C’mon, admit it.
No matter who you are, at some point in your life, you’ve thought about becoming a marketer. You’ve seen the cheesy copywriting headlines and figured it must be easy. You’ve dreamed about having the big car, carrying an American Express Centurion Card and lolling in your luxury swimming pools for hours on end.
And if you’ve actually looked for books on how to become a copywriter, you probably didn’t get far before coming across Gary Halbert and his virtuously wicked and wickedly virtuous ways.
Why this vice versa? Lots of reasons. Halbert teaches what he calls “neurological imprinting,” a means of training the mind and body to write almost automatically. But the method is so rigorous that using it to learn how to whip out hypnotic headlines and seductive bullets is something that almost no one will do.
And that’s good news!
I’m going to point you to some killer Halbert stuff at the end of this post, so be sure to read to the end so you can learn Halbert’s neurological imprinting method for writing killer headlines and bullets using both free and paid resources. If you take up copywriting, definitely look into this because neurological imprinting will give you a truly cutting edge.
Until then, pay attention because I’m going to teach you about neurological imprinting of a completely different kind. Plus, I’ll also show you exactly how I memorized my favorite Halbert headline and a template headline from Jon Morrow’s valuable (and free) Headline Hacks.
And the best part is that you get to learn how to do it too with lots of fun images and examples.
But before we get to all that, a simple question …
How Would Your Copywriting Improve If You Could Quickly And Easily Memorize Classic Headlines And Templates?
And what if you had a tight pool of templates accessible at any time, any place and under any condition? What if, as you’re reading world class copy, you could almost instantly memorize an amazing bullet and then effortlessly recall it to mind later for reference while writing your own copy?
And as you continue reading this post, can you imagine how much time this would help you save in scanning through your swipe files? Sure, Lawrence Bernstein has some great searchable swipes, but can you imagine what it would be like to be a living and breathing encyclopedia of classic copywriting headlines and bullets?
If these questions intrigue you …
This Post May Be The Most Important Memory Training You’ll Ever Read
I know, I know. Right now, Halbert fans are either laughing or groaning at the wording of this promise … But my goal in the memory training you’re about to enjoy is to live up to it and make this simple memory technique a part of your life as a copywriter.
Here’s the best part: You can extend everything you’re about to learn to memorizing other important information too. Copywriting principles like PAS (Problem-Agitation-Solution) and AIDA (Attention-Interest-Desired-Action) don’t require a whole pile of memory power to absorb, but if you get into Frank Kern’s copywriting training, for example, he’s got a lot of cool terms for processes that you can easily memorize using what you’re about to learn.
But Be Warned!
The following memory technique for memorizing classic copywriting headlines and templates looks more complicated than it is. And it’s all my fault.
The reason for the seeming complexity is that I’ve helped thousands of people learn this memory technique. I’ve received their questions, heard their struggles and realized that …
Most Of The Free Information About Memory Techniques Online Is Downright Criminal!
Because usually it says something like:
“Build a Memory Palace using the place you live right now. Create a journey through your home so that you can mentally walk through it from beginning to end.”
That’s all you get. Maybe there’s a picture, usually an old woodcut from the public domain that illustrates little to nothing about what you’re actually supposed to do.
Then it tells you to practice using the Memory Palace by memorizing your shopping list. Apples, oranges, carrots.
Quite frankly, this advice is criminal too. First off, if you can’t remember the food you like to eat, it’s time to run to the doctor because there’s something wrong with your brain. Unless you’re searching for obscure items for a gourmet recipe that you cannot recall with the same ease as pears and bananas, knock down your doctor’s office door right now. You could wind up improving your memory and maybe even saving it if there’s a tumor lurking in your noggin.
Worse than brain cancer …
Memorizing shopping lists is downright boring! The truth is that when you’re learning to use memory techniques …
You Need To Memorize The Most Important Information In The World!
Because memorizing should be fun. It should be illuminating. It should be linked to something that you love. You want to have so much passion for the material, that should the going ever get tough, you can transfer your positive feelings from your learning to whatever you’re struggling with down the road.
With all that in mind, let’s learn this technique.
