The Cosmo Kramer Guide To Writing Attention-Grabbing Copy

by Dustin Walker

Last updated on July 27th, 2017

There’s a scene in Seinfeld where Kramer dabbles in copywriting.

Do you remember it?

Jerry’s trying to sell a used van he was guilted into buying from “Fragile Frankie.” So Kramer, being the thoughtful guy he is, offers to write the classified ad for him.

KRAMER: “Here we go, yeah. ‘For sale: a big, juicy, van.’ And oh: better put down: ‘Interesting trades considered.'”

JERRY: “I don’t want any trades!”

KRAMER: “It’s all about tickling their buying bone.”

At the very least, Kramer’s ad is memorable.

In fact, his headline is still being “swiped” by van-sellers on craigslist even after the iconic comedy ended more than 17 years ago. I found this ad just last October:

a big juicy van

The juicy-van scene is among hundreds of deliciously memorable Seinfeld moments that people are still blogging about.

And surprise, surprise: Kramer is the character that’s mentioned the most.

There’s just something about the original “hipster doofus” that makes him impossible to ignore.

He’s authentic.

He’s intriguing.

And he’s never, ever boring.

So if your landing page or website reads like a Jeopardy re-run, try making it a whole lot stickier by trying out these 5 Kramer-esque copywriting tactics.

1. Grab Attention With Unexpected Words

The word “juicy” is what makes Kramer’s van ad so memorable — you don’t expect a van to be described that way, so the copy makes you stop and think. It surprises your brain by breaking the pattern of language we’ve all become accustomed to seeing when scanning car ads.

(But on a side note, adjectives that are specific and relevant to the product are often more persuasive.)

One study showed that the pleasure centers in our minds are “more turned on” when we experience unpredictable pleasant things, compared to expected pleasant events.

Chip and Dan Heath also touched on this in their marketing classic Made To Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, listing surprise as one of the six principles that all “sticky” or memorable ideas share.

But it’s important to consider the context in which your unexpected words are being used.

Consider this page from the folks at Foot Cardigan. They wrote absurdly entertaining copy for a product that’s generally considered to be a boring, utilitarian piece of clothing: men’s socks.

fantastically fantastic

Image source

And despite their linguistic shenanigans, Foot Cardigan’s message is still simple and easy to absorb. That’s important. If what you’re saying isn’t 100% clear, your conversion rate will tank.

You can also surprise readers by making up a new adjective (once again, clarity is key here) or by using a word or phrase that looks unusual. Hipchat does both on this landing page:

hipchat

Image source

2. Bring Readers In With Sensory Language

There’s a scene in Seinfeld where Jerry asks Kramer what a kidney stone is.

KRAMER: “It’s a stony mineral concretion, formed abnormally in the kidney. And this jagged shard of calcium pushes its way through the urethra into the bladder. It’s forced out through the urine!”

JERRY: “Oh, that’s gotta hurt.”

I cringed a little just reading that description.

Why? Because Kramer uses sensory language to make his words more powerful.

When people read vivid copy that engages their senses, it activates more brain cells by causing them to think more deeply about the topic.

As direct response pro Drew Eric Whitman puts it in his book Ca$hvertising, sensory-rich text takes fuzzy images and sharpens them to crystal clarity.

In the example above, Kramer uses emotion-rich adjectives and nouns, like jagged shard, and then combines those with muscular verbs, like pushes and forced. Those words bring the paragraph to life.

It wouldn’t have been nearly as powerful if Kramer had said: This piece of calcium makes its way through the urethra into the bladder. It’s excreted through the urine!

Sensory adjectives are often used by marketers in the food industry to get potential customers salivating. But they also work well for agitating the pain your customers are experiencing.

For example, Trello uses sensory adjectives like “clunky” and “no-longer-so-sticky” in the subhead on this page to describe the problem it solves.

Trello

Image source

3. Insert A Sound bite To Stick In Their Heads

Kramer’s a persuasive guy. Especially when it comes to candy.

