You Might Not Be the Kind of Person Who Can Use This Copywriting Trick


No one likes to be on the wrong side of the velvet rope.

NO ONE likes to be excluded.

In fact, we all dream of being on the other side … the exclusive side.

We all want to stand out as special, significant and superior in some way. We want to be treated like royalty.

A rock star. A billionaire.

And it’s not necessarily about greed or selfishness–although that plays into this.

It’s just something in us that craves attention, significance and meaning … and that’s called pride.

That’s not a bad thing because as a copywriter or advertiser you can use that emotion to motivate people to do what you want.

How You Should Use Exclusivity

Any time you help the reader picture himself as the best, the fastest, the smartest or the center of the universe … you are harnessing that need to be significant, superior and special.

You are harnessing exclusivity. You are punching that pride button.

One of the most famous advertising examples is the America Express exclusivity letter. This letter generated billions of dollars in revenue for American Express, and was used for decades.

The gist of the letter said, “You might not be the kind of person we want in our club. But if you are, and you’re willing to pay the annual fee we require to be part of our club, we’ll give you a try.”

The letter then painted a compelling picture of what kind of benefits you will enjoy if you manage to become an exclusive member of the American Express cardholders club.

7 Examples of Exclusivity

Let’s explore some other ways you can use exclusivity to motivate people to do what you want them to do:

  1. Invitation only. Whether its a person who is labeled as the “doctor to the stars,” a membership to a expensive country club or a secret society, you are on the outside and excluded until you receive an invitation. The American Express Centurion card is by invitation only.
  2. Location. Raw land developers Emerging Terrains offer exclusivity in the remote properties they represent that will only appeal to those investors “with a little pioneer blood running through their veins.”
  3. Online or offline. Promote an offer exclusive to people who buy online. Or, if you want to drive foot traffic to your store, offer a discount to people who buy at a particular store front.
  4. Returning customers. Encourage customers to come back to your site after an initial purchase with a special offer.
  5. New customers. A typical exclusivity trick is to offer new customers an introductory price for joining.
  6. Loyalty cards. Like the American Express card, you can give people a feeling of exclusivity by offering discounts off of purchases when they use your branded card to purchase product.
  7. Personal brand. Strange as it may seem, you can also use exclusivity to promote yourself by being “utterly unavailable.” Those are the words that Robert Bruce used to describe Matt Drudge’s eccentricity … an eccentricity that only adds to the legend of the man behind the most influential one-page, static HTML on the web.

As you can see, exclusivity can be blunt or it can be subtle.

Warning: Exclusivity Can Back Fire on You

For example, if you use the negative power of exclusivity, you can easily alienate your prospects.

Here’s what I mean …

Picture you’ve just opened a brand-new beauty salon. You somehow convinced some of the best looking actors and actresses to visit. You then promote the salon with a tag line that says, “Ugly People Need Not Apply.”

That would cross the line.

The online dating site Beautiful People has carefully toed this line. Anybody can create a free membership – whether you are indeed beautiful or not.

However, and this is the power of exclusivity, existing members vote on whether you belong or not. Talk about intimidating.

Don’t forget, the key to tapping into the power of exclusivity is to position your product as something that can make your prospect feel special, significant and superior.

Got any great examples of exclusivity you’d like to share?

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 Originally published on Crazy Egg.


  1. says

    American Express has always done an extraordinary job at using exclusivity as a branding strategy. One thing you might have failed to notice is that they have never referred to their customers as cardholders. They are CARDMEMBERS, or they have been as long as I have carried the card — since 1969 when I went to work for them. Which supported the “membership has its privileges” position implying added value. And, of course, the “Do you know me?” campaign with celebrities sealing the deal on exclusivity. But it’s not easy to pull this off. You have to deliver on the promise.

  2. says

    This reminds me of a great opening first line of copy I was introduced to when reading a copywriting book by one the Greats (I think it might have been Drayton Bird). It went: “Quite frankly, this [offer] isn’t for everyone because …”.

    Exclusivity in glorious action, partly because it put the reader in the position of wanting to prove why [offer] *was* for them. Thus the reader was also put into a vehement buying mood. And, of course, they didn’t have to prove why the offer was for them very much because the reasons listed were easy for them to tick off as not applicable.

    This opening sentence is great for so many more reasons too. But these are my favourite where Exclusivity stand.

  3. says

    Exclusivity is a brilliant move, but you’re right – it can backfire in a hurry. Look at what happened to American Eagle when they said out loud that they don’t want ugly, fat people wearing their clothes! It’s important to keep it subtle and positive.

  4. says

    I’ve found it interesting that at times you can use “reverse” exclusivity with some effect. For instance, I’ve seen ads to the effect that “You don’t need to have “x” name stamped on you to own a high-quality product.” Given the right target market, I feel like “Don’t fall for the ‘you’re in the club’ gimmick” can be as effective as “Join the exclusive club.”

  5. says

    Great pot Demian….glad I am not too ugly! Also, just wanted to say I have been listening in on you through the Copyblogger Authority system and love what you have to teach and say…Looking forward to more.

  6. says

    The gold card, the platinum card, the titanium card, the black card, we all want to be in the inner circle. That’s where we fell we belong and want to live, self sorting at its finest, being wiling to pay to be in the inner circle.

    Thank you Demian, this is a great explanation of this idea.

  7. says

    This is a great post. I think that branding itself can create exclusivity because it puts you into a niche. But telling your customers outright that you are exclusive is even more tantalizing. And you’re right, there is a line that you really can’t cross or you’ll make a lot of people mad!
    Thanks for sharing, Demian.

  8. says

    Cool article, Demian. I remember Mr Frank Kern talking about this, but his advice was more focused on using higher price points to make your products seem more exclusive. I didn’t 100% agree with that, but your article is already filling my mind with ideas. Thank you!

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