How To Memorize Classic Copywriting Headlines And Bullets …Using A Memory Palace Specifically Designed For Copywriters
You’re probably asking yourself … What is a Memory Palace?
Simply put, a Memory Palace is a mental construct based on a familiar location. We’ve had this technique since a banquet hall nearly fell on the head of Simonides of Ceos, circa 514 BC. Because Simonides used memory techniques, he was able to name the dead bodies of those who didn’t survive the collapse. In this way, the practice of linking information that is usually written out of memory (like the names of people seconds after you meet them) with physical locations was born.
Because mentally linking information with actual locations is so successful, people have been using Memory Palaces ever since. And there’s no sign of this fad slowing down.
Now, although it is true that using the home in which you live is a great way to start, you can also use your office, a favorite restaurant or a school. All that matters is that you can bring the location to mind and draw a quick floorplan.
Your recall of the building doesn’t need to be profound. A lot of people I’ve taught get caught up in recalling the color of the carpeting and the tugboat painting that always falls crooked over the fireplace no matter how many times it got straightened.
You can skip all that. Trust me. Go ahead and forego all of the rich details. Of course, you can experiment with total recall if you wish. It is an interesting memory exercise in and of itself. The only problem is …
It Has Nothing To Do With Memorizing Copywriting Headline Classics So You Can Write Better Sales Copy Without Referring To A Swipe File!
Here’s what to do instead:
Focus on the exact layout of the building you want to use. Mentally conjure up the corners of every room, the placement of the major pieces of furniture. Just the furniture that leaps to mind without any special effort.
You can complete this exercise mentally, but it helps to draw the Memory Palace. Just get out a piece of paper and scrawl it out. Like this:
This simple sketch represents the layout of the apartment I live in now in Berlin.
Notice that, in addition to the floorplan, I’ve also created a top-down, numbered list of all the stops along the way. I call these stops “stations.”
There are actually two kinds of stations:
1) Macro-stations. These stations are entire rooms. You will use them to memorize just one piece of information. In the diagram above, #5 is a Macro-station because it is just one room. In this case, it’s the bathroom.
2) Micro-stations. These stations are elements inside of rooms. Couches, tables, beds, chairs. And yes, if you insist, you can even use that crooked-hanging tugboat painting as a Micro-station, just so long as its presence leaps to mind. In the diagram above #1-4 and #6-10 are Micro-stations. They come in very handy for memorizing information of all kinds.
Now, I promised that this was going to be a detailed training, and because we’re talking about memorizing headlines and bullet points from examples of copywriting classics, you won’t at all be surprised when I say …
But Wait! There’s More!
Yes, indeed, there’s more.
You see, what all those thousands of posts and articles online that “teach” you how to build a Memory Palace neglect is exactly how to create a journey through the Memory Palace. (Another crime against the collective memory of humanity in my not-so-humble, but always Magnetic opinion.)
The best way for me to teach you exactly what you need to do in order to achieve Memory Palace success is to extend you a more intimate invitation into a Memory Palace of my own rather than just a sketched out drawing. It has some information pasted onto it, so have a look and then read on for the explanations:
As you can see, this is a very special room. Instead of just using it as my office rehearsal space and research center for studying the art of advanced dream recall, I got extra value for my rent by dividing it up and using it as a Memory Palace (along with other parts of the building and surrounding neighbourhood). In this case, the bookcase, bed, desk, chair, etc. serve as Micro-stations, but the bathroom (not pictured) is a Macro-station. Who wants to place a precious memory on a toilet, after all? It might get flushed!
Potty humor aside, think about this for a second. You can quadruple the value of every building you’ve been in the instant you turn it into a Memory Palace. In many cases, the value will be even higher than quadruple.
It Will Be Priceless!
But before you get started, we still need to cover one critical element. Whether you use Macro-stations or Micro-stations in your Memory Palace, and no matter how simple or complex the structure, you need to get one thing straight:
Make your journey linear.
Because it severely limits the value of your Memory Palace if you wind up tripping over your mental feet as you navigate it. You spend unnecessary mental energy and, worse, you may even wind up forgetting what comes next along the way.
Instead, you want to keep the journey braindead simple. In the case of rooms with Macro-stations, it’s a simple matter to work clockwise or counter-clockwise so that you never cross your own path.