In the 1993 Seinfeld episode “The Junior Mint”, he uses a smart messaging tactic to argue for his favorite confectionery.

JERRY: “Why did you force that mint on me, I told you I didn’t want the mint!”

KRAMER: “Well, I didn’t believe you.”

JERRY: “Why didn’t you believe me?”

KRAMER: “Who’s gonna turn down a Junior Mint? It’s chocolate, it’s peppermint -it’s delicious!”

JERRY: “That’s true.”

KRAMER: “It’s very refreshing!”

Notice what Cosmo did there?

He used a memorable sound bite to drive home his message.

It’s chocolate, it’s peppermint — it’s delicious!

Sound bites are concise, easy-to-remember bits of copy that communicate an idea. This tactic is especially well-known in politics, where quotes like “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” are remembered for decades.

One speechwriter for former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair defines a sound bite like this:

“All we mean, really, is a pithy way of capturing the essence of the point. To be or not to be – that really was the question. It was a sound bite too.”

But they work just as well when writing copy for products and services.

Kramer’s Junior Mint quote is a great example of a “rule of three” sound bite. As Derek Halpern of Social Triggers explains: “The first item creates tension, the second builds it up and the third releases it.”

Here’s how Invision uses a rule of three sound bites in the subhead of this landing page:

the design collaboration

Image source

The phrases “Unlimited team members” and “Unlimited projects” build up to the final climactic point: “Unlimited creativity.”

Apple regularly uses sticky sound bites

As headlines on its web pages. Here’s an example of one that leverages the power of contrast.

Iphone

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Much like the element of surprise, contrast works by defying our expectations and forcing us to pay attention.

4. Simplify Your Message With Similes

The show Seinfeld is stuffed with fun similes.

Copywriter Scott McKelvey even compiled this fantastic list of 70 Seinfeldian metaphors. But for me, the ones from Kramer stand out the most.

Remember the episode with the Mackinaw peaches?

KRAMER: “Makes your taste buds come alive. It’s like having a circus in your mouth. Take a taste.”

JERRY: “I am not gonna taste your peach. I ate someone’s pecan last night, I’m not gonna eat your peach.”

KRAMER: “Jerry, this is a miracle of nature that exists for a brief period. It’s like the Aurora Borealis.”

Similes serve as mental shortcuts on your landing pages.

By comparing two different things to create a new meaning, you can simplify complex concepts into something the reader instantly understands or relates to.

When done well, they create an immediate picture in the prospect’s mind.

Kramer illustrated the “miracle” qualities of Mackinaw peaches by comparing them to the Aurora Borealis — something that’s generally understood to be rare.

But similes are especially powerful when you use them to explain complex concepts. As Brian Clark details in this classic Copyblogger article, metaphors (including similes) work best when they “catch attention via the emotive right brain, and close the deal via the logical left brain.”

Crazy Egg offers a great example of a simile in action on its homepage:

crazyegg

Image source

Unless you’re an experienced internet marketer, you may not understand exactly how heat mapping software works or the value it provides. Crazy Egg gives readers an instant explanation by comparing their product to a pair of x-ray glasses.

Here’s another one: copywriter Amy Harrison uses a great simile on this landing page to communicate the value of her online training program in mere seconds.

write the influence

Image source

Similes and other metaphors are especially powerful when they’re relatable on a deep, emotional level. Consider this print ad for the Children’s Defense Fund.

grounded

Image source

You may not understand what it’s like to be a teenage mother, but you do know what it’s like to be grounded. By comparing these two things, this ad builds instant empathy with readers.

5. Be Authentic. Be Different. Be Yourself.

Kramer was never like the rest of the Seinfeld gang.

British newspaper The Independent summed it up like this:

Where they were cynical, he was endlessly optimistic. While the other characters were neurotic to the core, Kramer was at ease with his lot. Where the others were endlessly plotting their smallest move in the Manhattan jungle, Kramer was getting recklessly involved in madcap schemes. Kramer didn’t give a fig. He was an artist.

And Kramer communicated that with every word he spoke.

