Where to Start?
There are many copywriting formulas out there all claiming to elevate your copy, sell, convert and make your copy catnip to any reader, driving them straight to your perfectly crafted CTA (call to action) but which formula should you choose and why?
Maybe you already have one or two go-to formulas that work for you but you’re wondering if you’re missing a trick by not exploring the many other options available?
Personally, I think that trying different approaches keeps your writing fresh and serves to help you to find the right fit, even if you do end up back at draft one with your favorite go-to formula.
Simply, going through the process of working with the various copywriting formulas can help you to flesh out ideas, find fresh angles and develop new ways to engage and motive your readers.
- Where to Start?
- How Do You Select The ‘Right’ Copywriting Formula?
- Top Copywriting Formulas Explained:
- AICPBSAWN – Right, deep breath in and go!
- A FOREST
- The Approach Formula
- The 5 Basic Objections
- The 4 Cs (not to be confused with the 4 Cs of Marketing)
- Fan Dancer Formula
- Star Chain Hook
- Star Story Solution
- The String of Pearls – The Art of Telling Short, Compelling Stories
- The OATH Formula
- Open Loops – The Art of the Cliffhanger
- The 4 Ps of Copywriting (not to be confused with the 4 Ps of Marketing)
- The QUEST for Great Copy
- The UPWORDS Formula
- The 1234 Formula
- The 6+1 Formula
- The 4 Us
- The 3 Whys
How Do You Select The ‘Right’ Copywriting Formula?
First, you need to consider what it is that you’re writing:
- Web Copy
- Blog Post
- Social Media Post
- Sales Letters
- Email Campaigns
- Direct Mail
- Client Testimonial
- Advertising Campaign
Preparation Is The Key To Success
Whatever you’re writing, copywriting formulas provide structure and purpose. First, consider the requirements for the piece. What are your objectives? Think about your target reader, content ideas, and key messages. This will help you to hone in on which formulas are most likely to deliver the best fit.
Flesh out your ideas, gather your research and sketch out a plan for what you want to cover. Below I will walk you through the various copywriting formulas and then it’s time to play!
AIDA is always a good place to start but work through some of the other formulas and see where they take you.
Find Your Formula With These Useful Copywriting Exercises
1. Writing Sprints can be useful when drafting copy to keep you focused and ensure you don’t waste too much time going down a route that isn’t working for you.
2. Look around you. Check out the adverts, posts, websites, and content that you like or admire and break it down to see which formula fits.
We all learn from each other and elevate our own copy by trying new things and taking inspiration from the wealth of great copy and clever marketing that surrounds us every day.
A great friend and former colleague of mine always said “no idea is a new idea”. That’s not to say that creativity is a thing of the past, simply that we take inspiration from what’s around us and use that to fuel our own imagination.
Top Copywriting Formulas Explained:
Attention, Interest, Desire, Action. This is probably the most well-known and frequently used of all the copywriting formulas. The AIDA formula, as you will discover, gave life to a great many copywriting formula variations which are detailed below. Each variation builds on the basics to elevate copy depending on the requirements of the piece. Read all about the AIDA formula.
AAPPA is Attention, Advantage, Proof, Persuasion, Action. The theory behind this formula is to ensure your copy provides the proof behind your claims, putting any potential objections to bed and reassuring the reader that your product or service can be trusted. The inclusion of statistics, testimonials, and other forms of compelling evidence makes the reader’s decision to move to purchase a confident one.
ACCA is for Awareness, Comprehension, Conviction, Action. ACCA is a fresh take on the AIDA formula (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action) with a focus on clarity and understanding.
AICPBSAWN – Right, deep breath in and go!
Attention, Interest, Credibility, Prove, Benefits, Scarcity, Action, Warn, Now. This one might not trip off the tongue as easily as many of the other copywriting formulas but it’s worth its character count in gold.
AIDAS is AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action) with an added S for satisfaction. AIDA is one of the best-known copywriting formulas and many other formulas expand on its basic premise.
The addition of satisfaction can be used in many ways, links to testimonials, case studies, and displaying feedback such as customer satisfaction ratings all serve to demonstrate satisfaction and reassure the reader.
