Paint Your Copy With Pictures

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An immensely powerful strategy in copywriting is to use words and phrases that help to paint vivid pictures in the mind. When people can visualize the process of doing what you want them to do, including the enjoyment of the benefits of your offer, you also drive their actions.

I call them UPWORDS: “Universal Picture Words and Relatable, Descriptive Sentences.”

In other words, words and phrases that describe ideas the market can universally appreciate and relate to. That is, analogies, metaphors, action words, mental imagery, examples, testimonials, case studies, comparisons, colloquialisms, stories, etc.


Because the brain, according to “Psycho-Cybernetics, A New Way to Get More Living Out of Life” by Dr. Maxwell Maltz, is a goal-seeking mechanism. If I told you not to think of a white flower, you would still think of one because I directed your mind by giving it a goal. But if I told you to think of a pink one, you would then not think of a white one.

In order to direct your readers’ actions, you must also direct their minds. Thus, use mental imagery and picture words that invite, entice, and incite.

Guide the mind and you guide the action.

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, conversely copywriters know that a word can be a thousand pictures. So why not choose better words to paint more vivid pictures?

We think in relative terms. We are predominantly visual. Our brains have a tendency to translate messages into their visual equivalents in order to appreciate what they are being told. When someone says something, and if it’s something new or unfamiliar, we have a tendency to picture what is being said, and to do so unconsciously and extremely rapidly.

In plain English, the mind thinks in pictures, and not in words or numbers. Or as Mark Twain once noted: “Numbers don’t stick in the mind; pictures do.”

Research shows we remember visual images much easier and more effectively than words. Additionally, using mental imagery we take advantage of the brain’s inherent preference and therefore make it easier for it to not only remember information, but also believe in it and take action on it.

For example, if I told you to think of a garbage can, you’re not going to think of “G,” “A,” “R,” etc. You’ll visualize a garbage can. But here’s the kicker: The more I describe it to you as well as the more senses I engage in my description, the more realistic and concrete it becomes in your mind — including its color, smell, texture, dimensions, size, contents, etc.

Also, visualization helps to explain abstract or complex concepts. So convert abstract ideas into images by associating visual symbols that explain the concept through mental association or that has a similar meaning.

During a televised newscast, a reporter, flying over the scene of a forest fire in her station’s helicopter, was asked, “How big is the fire?” In a voice partially drowned by the whizzing sounds of helicopter blades, she said, “It’s over 140 acres of land, which is about 200 football fields back to back.”

Similarly, compel your readers not only with vivid picture words and mental imagery but also with stories, examples, analogies and metaphors that they can intimately understand and appreciate. Help your readers to paint the kinds of pictures you want them to paint.

The more vivid the words paint, the easier it will be for the mind to decode the message you are conveying into something your readers can understand, appreciate, relate to and, above all, act upon.

Scientifically, it’s also proven to increase sales. In a University study, researchers discovered that the more senses you engage, the greater the level of comprehension, retention, believability, and motivation. (This explains why video and multimedia outsells plain written copy, among others.)

If you simply replace vague words in a currently unproductive copy with words that are more vivid, forceful, and vibrant, you will invariably increase sales.

For example, you’re a financial consultant. Rather than saying something like, “Poor fiscal management may lead to financial woes,” say, “Stop mediocre money management from sucking cash straight out of your wallet!” (People can visualize the action of “sucking” better than they can “leading.”)

Instead of, “Let me help you maintain your balance sheet,” say, “Borrow my eyes to help you keep a steady finger on your financial pulse.”

Bottom line, think of analogies, metaphors, stories, or similes you can use to add color and life to your copy.

Source: MorgueFile, Sesame Street (1969)

About The Author

Avatar of Michel Fortin
Michel Fortin is a certified SEO consultant, content strategist, and marketing advisor helping plastic surgeons, cosmetic surgeons, and medical aesthetic clinics attract more patients. Since 1991, he helps cosmetic and aesthetic professionals increase their visibility and grow their practices. He is the author of the More Traffic Memo™ SEO email newsletter.

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