)—can be used to describe any person, to define behavior to understand the generalized direction of a given person or group’s actions. Within reason, that is.

As copywriters we can use this system to tailor our copy to appeal specifically to whatever niche customer group is most likely buying the product of our clients. Sure, a large part of our job is keyword research and SEO. But if the copy itself doesn’t appeal to the customer most likely to click on the ad in the top five pages of a given Google search, then the overall purpose of the copy, higher CTR and conversion, isn’t fulfilled, making that important keyword research and SEO info you probably spent money to obtain worthless in the eyes of the client.

HERE is an article written by Jacob B. Hirsch et al. that proves a correlation exists between tailored marketing to the FFM traits and positive consumer response. This picture shows the correlation he found when tailoring an ad to specific traits (such as, “for extraversion: ‘With XPhone, you’ll always be where the excitement is’; for neuroticism: ‘Stay safe and secure with the XPhone'”):

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I think starting copywriters struggle to find a steady process by which to write their copy. The keyword research and SEO is relatively easy to learn as there are tens of thousands of articles each describing every step you need to take to parse out the golden words. It’s from there, though, that the great copywriters separate from the chaff. Your creativity will shine as your ability to tailor copy to specific personalities increases.

The FFM gives you a process by which to activate your creativity within psychological research and personality structure.

So let’s get started:

To get a good understanding of the history of the FFM, as well as a history of taxonomic trait models, all the big names involved and their respective experiments that eventually proved the presence of these abstract traits, you can read John M Digman’s paper on Personality Structure here.

But just to summarize it:


The story starts in 1932 with a conclusive statement at the end of an early academic journal by William McDougall. He thought perhaps to some benefit the study of personality might yield five factors, “namely, intellect, character, temperament, disposition, and temper”.

After this statement there came a flood of studies attempting to systematize personality through language. As Digman points out, however, these probably weren’t directly influenced by McDougall’s statement, which could be seen as a primordial ordinance of where psychological organization of personality was to head.

The actual originary force was most likely, Digman says, to be the work of two German psychologists Klages and Baumgarten, the former suggesting a study of language could define a superordinate structure of personality while the latter carried out the study utilizing common German terms about personality.

This study caught the eye of Allport and Odbert, who in 1936 began their own study of the connection between language and personality. This study then influenced the work of Cattell throughout the ’40s.

Cattell, using the term “factor” with a more recent definition than McDougall, found his 16-factor system using factor analysis, a statistical technique used to find patterns within a set of defined variables, in order to discover any factors that could explain any found patterns.

From Cattell on we see a series of psychologists using this technique in order to critique and further define Cattell’s system. Psychologists such as Banks, Fiske, Eysenck, Tupes & Christal, Borgatta and more, all were able to find a certain number of factors through the analysis of language that seemed to cluster and explain patterns of generally defined descriptions of people. Eventually the disparate examiners were able to agree upon finding five factors in their linguisitc analyses.

Further studies of questionnaires, whether self-report or peer-report, also found approximately five factors. The disagreements came with the naming of these factors and how exactly they were to be defined. Here you can see the different examiners and the names given to this trait taxonomy.

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As you can see, though, the overlap among even the names is definitive. The different names could even give you a better idea of what behaviors and descriptors might fall under this or that trait.

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Here’s a picture from McCrae and John’s paper (HERE) on the FFM and its applications. It shows the different but overlapping adjectives from questionnaires as well as lexical studies that fall under each trait.

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To quote from H. vazifehdoost et al.’s 2012 paper, “The Role of Psychological Traits in Market Mavenism Using Big Five Model”:

Factor I – “OPENNESS TO EXPERIENCE: (inventive/curious vs. consistent/cautious) Appreciation for art, emotion, adventure, unusual ideas, curiosity, and variety of experience. Openness reflects the degree of intellectual curiosity, creativity and a preference for novelty and variety. Some disagreement remains about how to interpret the openness factor, which is sometimes called ‘intellect’ rather than openness to experience.”

