The 4 U’s is more than a copywriting formula. It’s an incredibly useful checklist for writing strong copy for almost any application. It’s a powerful, versatile copywriting formula that all writers should have in their tool kit.
What is the 4 U’s Formula?
The 4 U’s copywriting formula was developed by entrepreneur Michael Masterson, and is a near-universal tool for writing effective copy. The principle of the 4 U’s formula is that copy should be useful, urgent, unique, and ultra-specific.
Useful copy offers a benefit to the reader. This copy informs, educates, solves a problem, or provides some other value for the audience. The usefulness of copy has a lasting impact on a reader, giving them something they can use in return for their attention.
Urgent copy is time-sensitive. It creates the feeling that it is relevant right now, and that action should be taken right now. Urgent copy motivates the reader to act, and provides momentum toward future action.
Uniqueness provides the audience with something they can’t find elsewhere. When a reader feels like they have read this copy before, or they already know the information, or they can get the same benefit elsewhere, they are unlikely to finish reading, let alone take the desired action.
Specificity ensures the reader that you are communicating directly with them. It prevents over-generalization and improves focus. Specificity can often include specific data and information, which builds credibility and authority. In order to create ultra-specific content, a writer has to know and understand their audience, and that understanding builds relationships.
How do the 4 U’s Work in Practice?
Unlike the AIDA and other copywriting formulas, the 4 U’s don’t have to be used in sequence. Instead, they should be used by priority, in a sequence that changes depending on the type of copy you are writing. For example:
- 4 U Headlines. A headline alone doesn’t need to be especially Useful, but should always promise use or utility for the reader. The goal of a headline is to get the audience to engage in the content right now, so Urgency is an extremely important factor. A great headline is also high in either Ultra-specificity or Uniqueness.
- Examples of 4 U headlines:
- Most business owners don’t know about this common mistake until it’s too late (urgent, useful; less ultra-specific or unique)
- New legislation means big changes for moms with three kids (ultra-specific, urgent, potentially useful; not very unique)
- You could lose 10 pounds in 10 days if you love pineapple (useful, ultra-specific, unique; less urgent)
- Examples of 4 U headlines:
- 4 U Content. For your copy to be as compelling and powerful as possible, it should always include all 4 U’s. However, the priority may shift, depending on the type of copy and the goal. For blogs and social content, Uniqueness helps to build rapport and grow a following. For authority positioning and B2B content, Ultra-Specificity builds credibility and establishes expertise. For headlines and CTAs, Urgency makes them more effective. And making every piece of copy Useful is a core strategy of content marketing.
When to use the 4 U’s?
The 4 U’s are most commonly used for short, powerful copy. It’s a great formula for making effective headlines, titles, and short-form posts like tweets or captions.
The 4 U’s are also a great principle to follow for every piece of copy you create: these U’s are the building blocks of effective, high-converting copy in nearly every application.
If you’re interested in this copywriting formula you may want to check out our post ‘A Copywriter’s Guide to the Best Copywriting Formulas’ which contains an extensive list of all the best formulas.
The 4 U’s copywriting formula ensures that your copy stays focused on the needs and goals of the audience. Ensuring that your copy is Useful for their needs, Unique and can’t be found elsewhere, Ultra-Specific to their situation, and Urgent to motivate them to take action now is a great way to guide everything you write.