As seen in the photo above, it’s impossible to confuse the journey because there’s no mistaking that the bed is next to the bookshelf and the desk is next to the bed. Likewise, if you’re using your kitchen, it should be a no-brainer to remember that the fridge is beside the cutting counter which is beside the stove, etc.
Keep your Memory Palace journey simple, linear and flowing and it will serve you well. The best part is that when you get this part of Memory Palace construction right, every Memory Palace you build based on these principles will serve you for life. There’s also mounting evidence that Memory Palaces and other memory techniques can help with Alzheimer’s, as discussed in this TedTalk by researcher Kasper Bormans. If nothing else, watch the video to find out why Borman takes up precious stage time to smash this Memory Palace model with a baseball bat.
Moving away from the destruction of memory that Bormans discusses, as a final point on Memory Palace construction, design your journey in such a way that you don’t run into a dead end. The last thing you want is to run out of stations and not have the ability to add new ones.
Plus, running into dead ends can create what I call “Memory Palace Scarcity.” This is a phenomenon I’ve noticed in my readers and participants in the Magnetic Memory Method Masterclass. It’s this fear that they will run out of stations that gets in the way of their progress.
The solution is simple:
Start at a “Terminal Station.” No, it’s not related to death. It’s simply a point that would normally be a deadend. By identifying it, you can start journey at that spot and usually eliminate Memory Palace Scarcity. As a quick tip, you will often find this ideal beginning point at the back of a Memory Palace. In a home, a top-floor master bedroom will normally serve, but it’s entirely up to you based on the nature of the building.
What you don’t want to do, except in rare cases, is start in the basement and then work your way to the top floor and have to jump out a window to continue your journey. This is an action that you wouldn’t do in real life (except in the case of an emergency), so doing it in your mind is jarring and wastes unnecessary energy.
If this stuff sounds super-finnicky, then I encourage you to try building your Memory Palace the other way around. Just begin anywhere without thinking about it strategically.
Can You Guess What’s Going To Happen?
What’s going to happen – I have good reason to believe – is that you’ll wish you had just followed these simple tips about not crossing your own path and not trapping yourself in the first place. So please do take the wisdom of hindsight from my own history of failures and what I’ve seen others struggle with and get this right the first time.
You can look at it like this. Adhering to these few principles is really no different than getting down a few pointers regarding your golf swing. You can get it right faster than other new golfers because you’ve got the right trainer on your side. So too with building Memory Palaces now that you’re using this guide.
Next, all you’ve got to do is run the through the journey once or twice to make sure you’ve got it down pat. Once you’ve done this a couple of times, you can make detailed Memory Palaces like this one, which took only 15 minutes:
Although it might not look like much on paper, it’s fast, dynamic and, quite frankly, Magnetic. I’ve used it to learn and memorize Japanese Hiragana and Katakana, as well as a long list of critical Spanish vocabulary that would have taken weeks using rote learning and spaced-repetition.
And when I say “weeks,” I actually mean “never.” Because that’s what will happen for most people when they don’t get results from index cards and spaced repetition software.
Incidentally, members of the Magnetic Memory Method Family call these rote learning devices the “blunt force hammers of learning.” Sounds dramatic, right?
It is dramatic. It’s dramatic because index cards and spaced repetition software do not engage your creativity, take way too much time and rarely stand up against the memory techniques you’re learning now in scientific trials. Worse, these “hammers” do not honor the natural powers of your imagination. They don’t exercise it either. And that means that it cannot can grow.
Wouldn’t you prefer to learn and memorize in a way that actually makes you more creative in the process? If so, then …
1. Draw a Memory Palace based on a familiar location. This can be your home, your office, church, school or even a favorite movie theatre. All that matters is your familiarity with the layout. You need only the ability to mentally walk through the Memory Palace without thinking about it, the same way you would navigate a building in real life. The same way you can probably move to the bathroom right now on auto-pilot, for example, only in your mind.
2. Create a top-down list of the stations after deciding which kind you will use. I’m not the kind of memory trainer who is going to tell you that one kind is better than the other. The truth is that you should eventually learn to use both for different purposes, but start out by learning the one that appeals to you the most right now.