Factor II – “CONSCIENTIOUSNESS: (efficient/organized vs. easy-going careless) A tendency to show self-discipline, act dutifully, and aim for achievement; planned rather than spontaneous behavior; organized, and dependable.”

Factor III – “EXTRAVERSION: (outgoing/energetic vs. solitary/reserved) Energy, positive emotions, assertiveness, sociability and the tendency to seek stimulation in the company of others, and talkativeness.”

Factor IV – “AGREEABLENESS: (friendly/compassionate vs. cold/unkind) A tendency to be compassionate and cooperative rather than suspicious and antagonistic towards others.”

Factor V – “NEUROTICISM: (sensitive/nervous vs. secure/confident) The tendency to experience unpleasant emotions easily, such as anger, anxiety, depression, or vulnerability. Neuroticism also refers to the degree of emotional stability and impulse control, and is sometimes referred by its low pole—’emotional stability’.”

Note at the beginning of these definitions the two poles given for each trait—e.g. sensitive vs. secure; or friendly vs. cold; or inventive vs. consistent). When researching where the customers to which you to hope to appeal fall within the FFM, it’s important to keep in mind these poles. The traits themselves are abstracted and therefore don’t explain the particulars of the reasons behind a given behavior. As McCrae says, “A moderate score in Extraversion, for example, might be obtained by an individual who was energetic but aloof, or lethargic but friendly, or average on both energy level and sociability.

The traits are at a fourth level of abstraction; the first is direct responses, the second is developed habits, the third is chacteristics—the fourth is the traits of the FFM.

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This abstraction can lead to different interpretations of what actions the factors might lead to, as well as different interpretations of what factor might correlate with this or that action or description.


If you’ve got a given product you’re meant to advertise, and this product is purposed to appease some given insecurity or problem, then it’s by this insecurity or problem that you could decipher which type of personality the typical customer for this product would fall under.

(Of course more generalized products, with a larger audience, would require conversations with the client as to which direction to head; but for products directed towards a specific audience this is how the FFM could aid in formulating a helpful direction to your copy.)

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For example, the Goat Mug appeals primarily to an aesthetic need while also fulfilling a practical purpose—a reusable mug that you don’t always have to carry in your hands with a greater aesthetic appeal than a thermos.

The market for this would probably fall under the Openness to Experience. The campaign would focus on appealing to the customer’s need to experience coffee in a different, new, innovative way.

And would you look at that:

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Their homepage not only encapsulates perfectly the need for their target audience to experience coffee in a more artsy and innovative fashion—a fashion with a distinctive style—but also they mention a fact not many people know about the humble beginnings of coffee stemming from a goat, which has inspired their product. The interest in information also drives the target audience and thus drives the marketing successfully.

These interpretations of important. But these interpretations being just that—interpretations—it should be kept in mind the overlapping nature of these trait structures.

Read this from McCrae’s article: “McCrae and Costa (1990) argued…that each of the five factors can be regarded both as a set of traits that must be structured and organized, and as a contributor to the organization and interaction of other traits. Consider O and C: Open people are inquisitive. If they are also conscientious, their curiosity may take the form of sustained and systematic study of a topic; if they are low in C, theirs will be an idle curiosity, absorbed by the passing interest of the moment. Theoretical elaboration of such interactions of factors can bring a more dynamic flavor to trait psychology.”

The organization of a customer’s actions could be directed by two or more separate traits, one or more directing the flow of action that could lead to a destination determined by another.

In an article by Trapnell (HERE), he discusses the difference in interpretation over the behavior of self-reflection, which for a good period of time was presumed to be indicative of the Neuroticism trait.

Trapnell, however, proved that there were different motivations behind a given person’s desire to self-reflect. He divided the need to self-reflect into two separate types: reflection and rumination. Rumination was what was most familiar historically. It described someone who was preoccupied with how they looked, how they acted or thought, someone always conscious of their flaws; so preoccupied that they couldn’t act. Those who are ruminative are self-conscious.