As you may have noticed by now, the fast-majority of copywriting formulas are based around the mother of all copywriting formulas – AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action). AIDCA is no different and simply adds Conviction into the mix. This is perfect for overcoming potential objections from skeptical readers, adding an important extra layer to your copy.
A FOREST stands for Alliteration, Facts, Opinions, Repetition, Examples, Statistics, and Threes. A Forest is a mnemonic device that writers can use as a checklist to ensure their copy covers the most powerful and persuasive techniques. It combines classic writing techniques that make words impactful and memorable, along with psychological tools that make copy persuasive and boost conversions.
AIDPPC stands for Attention, Interest, Description, Persuasion, Proof, and Close. AIDPPC is closely related to the AIDA formula, but with the focus on detail and logic to motivate a purchase decision. It’s a step-by-step formula for overcoming objections and increasing sales. Full guide to the AIDPPC formula.
Agree, Promise and Preview. APP works really well across blogs, presentations, and any informative output. You start by connecting with the reader, relating with them over a shared problem or issue.
In the promise stage, you set out your stall in terms of what you intend to deliver. The preview stage is where you explain to the reader how you intend to solve the problem and then deliver on that promise.
The Approach Formula
Arrive, Propose, Persuade, Reassure, Orchcastrate, Ask. This one is great if you have the luxury of a lengthy word count, as it can take a while to flesh out in reality. I tend to think of this one as more like a verbal conversation a salesperson would have with a potential client.
BAB (Before, After, Bridge). The BAB formula is a three-step copywriting formula that presents the problem situation (before), the solution situation (after), and the solution itself (bridge).
It is based on the psychological principle that if you can make your audience feel the pain of the problem situation, and then the pleasure of the solution situation, they will be highly motivated to engage with your product. BAB copywriting formula.
The 5 Basic Objections
The 5 Basic Objections is a tool to help writers create more effective sales copy by putting yourself in the mind of the reader, anticipating their objections, and proactively responding to them. The five most common objections are: I’ve not got enough time, I’ve not got enough money, it won’t work for me, I don’t believe you, and I don’t need it.
The 4 Cs (not to be confused with the 4 Cs of Marketing)
Clear, Concise, Compelling, Credible. This little gem is useful across the board. Whatever you are writing should be ticking these 4 important boxes. The 4 Cs formula serves as a great reminder to remember your audience and write for them.
The FAB formula stands for Features, Advantages, and Benefits. FAB is effective because it appeals to both the rational and emotional side of the potential buyer. When facts, stats, and data are combined with an emotional appeal and the imagination of the reader, it makes for a winning combination. FAB copywriting formula.
Fan Dancer Formula
This coy formula is specifically designed to draw the reader in with teasers and mystery while revealing little or no key information, forcing the reader to click through or read on. This can be a dangerous game if your fan dancer copy isn’t up to scratch, for if the reader isn’t intrigued they will simply stop reading. Make sure the copy is compelling enough to keep them hooked!
I confess that I’ve not tried this one, but wanted to include it to show the vast array of copywriting formulas available, so here goes:
Holler – to grab their attention
Empathize – with the reader’s pain and connect with them
Lambast – the issues that surround the problem
Legwork – present your solution and provide proof
Yes – celebrate the solution
Educate – the reader on why your solution is the best option
Action – present your call to action (CTA)
Handle – eliminate any lingering doubts or objections with testimonials or customer ratings.
Here we have yet another formula derived from the AIDA family. IDCA stands for Interest, Desire, Conviction, Action. This is best used when you want the reader’s focus to be drawn to their need for the product or service in question and overcome any skepticism.
Star Chain Hook
The Star-Chain-Hook formula is simple and consists of three parts; an attention-grabbing opening (Star), a series of facts or benefits (Chain), and a call to action (Hook). Star Chain Hook formula.
Star Story Solution
The star-story-solution formula introduces a compelling character, grabs the reader with a dramatic story, and then introduces the solution. It’s similar to the star-chain-hook formula but relies more on emotional engagement and storytelling. Star Story Solution formula.
The String of Pearls – The Art of Telling Short, Compelling Stories
The string of pearls doesn’t have any clear steps. It is an overarching guide on the structure and layout of your copy. The goal of the string of pearls formula is to highlight your product, service, or idea with a series of short stories or details. Each “pearl” should be self-sufficient, while also building upon the other pearls in the string.