By completing this step in addition to drawing the floorplan, you’re creating exactly the kind of neurological imprint Halbert talks about, only for memorizing and recalling headlines verbatim.
3. Pay attention to the order of the stations. Remember that a linear journey will eliminate all kinds of frustration. If you need more in-depth information about this aspect of Memory Palace construction, please consult this video I created for you some time ago called “Easily Eliminate Memory Palace Confusion.”
4. Quickly “rehearse” the Memory Palace you’ve built by mentally walking through it 2-3 times. Technically, you should have built the Memory Palace in a brain-dead simple way that eliminates the need for this step. But just as even the best classic copywriting headlines underwent rigorous testing, so too your Memory Palaces. You know the drill …
Now then, let’s move on to the next step. You’re now going to learn how to place information on/beside/in/under the stations you’ve created. This is where things get really exciting because you get to create really zany images in your mind. And you finally get to start memorizing headlines.
Are you ready?
Here’s How To Create Magnetic Associative-Imagery For Memorizing Classic Copywriting Headlines
The first thing we need to understand is what makes something memorable. There are at least three keys components:
1) Vivid imagery
2) Intense Action and Reaction
3) Narrative elements either in part or whole (a.k.a, a “story”)
Let’s go through these one at a time.
Imagery is really important to the brain. For example, if I say “Mt. Rushmore,” what do you see? Chances are, you see faces carved in stone. If I say “Statue of Liberty,” you see The Incredible Hulk’s hot green girlfriend standing on an island with a torch held high in the sky.
If for any reason you cannot “see” these images in your mind in a literal sense, no stress. Just think about what it would be like if you could see these images. Taking this step will often bring some kind of visual characteristic to mind.
You can also identify what “seeing” means in your imagination. For me, it’s often very ghostly, almost as if seeing the aura of an object or person more than thing itself. For you, it might be something else. Spend some time generating insight about exactly how it is that you see things in your imagination.
Overall, most people see better in their minds than they think, something that memory expert Jim Samuels explained very well in my interview with him about using memory techniques to reduce stress.
Intense Action and Reaction
Action is movement that takes place over time. To give a simple example imagine the Statue of Liberty growing wings, flying to Mount Rushmore and illuminating the place so that Lincoln can read the Jefferson Bible (interesting “swipe file” version of the scriptures every copywriter should know).
Flying and illuminating are the actions in this image. To make the image even more dynamic and memorable, we can add a reaction. Something like this:
Thomas Jefferson, seeing his book in front of Lincoln, calls out and asks Lincoln to recite the text aloud.
This is one example of thousands that you can create to help you memorize information like copywriting headlines and bullets. You just need to link the imagery with the information you want to recall and then place that imagery along a journey in a Memory Palace.
As you’ve just seen, the images and actions create a little story. But “story” may not be the right word. Although it has a beginning and a middle and an end, it doesn’t have the full characteristics of a story. It’s actually more like a vignette.
Because stories typically involve a dilemma, a crisis, a decision and action, a battle, a moment of self-revelation that helps the hero win the battle (the climax) and a resolution. For our memorization purposes, we don’t need any of that stuff, but it’s good to know these plot points in case you ever want to write a novel.
In truth, this Liberty/Mount Rushmore learning example of associative-imagery and its action-reaction supplement is pretty tame. In order to take things to the next level and ensure memory, you want your actions to be …
Totally Crazy, Utterly Insane And More Intense Than A Cartoon Fistfight Or Epic Blockbuster Movie Car Chase
And to show you how this works, it’s finally time to move on to memorize a classic headlines. As promised. I’m going to demonstrate with my favorite Halbert headline and favorite from Jon Morrow’s Headline Hacks. Once you’ve understood the process, you can get busy right away populating your mind with your own favorite headlines.
The first thing to do is come to the task prepared with your carefully designed Memory Palace. For the purposes of this example, we’ll use the one you’ve already seen above. Feel free to follow along using the one you’ve designed. (You are following along, aren’t you?)
Then, we need to pick a headline. My favorite Halbert headline is an example adapted from another headline he used for teaching purposes in a letter called Hands On Experience:
“Local Jeweler Swears Under Oath
That None Of Those Diamonds He Sells So Cheaply
Have Been Stolen!“
Next, we need to pick a station in the Memory Palace. In this case, I’ll use the bed for this headline.