Those, however, who are reflective are self-examining; that is, they are interested, out of a generalized curiosity, in their state of mind, in how their perceived by others, how they process through a given problem. These people are not neurotic, they fall under the category Openness to Experience.

Trapnell showed that a perceived behavior can have two different motivations, can have two different trait categories from which they originate.

So I’ll leave you with this last bit of advice—to always examine all facets of a potential customer’s actions before you put the pen to paper. My last post detailed my process in the context of MedReps. I said customers were most likely those from the STEM program and were thus goal-oriented and Conscientious. What I should have kept in mind, too, was that MedReps catered to salesmen, who fall under the Extraversion category. While writing the copy for that homepage I could’ve kept that in mind and further hit upon the need to be active, to be at the forefront of knowledge, etc.

Next week I’m going to discuss how to further distinguish which trait your potential customer might fall into. I hope you enjoyed this. See you next week.

Enjoy yourself and life.


Cameron Edward Reilly (ER Copy)

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ercopywriting

Email: cameronedwardreilly@gmail.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ercopywriting/

My Copywriting Process – January 14, 2018

So—this is gonna be a long one:

I’ve decided to detail out how I would go about the research into writing copy for a website home page. This is just an exercise. And the site I’m going to be using as a template is MedReps.com. MedReps’s copy, by the way, is in no way bad and this is not a critique. Their site and their industry is just the foundation upon which I’ll guide my research—to give you an idea of what I would do when researching for a particular client. (If, by the way, you end up reading this MedReps, no bad intentions meant here. Just using your site as an incentive. I really hope you don’t mind!)


MedReps is a job posting platform specializing in the medical sales industry. On it candidates can post their resumes, look for jobs either locally or non-, and adjust their search for particular fields in the industry (biotech, pharmaceuticals, or medical device). About 20% of their job listings are exclusive to the MedReps site and membership for candidates is only $20.

Recruiters, employers and hiring managers also, of course, use their site to search through candidates (and just as a quick side note: MedReps also advertises to this group that their candidates have higher quality of experience; reading the case studies from Forest Pharamceutical and MicroDental shows that not only were they “thrilled with the caliber of candidates,” as MicroDental says, but they were also happy with the ease of MedReps’s posting process as compared to that of other job posting platforms such as Monster).

But what I’m going to focus on, for the sake of time and space, is the target audience of their home page—their candidates.

Now since I haven’t been in contact with MedReps I haven’t been able to ask them about the general direction they’d like to advertise their service. So I’m going to be using the main pull I can glean from looking at their home page.

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(If you don’t want to read through the whole process, you can scroll to the bottom just to see the changes made.)

From what I can see the stand-out quality MedReps is emphasizing here is really spelled out in the second benefit they list: the increased odds of joining their job posting site. I’m going to be using the general outline they’ve already laid out here and just tweak it a tad utilizing some research.


The first thing I researched were other job posting platforms to get a sense of the general attitude and personality. Then, perhaps, I could work off that and add to MedReps’s copy a style that will be unique to them, but somewhat familiar.

I’ll just list a few.

So here’s Monster:

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You notice that they’re appealing to a more general audience than MedReps is, speaking to an audience whose particular job preference isn’t as relevant as it is MedReps. This is why Monster’s headline both appeals to those who are stressed by the job search and to those who feel capable of doing the job themselves (this will be explained in detail later). “Find Better” calms the reader who is stressed by using the word “Find”, which is a more passive word than “Search” (as in “Job Search”) and by using the word “Better”, which obviously conjures comforting emotions. It’s simple and effective. Monster is a site to help those in need or simply aid those who’re looking for a leg-up. Great.

Indeed doesn’t have much of a personality:

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But the one I find most interesting is ZipRecruiter:

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ZipRecruiter’s headline evokes feelings of not only comfort, but of control—the customer, by using ZipRecruiter, can at all times know where he/she is at while searching for a job. ZipRecruiter’s personality is one that tells the potential candidate of their control, while also easing the responsibility of that control. It’s from ZipRecruiter that I got the main inspiration behind the personality for MedReps’s copy.

