The Word Every Copywriter Must Handle with Care


Most copywriters and marketers love the word “new.”

But talented copywriters handle this word with extreme care. Here’s why.

Whenever you’re asking people to consider something new, you’ll run into prospects afraid to make a change. A lot of them.

New does not automatically equal better or easier in the mind of your prospect.

Just think about how you feel when it’s time to upgrade software or download a new operating system.

Ernest Dichter, the Austrian psychologist who pioneered the field of motivational research in marketing, tackled the challenge of selling something new back in the 1930s.

Dichter was brought in by Chrysler to help the troubled Plymouth line. At the time, Plymouth had a low market share and couldn’t break through.

Chrysler wanted to find out why 70% of American car buyers kept buying Fords and GM models, and why they wouldn’t make a change.

Dichter knew that the research Chrysler was doing to try and find out why only scratched the surface. He felt that when people told Chrysler they were satisfied with their existing brands, that this wasn’t the real answer.

In order to get at the real reason, I proposed to the Chrysler Corporation that we use the modern techniques of social science and the interviewing techniques developed in clinical psychology and psychiatry. This was done. The study revealed, among other things, that of the two hundred or so motorists interviewed, the majority had a fear of the unknown as far as the then relatively new Plymouth car was concerned. They felt more comfortable buying a car in which the basic elements and engineering features were familiar to them.

Even more important was the personality, the image of the car, as it had developed in their minds. Up to that point (1939) Plymouth had held up the image of difference. “This car is different from any one you have ever tried,” was the basic appeal being used in Plymouth’s ads. This aggravated the average motorist’s fear of change. Seventy percent of the people kept buying the same make of car they drove before. We suggested this fear of change be counteracted by new advertising appeals which emphasized that it would only take a few minutes to feel familiar with the new Plymouth car.

The change in the appeal worked. Chrysler grew Plymouth’s market share.

When you write copy, don’t be seduced by the powers of the word “new.” Don’t rush in blindly.

Respect the word’s difficulty. Embrace its challenges.

New is obviously a useful word with proven appeal, a powerful concept, and it can solve a lot of the copywriter’s marketing problems.

But play this card at the right time.

Until your copywriting reassures the prospect, and prepares the prospect for what’s ahead, writing copy about what’s new can easily do more harm than good.




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