I’m an angry copywriter.

I hide my deep, intense, dragon-warrior anger a lot on this site and in my books – I pretend I’m, like, zen – but every so often it comes out. And here it is now, showing through loud and clear: my anger.

I’m angry about something.

Something that might seem to be of such little consequence.

Something that, in comparison to most things in life, will feel tiny and sort of stupid.

But something that is, in fact, a major trigger for most of the world’s:

  • Copywriters
  • Designers
  • Web testers (i.e., A/B)
  • Consultants
  • Creative agencies
  • Developers
  • Creator-types in general

Do you want to know what it is that gets me all riled up? Okay, here it is – ready?

It’s the response I’ve heard SO MANY TIMES when I’ve presented a creative concept, a headline or a whole page or experience to a client. (A perfectly well-intentioned client, to be sure. But that’s not the point.)

Here’s the anger-inducing response:

I like it.

>>>growly face<<<

I like it.

It doesn’t have to just be “I like it”. It could also be “I really like it” or “I love it”.

What’s so wrong with saying something as nice as “I like it”? Am I just a major bi-otch?

Maybe, but here’s the problem as I see it and (keep reading) as science sees it: It doesn’t matter if you like a headline, a concept, a page. I mean, hell, I like it or I wouldn’t present it to you – and does that matter? Maybe it matters, say, 15%. And, okay, fine, that you like it also matters another 15%. How about your mom? Does she like it, too? How ’bout the people at your church? If you show it to a kindergarten teacher, will she like it enough to throw a magnet on it and smack it to the fridge?

None of that matters!

Whether we like a headline or creative concept or page design doesn’t matter at all. ………………Unless we’re the ones doing the buying.

All that matters is whether customers are compelled to sign up, buy or otherwise execute on the task we want them to. Sure, before a customer sees something, it has to go through this huge, lengthy vetting process – this insane creative feedback loop – or it would never make it to a customer-facing space to begin with. Gotcha. And, no, I’m not raging against the machine of creative feedback (although…). I’m raging against the type of feedback.

Critical feedback that shows an awareness of a) the customer, b) the data, and c) knowing that you don’t have a clue what’ll work—— that’s all great feedback. Happy to hear it! Happy to give it!

Just don’t say that you do or don’t like it.

(Yes, “I don’t like it” is just as bad. No, wait, it’s worse ‘cos it’s mean, too.)

If you agree not to say it, I’ll agree not to say it or get mad when you don’t say it. Okay?

False Consensus Effect: Proof That I’m Not Just an Angry Copywriter
Okay, so, to my extreme delight, there’s this wonderful psychology principle / theory called False Consensus Effect that basically means this:

You think everyone thinks the way you do.
And you’re wrong.

You can read more about False Consensus Effect here on PsyBlog – and you can check out all the other great psych-stuff while there.

With that effect in mind, you can begin to see why “I like it” is no good and what the assumptions are behind such a statement that make it no good.

Of course, there are 2 possible assumptions whenever a client says “I like it”:

  1. The client thinks everyone else will agree with him/her
  2. The client thinks they’re paying for you to be their hired hands (because their hands are busy writing your cheque) and so all that matters is their opinion

Let’s throw the second one out the window ‘cos those guys are just plain douche-bags. (See? Angry copywriter.)

If we focus on the first assumption, we can see why “I like it” is bad: you think everyone thinks the way you do, but you’re wrong. So stop it.

So What Should You Do or Say Instead of “I Like” or “I Don’t Like”?
Feel free to introduce your feedback with your personal opinions and preferences. Sure – let’s talk about your feelings. Great.

Once that’s out of the way, though, let’s get down to business – the money-making side of business. You hired a writer, designer, consultant, agency or whatever to help you do something that will bring you more money… so we have to look at a headline, concept or page through green-tinted glasses.

When giving feedback, speak about what we all know and/or are hypothesizing about your customers, your site visitors, your identified challenges — the reason we’re all in the room.

That kind of feedback is SUPER helpful.

If you tell me, “Joanna, this headline is all about downloading ringtones when we know that 65% of our visitors come to our site to download podcasts”, great! That’s the kind of feedback I need. Now we can talk critically about the copy. And, trust me, your designers and developers want the same kind of feedback! (If they don’t, um, they’re probably not really inspired, engaged or experienced.)

Finally, to end this rant, if it really comes down to 2 or 3 options, you can’t make a decision on which concept, headline or page to go with, and “like” factors in – but everything else is the same – then you can see which variation your customers/visitors like.

How? Why, by A/B testing of course! Test the 2 headlines, 2 concepts, or 2 pages, and let visitors vote with their credit cards or email addy.

Cool? We’re okay?

Just don’t say you like or don’t like copy, and we’ll all get along great.

I feel a lot better now. Just had to get it off my chest.

Next rant? Peer reviews in Fortune 500s. My blood is already starting to boil.