In order to memorize this headline, we now need imagery and action with some basic narrative elements. The imagery is going to be placed, not so much on the bed, but in the space hovering above it. Different people use Memory Palaces in different ways, so for you, having the imagery taking place on the Micro-station you use might be best. Experiment with what will work for yourself.
The important point here is that when you revisit this information to recall it, you mentally move to the station where you left it. And because you have many stations in the Memory Palace, you can memorize many headlines and move to them one at a time as you navigate. You can think of the Memory Palace journey as a combination of a roller coaster and the Transporter from Star Trek. You can take the linear journey from beginning to end, leapfrog over them or simply zoom to a single headline.
At this point, we’ve got a line of text. In order to memorize it, we need to create associative-imagery to encode the text so that it’s memorable.
To produce this imagery, it’s good to let the mind relax. Relaxation helps the mind be more creative and silences destructive objections that might arise when your ego detects that you’re trying to improve your life. It prefers you to keep things the same, which is why it tries to quash any attempts you make to change the status quo. I could go on about this, but …
Enough With The Psychobabble! Onward!
Once relaxed, let your mind work over the headline and see what comes to mind. Just let the imagery arise. Don’t judge it. Usually the mind will provide exactly what you need so long as you don’t let your critical faculties stand in the way.
Admittedly, it can be difficult to communicate exactly why certain imagery makes words memorable for a person. For this reason, giving examples can be a perilous task. Nonetheless, I want you to try and see what I see in my mind to memorize this headline so that you can model the process on your own.
Having gone through the process of creating the associative-imagery, to recall this Halbert headline, I see the Hamburglar from the McDonald’s commercials. He’s swearing an oath over some diamonds piled on a Bible.
To remind me that he’s a jeweller, he’s squeezing a jeweller’s microscope into one of his masked eye sockets. He also has a badge that says “local” on his chest.
The judge holding the Bible is dressed like a nun and is trying to steal some of the diamonds. This is the action. The reaction happens when the Hamburglar raises his voice while swearing.
The next step is to concentrate on the image and make it large, bright and colorful with exaggerated actions. Even though stealing diamonds in front of another person would normally need to be subtle, the swipe in this image (no, not swipe file!) happens fast and hectic.
Let’s review the elements and the words they help recall:
* The “local” badge helps recall that the jeweller is local.
* The jeweller’s microscope helps recall that the headline involves a jeweller.
* The judge dressed as a “nun” helps recall that “none” of the diamonds have been stolen.
* The act of theft (action) helps recall the theft element of the headline and the reaction reinforces the act of swearing already central to the image of the jeweller swearing over the pile of diamonds on the Bible
It may seem on the surface that there’s a lot going on in this image. But when once created over the bed in this Memory Palace, the vignette snaps readily to mind.
Again, it’s not easy to communicate how an image looks in my mind, and I’m no graphic artist. However, here’s my best effort to give you a sense of how you can hover an image in your mind above a Memory Palace station:
Having done all these crazy and wonderful things, now comes the moment of truth.
Without the aid of anything other than a Memory Palace, associative-imagery and Sir Gary of Halbert, I can pull from (at any place and any time):
“Local jeweller swears under oath that none of his diamonds have been stolen.”
Oh My … Did You Notice A Problem Here?
I certainly did! The phrase “none of those diamond he sells so cheaply” is missing!
No problemo. Lapses sometimes happen when doing memorization activities of this ilk. If this post were a sales letter (which it might turn out to be …), this part of my presentation would be the “damaging admission” about my memory training. Because the truth is …
Sometimes You’ve Got To Go Back And Make Corrections
Luckily, the Magnetic Memory Method has you covered. When mistakes happen, you need only return to the image and add something.
In this case, there are different options. For example, Shylock from Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice could be inserted. Or the Hamburglar could be chewing on a McNugget that wasn’t cooked quite right and is crying “cheap cheap cheap.”
Yuck! That image is so terrible and disgusting, it’s darn nigh impossible to forget. And that’s exactly the point. The more direct, obvious and ridiculously linked to the target information, the better your recall will be.