Then, just to make sure I covered my bases, I checked out the copy for sites similar to MedReps, who also specialized in the medical sales industry.

Here’s MedZilla:

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And here’s BioSpace:

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And here’s PharmaOpportunities:

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Unfortunately, there isn’t much I can get from these sites. There isn’t much personality, there isn’t much attempt to sell or advertise, meaning that the copy reads like an ad—and as many copywriters will tell you, once someone can tell their reading an ad, they turn away. “The good salesman does not merely cry a name. He doesn’t say, ‘Buy my article.’ He pictures the customers side of his service until the natural result is to buy.” So says Claude Hopkins and so says I. The target customer needs to be understood, and it’s from this understanding that good copy emerges.


So let’s understand, then, the customer MedReps is targeting. Of course these are people who’ve gone through the nightmare that is the STEM program. They are hard workers, dedicated, motivated and goal-oriented. I know this from first-hand experience, having friends who have gone through the STEM system, as well as from a simple common sense empathy and second-hand comprehension of the difficulty of gaining the experience to get an MD.

In terms of the medical sales industry though, I found an article on Monster discussing the differences in experience needed to break into either the pharma, biotech, or medical device sales industry (https://www.monster.com/career-advice/article/pharma-biotech-medical-device-sales) “[T]he level of technological and scientific savvy required to be a top-notch salesperson is generally lowest for pharma, a little higher for biotech (which requires a thorough understanding of research using genetic engineering technology) and extremely high for medical devices.”

Using the five-factor/”Big Five” model the combination of sales and STEM says to me that MedReps candidates fall most likely in the Conscientious and Extraversion categories. A simple explanation can be found in this article here: http://jwalkonline.org/docs/Grad%20Classes/Fall%2007/Org%20Psy/big%205%20and%20job%20perf.pdf

But I’ll give a quick run-down.

Conscientious: dependable, organized, planful, careful, hardworking, responsible, goal-oriented, persevering

Extraversion: sociable, gregarious, assertive, talkative, active, ambitious

We’ve now got an idea for personality and an idea of to whom that personality should speak directly speak.


The next thing I did was some quote mining. I attempted to look up reviews for sites like ZipRecruiter, MedZilla, BioSpace, etc., as well as for MedReps itself—but nothing really special came out of it, except in the CafePharma forum. I read there some opinions regarding the worth of MedReps (there seemed to be a general positive consensus, minus the spam), and the personality of the typical MedReps candidate was confirmed when compared to the average reviews I’d read for the more general job boards like ZipRecruiter or Monster.

The MedReps candidates weren’t starry-eyed over the MedReps site or service. To them, it was just a job board. They were looking at the site practically. Which is the point at which I could start the creative search for a headline—a headline that would predict, understand, and then hopefully win over and change the minds of those who would view MedReps as just a job board—by giving MedReps a solid personality that could speak to them.


The personality I developed would be one that, like ZipRecruiter, would put the control always in the hands of the potential candidate. These are hardworking Conscientious people: You know what you’re doing; we at MedReps know you know what you’re doing; we understand; we’re not going to sell to you, we’re just going to give you the facts and you make the decision.

I then spent a few hours developing the headline. I learned from Will Paterson the technique of writing down in an hour all of my “bad” ideas. In that hour I could get the creative juices flowing and purge the bullshit. Then out of these “bad” ones I could develop a better idea. The main purpose of this part of the process is to create a cohesive whole, to write a kind of narrative that the reader can follow and understand, and from which he/she can feel understood. It starts with the headline. After this, everything else should flow easily.

Here’s another Claude Hopkins quote for you, just for fun: “The writer of this chapter spends far more time on headlines than on writing. He often spends hours on a single headline. Often scores of headlines are discarded before the right one is selected.”

And here’s what I came up with (keep in mind, I’m not a designer, so excuse the shitty framework the copy’s housed in–just focus on the copy):

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Here’s the original again to give you a better comparison:

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I first put “Industry’s Preferred Resource” up front, ahead of “15 Years” in order to emphasize the trust I’m going to end the copy with.

