3 Steps To Use The Overton Window When Writing Copy

November 10, 2020

(Warning) If you continue reading, you’ll read sentences like…”Letting toddlers freely buy and use LSD at your local mall.” …I promise it’ll make more sense in context…

In the picture below, you’ll see Treviño’s degrees of acceptance… PLUS the Overton Window (OW), which Wikipedia defines as: The range of policies that are politically acceptable to the mainstream population at a given time:

So, in the middle of the OW, you’ve got “Policy.”

Then, the conversations can move in either direction toward “More Freedom” or “Less Freedom”

With the ideas getting wilder and wilder as you move away from the center…

As you can see, this spectrum is usually used in the context of political ideas…

But I think it can be useful when writing copy too…

First, let me show you how the OW works…

Let’s take the topic of DRUGS in the USA as an example…

So, a drug Policy might be the idea that: Kids should not do drugs…

This is accepted both socially and in government law.

Then as you move toward More Freedom…

Something that would be considered “Popular” might be: The idea to legalize marijuana…

Decriminalizing weed is generally accepted socially and many state governments have done this already.

So as the ideas keep getting more away from the mainstream…

You’ll start to head in the direction of “Unthinkable…”

Which—toward More Freedom—might look something like: Letting toddlers freely buy and use LSD at your local mall…

Or in the other direction—toward Less Freedom—

Might look something like: Armed government agents visiting your home to force-feed you daily sedatives, which they call “Happy Pills.”

And you might also notice that the OW tends to change…

One idea could be completely rejected in a specific country or period of time…

While the very same idea becomes widely accepted in a different context… (cough, cough, 2020… cough)

So what does this have to do with writing copy and making you big bucks?

I think the OW has a lot to do with persuasion too…

Most offers in direct response have something to do with “sharing secrets…”

Which if I were to place on the OW would be somewhere around “Sensible” or “Acceptable.”

And I’m now playing around with a new mental model that uses the OW in 3-steps:

  • Step 1: Use a “Radical” (but still relevant) idea to grab people’s attention.
  • Step 2: Use a “Policy” or “Popular” idea as a metaphor/anchor to sell your…
  • Step 3: …Product or service that is positioned as a new “Sensible” or “Acceptable” way of doing things

Reasons being…

Use Step 1 because people usually pay attention to crazy stuff…

Use Steps 2 & 3 because you will want to communicate your value in terms that people can easily understand & relate to.

And of course, a solid Call To Action (CTA) as a bonus Step 4. 

As a condensed example, let’s say you’ve got an online course that teaches people to sell products on Amazon…
 
– Step 1 (radical): “There’s an army of people across the world that want to make you rich. They are waiting for your orders to start working for free… Sound crazy? Let me explain…
 
– Step 2 (policy/popular/mainstream): “Everyone knows that tens of millions of people across the world use Amazon to make purchases every day. Billions of dollars flow through their commerce platform at the click of a button…”
 
– Step 3 (sensible/acceptable): “…What most don’t know is that everyday people are actually selling their own products on Amazon to make an extra (or even, full-time) income! And Amazon even pays for the delivery! So you’ve got an “army” of mail-people ready to deliver your products for free… Let me show you how this works…”
 
So there it is… the OW in copy… use it.
 
 

© 2020 – Michael J. McGovern