By the way, going back to the image to make revisions is called “the principle of compounding.” It’s not always necessary, but when lapses occur, compounding has the pleasant side effects of making the entire image stronger and giving you more creative practice in the gymnasium of your mind.
How To Get Headlines Into Long Term Memory
The next step, once the image has accounted for all elements of the headline and is working for recall, is to revisit a few times more over the course of the day and over the following week. You can use Dominic O’Brien’s Rule of Five. You can also explore some of the more rigorous Recall Rehearsal parts of the Magnetic Memory Method if you wish, but the key point is to revisit and recall the target information using your imagination, rather than rote learning from index cards or spaced-repetition software.
With practice, you can get very fast at memorizing headlines and of course this technique works the exact same way for bullet points that you want to memorize too.
How To Memorize Headline Templates
To make this lesson complete, let’s look at three more examples. Although it’s true that memorizing existing headlines is a great thing to do, more helpful is memorizing headline templates. As mentioned, Jon Morrow’s Headline Hacks is a great resource for getting the best of these.
In what follows, I’ll demonstrate how I memorized my favourite from this ebook. But once you’ve downloaded Morrow’s guide, you don’t have to stop at memorizing just one. Using a well-constructed Memory Palace, it would be a breeze to memorize them all.
In fact, if you’re a serious copywriter or blogger, memorizing even just 20% of the templates you’ll find in Headline Hacks will save you the effort of constantly dipping into the book and other documents in your swipe file because you’ll be able to rapidly produce great headline templates quickly from memory as you write. And although Jon doesn’t mention this explicitly, a lot of his headline templates can be used to make sub-headlines and bullets too.
The Zen of [Blank]
Of the examples given to flesh out this headline template, let’s use “The Zen of Team Meetings: How to Never Lose Control Again.”
The first thing that comes to mind when I think of Zen is a Zen archer. Since the sample headline is about team meetings, I create a group of them struggling for control. This is placed over the desk in the Memory Palace. Like this:
After that, it’s just a matter of entering this Memory Palace to practice recalling both the Halbert and the Morrow headlines, along with the others that have been added. And it’s a fantastic way to make information your own so that you can access and use it at any time.
* You can memorize using Memory Palaces – and you can build lots of them.
* You have a great imagination, but if you ever feel blocked, just get yourself relaxed. The images will come.
* It’s a simple matter to quickly practice the headlines you’ve memorized in just a few minutes a day until you’ve got them in long term memory. Thereafter, the Memory Palace work you engaged in will serve as well for a long time after that.
Listen, it’s really important that you bookmark this blog post. Memory techniques might not be something for you right now. For all I know, you’re not even interested in copywriting. But the reality is that you can use these techniques to memorize anything. And you never know when you might have to give a speech, take professional certification or memorize a list of names for a meeting. The ends to which Memory Palaces can serve are endless.
And so before I go …
Here Are Some Amazing Further Resources!
Here’s Gary Halbert’s letter on neurological imprinting. Just as Halbert says at the end, this one is worth keeping and re-reading.
If you like audiobooks, I cannot recommend the Gary Halbert Letter All Star Audio Series highly enough. You can hear Dan Kennedy, Gary Bencivenga and many more copywriting giants narrate classic Gary Halbert letters again and again to get that neurological imprint going through your ears too. Kevin Rogers, who’s involved in two fine marketing podcasts (Psych Insights For Modern Marketers with John Carlton and The Truth About Marketing), serves as the audio Master of Ceremonies.
If you’re interested in an explicit connection between memory techniques and copywriting, check out this interview with Harry Lorayne by Michael Senoff. In it, Lorayne talks about working with copywriting legend Gene Schwartz to market some of his books on the art of memory.
You can also tune into The Darkside and the Brightside of How Marketers Manipulate Your Memory Every Single Day. Yes, there are some good folks out there who want to persuade you to buy with your best interests in mind.
And then you have me. If ever you have questions, get in touch. This website answers just about every possible question you may have, but I’d appreciate the opportunity to give the answer you need that personal touch. 🙂
P.S. If you found this useful, leave a comment below and tell me how you plan on using these techniques now that you know how to download a swipe file into your mind