Then there’s the main headline, which punctuates the forward- and hard-working personalities of these bio-salesmen by the word “Hunt”, as well as shows right off the bat that they’re position is understood—that this is a no-nonsense website which skips right to the punch. And all while adding that extra bit of personality that’s solidified in that subheadline beneath “Whatever field you hunt in”.

I made the copy the copy more sociable by changing “Benefits” to “What You Can Expect”. And then I decided on using more colorful words that appealed to the mind of a goal-oriented candidate: “Prospects”, “Trust”, “Better Shot” (which also ties in the hunting theme).

The very short body text below also utilizes some of the keyword research I did using Moz’s Keyword Explorer. The highest searched, least difficult, highest prioritized keyword found was: “biotech jobs”, and so the order “pharma, medical device, and biotech job offers”. Also the body copy of these subheadlines are more forward than the original in order to further personify the brand and match and appreciate the general attitude of the potential candidate.

And lastly I changed the “Find Jobs!” button text to “Start Now” to match the overall personality being developed. “Find Jobs!” was a bit too typical-ad-copy.

And voila. Our final text.

Once again, I’d just like to restate: THIS IS NOT A CRITICISM OF MEDREPS COPY. THIS IS JUST AN EXERCISE. (Though if they’d like to use it they’re more than welcome. Free of charge. Have at it.—If not, that’s cool too. No hard feelings.)

Well, that’ll be all. I enjoyed learning all about this industry and the personalities of the buyers and I think the text came out as a solid not-too-shabby.

Enjoy yourself and life.


Cameron Edward Reilly (ER Copy)

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ercopywriting

Email: cameronedwardreilly@gmail.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ercopywriting/

Copywriters! This Experiment is Helpful (Also, Book Recommendation)—January 9, 2018

This is just going to be a quick one off: something I found interesting, that I think might help provide, for some, a direction for their creativity when writing and developing copy for a client—something to consider when fine tuning your phrasing for a headline.

I’ve been reading Steven Pinker’s book The Language of Instinct (a great book, by the way, for those looking for a better understanding of how language is interpreted, acquired, and used—and thus, a great book for ideas on how language should be used for copy; check it out (https://www.amazon.com/Language-Instinct-Mind-Creates-P-S-ebook/dp/B0049B1VOU)). In his book, Pinker describes an experiment by psycholinguist David Swinney, through which Swinney attempts to find out how people “parse” interpretations of language; that is, he tries to answer the question: how do we, when interpreting a sentence or word, choose one interpretation over another?

There are two possibilities,” Pinker says. “One is that our brains are like computer parsers, computing dozens of doomed tree fragments [“tree fragments” alludes to grammatical trees, whose branches consist of things like nouns, verbs, noun phrases, verb phrases, determinators, prepositions and prepositional phrases] in the background, and the unlikely ones are somehow filtered out before they reach consciousness. The other is that the human parser somehow gambles at each step about the alternative most likely to be true and then plows ahead with that single interpretation as far as possible. Computer scientists call these alternatives ‘breadth-first search’ and ‘depth-first search.’ ”

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Breadth-first search,” simply put, is a calculation of numerous interpretations, most of which are eventually tossed as incorrect or unlikely, until the most likely or the most correct is siphoned through our consciousness.

Depth-first search” cuts the calculation. Our ability to analyze a sentence is driven by a constant, continuous “gamble” of what we take to be the intended meaning of the sentence.

And this is where Pinker introduces Swinney and his experiment. It seems that when interpreting individual words we apply a “breadth-first search.”

Swinney deciphered this question by having people listen to a sentence over headphones: “Rumor had it that, for years, the government building had been plagued with problems. The man was not surprised when he found several spiders, roaches, and other bugs in the corner of his room.”

Then when the word “bug” was heard, a computer screen before the listener would flash a word. The second the listener recognized the word flashed he/she had been instructed to press a button. The purpose of the experiment was to test the speed of the listener—what words would prompt the listener to press the button faster? Which words were more recognizable after hearing the word “bug”?