Always upbeat.

Often abstract.

Rarely critical or hurtful.

And that authenticity made him the most lovable character in a TV show that often revolved around taking pot-shots at others.

You can create that same kind of love by letting some of your brand’s authentic personality shine through on your landing page.

A 2014 study by Cohn & Wolf found that 63% of global consumers would buy from a company they consider to be authentic instead of a competitor.

But you can’t fake this. True authenticity builds trust and credibility by being transparent and honest.

It means cutting out all the corporate bull and showing vulnerability.

It means letting your brand’s personality shine through — right on the page (even if that includes dropping the occasional F-bomb).

How do you do it? Using an authentic written tone of voice is one of the most powerful ways to get into people’s hearts and boost conversions.

You can find great how-to articles on developing a “voice” here and here. But first, have a look at these examples:

Bushra Azhar, of the Persuasion Revolution, oozes authenticity in her copy. Check out the hero section of this landing page:

seduce people

With phrases like “Make Words Your Bitch,” she stands out with a no-BS tone of voice that uses a certain level of humor. It also feels honest and matches her personality.

This retargeting ad featuring Neil Patel from Quicksprout is another brilliant example of authentic copywriting.

QuickSprout Neil Patel

Image source

No pitch here. Just a friendly guy inviting you for another visit.

The beauty of this ad is that it’s being upfront about what a retargeting campaign is all about — getting folks back to the website — while communicating that in a very personable, non-salesy way.

These two examples work especially well because the brands are so closely tied to individual personalities. Now, let’s take a look at how a SaaS company uses authentic personality in its copy.

HipChat publicly states their Open Company, No BS policy in their copywriting guidelines. That mindset comes across in their messaging too. This subhead is one example:

HipChat 2

Image source

Ah, the secret office lolcats.

Hipchat’s aversion to marketing-speak makes the company more relatable, likable and trustworthy. All key elements for conversions.

Adding A Touch Of Kramer To Your Copy

The key to writing high-converting copy is to first understand your prospects and the messages that will resonate with them. That comes long before using any Kramer-esque tactics.

But after nailing down what you need to say, pay close attention to how you’re going to say it.

You’ve got to make sure that once readers hit your landing page or website, their eyeballs will keep moving over every word.

So if you think your page might be adding to all the white-noise marketing BS out there, try looking to the original hipster doofus for a little copywriting inspiration.

Giddy Up.

About The Author: Dustin Walker is Chief Creative at Good Funnel, a conversion-focused agency that uses copywriting, marketing strategy & loads of customer research to help businesses fire up their revenue. If you liked Dustin’s article, check out the latest posts (and freebies) on the Good Funnel blog.

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About The Author: Dustin Walker is a copywriter and partner at Good Funnel -- a conversion-focused agency that uses marketing strategy and loads of customer research to help businesses fire up their revenue. Click here to connect with Dustin or download a free conversion copywriting worksheet.

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  1. Chase says:
    January 22, 2016 at 9:45 am

    Aww yeaaah. I love Kramer. Good, fun article.

    However, I feel that #3 though is too vague to be useful. What makes a soundbite a soundbite? There needs to be an elaboration so people can repeat the outcome. 🙂

    Really, the point you’re discussing is using rhetorical devices—artiful deviations from the usual usage of language. These deviations are what get people’s attention.

    For example, the phrases “Unlimited team members” , “Unlimited projects” , “Unlimited creativity,” uses 3 rhetorical devices:

    1) Parallelism (essentially a tricolon)
    2) Climax (which you pointed out). Specifically, it’s a climax from concrete things to a higher-level abstract thing.
    3) Anaphora (the deliberate repetition of the same word at the beginning of phrases, clauses and sentences).

    The apple example is an “Antithesis”, literal meaning opposite. It’s a rhetorical device in which two opposite ideas are put together in a sentence to achieve a contrasting effect. “so much more”…”so much less.”

    Understanding these devices will help writers deviate from the way people normally talk and create soundbites that get attention and stick.

    Again, though, great article!

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