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Is Satan a Copy Writer? The Effective Use of AIDA to Make a Sale

June 7, 2012 by Larry Dozier divider image

I was speaking with a friend of mine last night who shares two of my passions – God and marketing. I’m not easily startled, but I almost fell off my chair when my friend mentioned that successful marketing began with Satan in the Garden of Eden. After we ended our conversation, I quickly opened my bible and read through the first few chapters of Genesis.

For those not familiar with the story, the first two chapters of Genesis recount how God created the earth, and on this earth he created a garden which he called Eden. When He created Adam and Eve, he placed them in this garden where he provided them with all of their needs. God told Adam and Eve that they could eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden except for one solitary tree, which was located in the middle of the garden.

There’s a lot of speculation about why God would forbid eating from that one tree, and I won’t get into all of that here, but I believe that by making that one tree off limits, God gave Adam and Eve the opportunity to obey Him by not eating from that single tree. But, like I say, I don’t want to get too deeply into the theological ramifications here.

What I do want to focus on, and what startled me, is that Satan very effectively used a widely known copywriting formula known as AIDA to persuade Eve to disobey God and eat from the forbidden tree.

AIDA is an acronym for the four steps of the formula – Attention, Interest, Desire and Action. There are at least as many copywriting formulas as there are copywriters, but AIDA is a classic formula known to most copwriters, and acknowledged to be very effective.

AIDA works like this:

Attention: The advertising copy must immediately grab the readers attention and compel them to read the ad. This is usually accomplished through the use of a great headline or photo.

Interest: The ad must then excite the reader’s natural interest. This is accomplished very early in the ad copy, sometimes with the use of a hook.

Desire: This is the meat of the formula. The ad must build the reader’s desire for the product or service being sold. Psychology and human nature come into play here. Features may be discussed but the main emphasis is upon the benefits to the reader. The Copy Writer must answer the ever present question of “what’s in it for ME?” in order to succeed. In this step, you fan the flames of desire til the embers burn with a white hot intensity.

Action: Every great ad contains a clear call to action, usually placed toward the end of the ad. You want the reader to do something, whether it be picking up the phone, clicking on a Buy Now button or visiting your store. You accomplish this by overtly asking them to do a specific thing.

Now that you understand AIDA, let’s take a look at how Satan was able to persuade Eve to eat the forbidden fruit.

The first thing Satan did was to get Eve’s attention. Because this was a face to face sales call, rather than a print advertisement, Satan got her attention by engaging her in conversation about an important issue – food.

“Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”

This was an interesting attention grabber because it almost demanded that Eve reply with a clarification. God had never said they couldn’t eat from any tree, only one specific tree, and Eve promptly clarified this. In doing so, she entered into a conversation with the salesman. Any good car salesman knows that once the target is engaged in conversation, half the battle is over with, and you definitely have their attention.

Eve clarifies that there was only one tree they couldn’t eat from, and further explains that God had told them that eating from this tree would cause them to die.

Next, Satan stirs up her interest by making an intriguing and astounding claim. He calls God a liar.

“Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.”

Think of the implications here. He just totally rocked Eve’s world with that statement. He had just called God, who is the embodiment of everything good and true, a bald faced LIAR. A statement like this almost demands that the accuser give more information. Eve is now very interested in what Satan has to say. The conversation has moved out of the realm of pleasant conversation and into the real of vitally important information which must be aquired.

Next, Satan rolls out the benefits of eating the forbidden fruit, along with an implicit call to action.

“God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil”

There it is! What’s in it for me? Wisdom, knowledge, the ability to be like God! What do I have to do? Just eat the fruit!

Did it work? Take a look.

“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.”

Shabang! Regardless of the tragic consequences for mankind – and tragic is an understatement – this was really great copy! It caught the woman’s attention, ignited interest, built desire and told her exactly what she needed to do, the action required, in order  to obtain the benefits.

Then – it went viral!

I’ve given this a lot of thought over the last several hours. After all, I’m a very committed Christian man. Am I using a device which was actually invented by Satan? Is there anything inherently evil in writing good ad copy?

I don’t believe so. Satan used the same sales formula which many of us use today, simply because it is extremely effective. The formula itself is neither good nor evil, but can be used effectively for both. As we see, Satan used it for evil, but further reading of the Bible shows us that God is also in the business of persuading people.

The difference is ethics.

Will I use salesmanship and persuasion devices in a good and ethical way – or will I use them in an evil and dis-honest way. If we examine Satan’s sales effort in this chapter, we see that he used this formula in a dis-honest way in order to harm. In marketing, especially Internet marketing, it’s very easy to get caught up in the moment and allow ourselves to drift from our morals and values.

Used in an ethical way, copywriting can very much enrich the lives of our readers, or very much damage the lives of our readers – it’s entirely up to us.

3 Responses to Is Satan a Copy Writer? The Effective Use of AIDA to Make a Sale

  • Wow! What a splendid anecdote being presented here. In a world full of advertising and information – delivered in all sorts of media from print to websites, TV to text messages – every message has to work extremely hard to get noticed. And it’s not just advertising messages that have to work hard; every report you write, presentation you deliver, or email you send is competing for your audience’s attention.

  • In our media-filled world, you need to be quick and direct to grab people’s attention. Use powerful words, or a picture that will catch the reader’s eye and make them stop and read. Gaining the reader’s interest is a deeper process than grabbing their attention. They will give you a little more time to do it, but you must stay focused on their needs. This means helping them to pick out the messages that are relevant to them quickly.

  • To attract the attention of the consumer, the best approach is called disruption. This is a technique that literally jars the consumer into paying attention. Getting people to pay attention can be done easily with a shock. This can be done in many ways, a very common one being sexually provocative imagery. Of course, whatever you do should be tied to the product in some way.

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