It’s well known, Pinker tells us, “that when a person hears one word, any word related to it easier to recognize, as if the mental dictionary is organized like a thesaurus, so that when one word is found, others similar in meaning are more readily available.”

It wasn’t too surprising then that the listener would press the button quicker when presented with words like “ant”, which is directly related to the word “bug”. In contrast, words like “sew” were not followed with a quick reaction—the word “sew” is unrelated.

However, what was surprising was the quick reaction listeners had to the word “spy”. Now why is this?

Well, reader, you may have not noticed it, but in the two sentences above the context is, problems within the government, followed by a discovery of bugs. Literal bugs. We, as readers, know the reference is to literal bugs because of the surrounding words, “roaches” and “spiders”. But because the context deals with government problems, the word “bugs” takes on a different meaning.

Imagine if the sentence didn’t include the words “roaches” and “spiders”: “The man was not surprised when he found bugs in the corner of his room.” We might be inclined to question whether the bugs referred to things like roaches and spiders, or to wire taps and hidden cameras.

What’s interesting though is that even when we consciously know the intended meaning of the word “bug”, the experiment shows that while parsing the interpretation of a word subconsciously we do a “breadth-first search” in which our thesaurus of a brain rifles through interpretation upon interpretation, eventually “filtering out” the one we find most likely and most correct.

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This is a fascinating bit of information to have for a copywriter.

When writing headlines or even subheadlines (this could even be applied to body copy) I think a great addition to whatever your modus operandi be, is a glance at a thesaurus—see what words will be brought up in the reader’s mind; make them a subtle part of your copy.

I personally, in my exercises, have been figuring out how to utilize this synonymous mode of parsing when capturing the personality of the brand.

It’s common knowledge that the personality of your brand matters; and it’s also common knowledge that the personality of your brand should be harmonious with the personalities of a given product’s typical consumers. And I think that this bit of information could really help in that last stage of small adjustments to your copy; when you’re fiddling with words, wracking your brain over Word A or Word B. Swinney’s experiment is the creative guide to push you in the research-based (that is, the right) direction.

Happy writing, everyone.


Cameron Edward Reilly (ER Copy)

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ercopywriting

Email: cameronedwardreilly@gmail.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ercopywriting/

Btw, here’s the study: Lexical Access during Sentence Comprehension (Re)Consideration of Context Effects” by David A. Swinney


Twitter TNT (Tricks N Techniques) – 2018 Checklist – January 1, 2018

Hey Reader,

Happy New Year. Everything was to your satisfaction, I hope, this past year. The start of a new cycle has us all thinking of our accomplishments and failures. Any birth brings with it a reassessment. As well as a reinvestment of time wasted the past year, into new goals this new year for potential new earnings.

I (before a “pleasant” game of New Year Monopoly with the family) had a conversation with a friend of mine at the local bar about my recent interest in learning the copywriting business. He’s the same age as me (young, but not as handsome) and so has been threatening to begin the process of starting up his own business in Silicon Valley. He currently produces viruses for a company in Berkeley which, through viral vectors, is working towards a cure for cancer. His innovative motivation is a cheaper, quicker way (he claims) to make these viruses. He figures, he tells me, he could start up a company, sell these viruses, build a stronger foundation for this approach to curing a horrifying disease (a disease whose cures are not much to write home about)—BUT, he’s not sure how to start this up. More specifically, how to get investors.

Ever since I told him my interest in the art of copywriting, marketing, consumer behavior, I figure he must’ve had me in mind when wondering how exactly to get in touch with these seemingly far-away investors. And, more importantly, how to gain their trust quickly.

So he began asking me all these questions about copywriting, all the stuff I’ve picked up from my independent research—all the stuff I funnel into my work, including this here blog, dear reader.

Now, it must be remembered: he’s a hard-scientist. A graduate of the hard knocks of STEM. Read: he’s looking for clear, concise, specific answers like a math equation. And all I have to offer, by his standards at least, is a somewhat vague, general response as to what I’d do as a marketing consultant.

