Direct Response Copywriting – The Dangers of Getting it Wrong

Direct Response Copywriting – The Dangers of Getting it Wrong

Direct Response copywriting is the most highly paid form of copywriting on the planet.

The recognised experts in this field make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, sometimes just for a single promotion. So, when a copywriter’s looking to find a niche, why wouldn’t you hone in on something so lucrative?

‘You need to be a great marketer before you become a great copywriter’.

This is the maxim that copywriters looking to develop expertise in Direct Response Marketing often hear. The Direct Response gurus put it like this:

‘You need to have a marketing strategy in mind before you write. Get to know the legends of the industry. Look at their razor-sharp insights. Study their strategies, espouse their principles, emulate their success.’

But in aiming to come up with the next multi-million dollar earning concept, it’s easy to quickly fall into some very bad copywriting habits.

A List of Don’ts

You want to prove to every single reader that reads your Direct Response copy that you have the chops to make it – your writing has the gravitas to take its rightful place in the ‘big leagues’. But, in pulling out all the stops to be innovative, you’re in danger of being too…


To emulate the success of the successful, you need to show how ingenious you are – cleverer than other copywriters, cleverer than your readers. You feel that you need to infuse a cornucopia of literary devices, like intricate word play or juxtaposing two contrasting ideas (antithesis).

There is nothing wrong with trying to breathe life into your copy by giving it some flavour – but literary devices need to be sprinkled in, not applied liberally. If you use them excessively, they become too obvious.


I am a wordsmith and I am going to dazzle you with a wide variety of obscure vocabulary with at least five syllables.

Expressing emotions in an imaginative way is an important part of copywriting.  But being ‘imaginative’ in this way, just for the sake of being imaginative, is counter-productive.

Here’s the problem – the vocabulary you’ll be using obscures meaning, which is the exact opposite of the outcome you want. Very few people are going to know what you’re talking about. And even fewer will have the patience to try to guess what you mean. Readers will be so put off by the gaudy ‘exterior’, they won’t see any substance, even if the information you’re providing has merit.


The ultimate aim of Direct Response Marketing is to inspire the potential buyer to take action as soon as they’ve finished reading. To do this, you need to trigger a strong emotional response that creates a sense of urgency.

But in your attempt to make a sure-fire appeal, aiming to tug on the heartstrings of even the most cynical and jaded reader – you can end up sounding like the worst possible version of a dodgy used-car salesman…

‘Increase profits by 1000% overnight with these Ninja marketing strategies.’

‘The weight loss pill that 100% of Victoria’s Secret super-models swear by.’

‘In just 4 minutes a day, our DVD will show you how to get rock-hard abs that women will drool over.’

The modern consumer is too sophisticated to be drawn in by this kind of hyperbole – and will quickly switch off and put your copy in the ‘too outlandish’ basket.

The bottom line

Yes, Direct Response copywriting is a genre of ideas. BUT…

Ignore the temptation to luxuriate in shiny ideas and nifty tricks. Instead, pay attention to the fundamentals. Instead of trying to focus on proving how intelligent you are, show concern for the audience you’re trying to reach.

If you’d like to read more about the art of copywriting, look out for more blogs in this series. Or if you’d like to share your thoughts, contact me at [email protected].