The OATH Formula
The OATH Copywriting formula stands for Oblivious, Apathetic, Thinking, or Hurting and is designed to capture the interest and attention of readers in the pre-awareness stage. OATH is the thoughts and feelings of readers that you need to engage with by addressing their feelings, moving them into the awareness stage and beyond.
Open Loops – The Art of the Cliffhanger
The Open Loop copywriting formula seeks to engage readers and keep them hooked. Unlike the other structured copywriting formulas, the open loops formula doesn’t follow a strict outline. Instead, it highlights a specific technique you can center your writing process around and keep the reader wanting more.
The 4 Ps of Copywriting (not to be confused with the 4 Ps of Marketing)
Promise, Picture, Prove and Push. This is one of my favorites as it is simple, yet effective. Make your product or service promise, paint the picture in the reader’s mind as to why they need it by highlighting the benefits to them and convince them with the facts. Then, the final push and CTA.
Part of the appeal of the PAS copywriting formula is its simplicity. You can understand it just by looking at its name. PAS stands for Problem (sometimes called Pain), Agitate, Solution (or Solve).
The PASTOR formula is:
Person, problem, pain (Identify the issue and bond with the reader over the problem)
Amplify (highlight the consequences and pain caused by the issue in question)
Story, solution, system (outline the benefits of your solution using a compelling story)
Testimonials (use case studies to show how your solution has helped and gain trust)
Offer (Clarify your offer)
Response (CTA or Call to Action)
The QUEST for Great Copy
This is formula stands for Qualify, Understand, Educate, Stimulate, and Transition. First, you need to let your reader know that they ‘Qualify’ by outlining your offer. Then, help them to understand by engaging the reader and showing them they’re in the right place for their needs.
The Education stage is just that. Educate the reader about your offer and how it benefits them. Stimulate, by adding facts and statistics to boost your credibility and reassure the reader, then make the transition with your CTA (Call to Action).
The UPWORDS Formula
This formula stands for Universal Picture Words or Relatable Sentences. The idea behind it is to create powerful images in the mind of the reader and/or relatable examples to give your copy that all too often elusive X factor.
SLAP stands for Stop, Look, Act and purchase. This formula works well if you need maximum impact on a limited word count. The idea is to STOP the prospect with your headline, make the reader LOOK by engaging with your copy, drive them to ACT with the benefits and finally, PURCHASE with your CTA (Call to Action).
The TEASE formula is great for testimonials as the focus is on brevity, clarity, and trust. This is a good formula for when you need to write a short testimonial but still what it to cover the key points.
Tactful – Is your copy tactful?
Empathy – Does it emphasize with the reader?
Authentic – What authentic element have you shared with the reader?
Short – Is the piece concise and to the point?
Engage – Does the copy engage the reader?
The 1234 Formula
The 1234 copywriting formula is simple, yet effective and serves as a great checklist to make sure that your offering is clear to the reader.
1. What I’ve got for you
2. What it’s going to do for you
3. Who am I?
4. What you need to do next
Your copy needs to provide answers to these key points in order to engage the reader, convert and sell.
The 6+1 Formula
This, as with many copywriting formulas, is basically AIDA with a few more bells and whistles. The 6+1 is Context, Attention, Desire, The Gap, Solution, CTA, Credibility. This formula takes the AIDA model and walks the writer through each section of the reader’s journey, ensuring context and credibility are included in the mix to deliver a well-rounded, compelling approach to the copy.
The 4 Us
The 4 U’s copywriting formula 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. The 4 U’s formula.
The 3 Whys
Why Something, Why Us, Why Now? The 3 Whys are so much more than a powerful formula for creating compelling copy. This is also a great tool for exploring strategy, defining goals and focus, and finding the meaning behind your work. The 3 Whys can actually help you find better answers to bigger questions. Let’s find out why. 3 Whys copywriting formula.
I hope this article has given you insight into the many copywriting formulas on offer and the knowledge and confidence you need to give them a try.
Whether you are just starting out or a seasoned copywriter these formulas can give your copy a boost, help refine your offer, generate fresh ideas, and help to deliver on your objectives.