After telling him (a few times) of the strategies of market research, of psychological analysis of the industry as a whole, of the development of a brand personality that spoke truthfully to other businesses, what our discussion boiled down to was a new way for me to understand my own business. And understand more my goals for my business.

What copywriters/marketers/ad-people do for a company is: provide a network—or, rather, a bit of a network.

This is what my friend couldn’t understand. That there’s a part of his industry (you might say: the psychological side) that he doesn’t understand and that would take him work to understand. What he’s paying the copywriter for, is that bit of the network he doesn’t readily have access to. The copywriter provides the inner workings of an industry that the producer might only know skin-deep. It’s the copywriter’s job to learn as much as possible about the product and industry, about the personality of the brand, about the uniqueness of the product to the established industry, about the personalities the industry attracts—about, pretty much, the underlying psychological cogs and wheels that keep this or that particular industry chugging away.

And I remembered something during this conversation that I’d read a couple months ago when I first started reading about advertising and copywriting: A good chunk of a copywriter’s projects are assigned by other copywriters.

This signifies the importance of building up your own network within the copywriting industry—the importance of finding mentors and friends. To help you understand those underlying bits that will inevitably slip your gaze.

Which brings me to the main point of this damn blog post—my goals of 2018!

My goals on the larger scale are personal and regard mostly me finding a way to settle down with a girl (you know, typical story), so they don’t really need to be discussed here.

However, my goals for January of 2018 are mainly building up a network of trustworthy and talented copywriters. Mainly through the use of social media—i.e. Twitter and Facebook.

I’ll talk about Facebook ads in another blog, but for now I want to focus on Twitter. I read a sh*t-ton of articles (I’ll list some down below) on copywriting for Twitter to get a better understanding of how exactly promotion on Twitter works. And mostly what I got from it was that Twitter promotion is a lot like old direct-mail promotional material you can read about from veteran experts—except Twitter is JUST HEADLINES.

Ok, ok, it’s a little more complicated than that, I know.

In fact, I did learn some very good advice. One of the most important was from Paul Roberts at Our Social Times, who says this: “the trick is to remember that you don’t need to reach everyone, just the people who matter: your target audience.” Which was a blunt reminder to figure out who my target audience was.

And as a beginning copywriter, my target audience is, maybe surprisingly: OTHER COPYWRITERS. It is other copywriters who can mentor, who can open the doors of opportunity and thus experience—it is other copywriters who make other copywriters (who “copy” those writers).

And, also, of course, I was reminded by Sheena White at SocialQuant of a copywriting golden rule (as well as many others): to emphasize benefits not features: TWEET ABOUT WHAT YOUR CUSTOMERS WANT AND NEED… NOT YOUR PRODUCT OR SERVICE.”

And, then I was told by this Moz article, that “When you [promote your Twitter], don’t just show the Twitter logo—make sure you also display your @handle so that people know exactly where to find you,” which is prompting me now to change the Twitter icon on this blog to include my handle. (@ercopywriting, by the way—and for those of you who came via Twitter, I thank you (as well as the authors of these articles; go check them out)).

Oh, and Moz (such a great site) also has a short eBook about Social Media marketing here. Please read it, support Moz.

The last thing I’d like to mention on here, I also learned from Moz. I can’t fiddle with it now because of how young this blog is, but check out Tara Reed’s 14 day experiment. After reading tons of articles on Twitter, this sort of experiment is talked about often. (In fact, another Moz author in the list below makes a joke of how often you see a version of this experiment in Twitter-promotion articles. You see it almost as much as you see an author use a stat at the beginning of their articles of how many Twitter posts there are in toto to emphasize how much influence a Twitter page really has.)

I really hope to gain some copywriting friends over this next month and throughout this next year.

2017 was a great year, but 2018 will be better. I’ve got a new family I’m working towards on the way that includes the copywriting network I hope to build with these techniques.

I hope you can build them too. And I hope you join my own network as I hope to join yours.

Enjoy life and yourself.


Cameron Edward Reilly (ER Copy)

List of Twitter links: