Before going through the famous writers, I'll give you my most concise definition of copywriting.
Copywriting is the art of writing effective ads.
But this definition is not atomic since I didn't define what's an ad.
And we all know the best definitions can stand on their own.
So here is my more self-sufficient definition of copywriting:
Copywriting is the art of influencing people's behavior through words.
This is not the most fancy one, but it's the most concise and clear way I found to get you to understand what actually is copywriting.
Of course, it's just a definition and if you wanna get a full grasp of the field, you probably want to browse this website and all the free content it has to offer.
But it would be such a really low-value article if I stopped there.
What about trying to list the definitions of all the best copywriters out there?
Disclaimer: I tried to contact many of my favorite copywriters to get their own definitions, but sometimes they didn't answer me (ex: Eugene M. Schwartz). So I just picked an interesting quote about copywriting from one of their books, blog posts or interviews. Feel free to contact me if you think another quote would be a better fit.
Good ol' (and dead) copywriters
Eugene M. Schwartz (1927 - 1995)
Copy cannot create desire for a product. It can only take the hopes, dreams, fears and desires that already exist in the hearts of millions of people, and focus on those already existing desires onto a particular product. This is the copy writer's task: not to create this mass desire—but to channel and direct it.
This is my favorite copywriter. I studied all its ads and rewrote them by hand. If you do one thing after reading this article: buy and read his book Breakthrough Advertising.
Gary Halbert (1938 - 2007)
Perhaps the greatest copywriter of all time. We'll see. Checkout his letters if you just start out.
David Ogilvy (1911 - 1999)
Most good copywriters fall into two categories. Poets. And killers. Poets see an ad as an end. Killers as a means to an end. If you are both a killer and poet, you get rich.
David Ogilvy was considered the "Father of Advertising". He was responsible for the advertising of giants like American Express, IBM and Merrill Lynch... and a lot more.
Claude C. Hopkins (1866 - 1932)
The only purpose of advertising is to make sales. It is profitable or unprofitable according to its actual sales.
Claude C. Hopkins was one of the first advertising pioneers and is also known for his book Scientific Advertising.
John Emory Powers (1837 - 1919)
The first thing one must do to succeed in advertising is to have the attention of the reader. That means to be interesting. The next thing is to stick to the truth, and that means rectifying whatever's wrong in the merchant's business. If the truth isn't tellable, fix it so it is. That is about all there is to it.
John E. Powers is considered the first independent copywriter in the whole history and the "father of modern creative advertising".
Robert Collier (1885 - 1950)
Always enter the conversation already taking place in the customer's mind.
Robert Collier was one of the first authors of self-help books: The Secret of the Ages, Copywriting & Direct Marketing, or Riches Within Your Reach: The Law of the Higher Potential.
John Caples (1900 - 1990)
If you use a poor headline, it does not matter how hard you labor over your copy because your copy will not be read.
One of the most famous copywriters specialized in mail-order advertising.
Leo Burnett (1891 - 1971)
Advertising is the ability to sense, interpret... to put the very heart throbs of a business into type, paper and ink.
Founder of the Leo Burnett Worlwide, Inc., he is also known for his famous "Marlboro Man" campaign.
Copywriting is a mental process the successful execution of which reflects the sum total of all your experiences, your specific knowledge and your ability to mentally process that information and transfer it onto a sheet of paper for the purpose of selling a product or service.
Joseph Sugarman is a legendary copywriter, founder of the mail-order business JS&A Group and author of The Adweek Copywriting Handbook.
Sometimes the best copy to sell a horse is "Horse for Sale".
Jay Abraham is known for his work in developing strategies for direct-response marketing in the 70's.
Copywriting is writing to persuade.
Drayton Bird is a British marketing expert that worked with many big names in the field. He's the author of the best-seller Commonsense Direct and Digital Marketing.
Copywriting for advertising isn’t writing. It’s thinking about how words and images work together to get people’s attention.
Joe Coleman is a contemporary copywriter that has won several awards in his marketing career. He's also known for his amazingly fun website.
James 'Woody' Woodburn
Copywriting is an emotional business. We all know people buy things for emotional reasons… not logical ones.
James Woodburn was Head of Copy for Port Phillip Publishing, an Australian outpost of the US publisher, Agora Inc.
Write more. Write even more. Write even more than that. Write when you don’t want to. Write when you do. Write when you have something to say. Write when you don’t. Write every day. Keep writing.
Brian Clark is the founder and CEO of Copyblogger, a quite famous blog around copywriting.
I’d learned that human psychology doesn’t change and neither do the copywriting rules.
Lorrie Morgan is known as the "hottest copywriter alive" and also the founder of RedHotCopy.
Our job is to use real people’s words to express what they want, what they like, what they need. It’s to make it clear that we don’t have what they don’t want.
Joanna Wiebe is the founder of the great Copyhackers blog.
I fell in love with the thought of using my writing to influence and persuade people.
Demian Farnworth is the founder of Copybot and former chief content writer for Coppyblogger.
You really can’t be a good copywriter unless you learn as much as you possibly can about what marketing is and how it works.
Laurence is one of the UK's most experienced copywriters and founder of freelancecopywriter.co.uk.
No matter how long you’ve been doing this, what you think will work is often wrong.
Founder of the Golden Hippo copywriting agency that generated more than $1B in sales.
You can get new people coming through your door everyday, but if you can’t keep the people you have, it’s like bailing out a leaky boat.
Probably the best still-alive copywriter on earth. Specialized in the health niche.
You should understand and realize that while the goal of copywriting is to entertain, intrigue, get direct response and convert readers to buyers, it is unreasonable to expect every endeavor to be positive. Not even the best copywriters in the world can guarantee a successful and positive outcome every time they write.
Dan Kennedy is... well you already know who Dan Kennedy is. Don't B.S. me.
Choosing particular words and arranging them in ways that lead people to think certain thoughts, feel certain feelings and do certain things.
Gari Cruze is a 15-years experienced copywriter that has worked for a lot of big corporations (Lyft, Google, Slack, etc.). I love browsing its portfolio, it's fresh and somehow inspiring.
Bonus: French Copywriters
L'art de transformer des visiteurs en acheteurs et des acheteurs en acheteurs compulsifs... le tout en utilisant des mots simples et des phrases courtes (si possible).
Tugan is well known in France for his underground marketing techniques. He's considered one of the best copywriters when you target french-speaking people on the making-money niche.
Le fait de rédiger pour attirer l’attention, faire cliquer, convaincre et vendre donc. Ou l’art de faire faire aux gens ce qu’on veut qu’ils fassent, dans leur intérêt et celui de notre compte bancaire.
Greg is considered as the number 1 copywriter in France. Is well known for heroin-like addictive email newsletter.
Le copywriting c'est l'art d'utiliser les mots pour vendre.
Emmanuel is a young Swiss copywriter who has revolutionized the supplement market in France with copies that became classics among the French copywriters. He's also known for having run Fb Ads to get a date in NY.
But there's more...
To have a more complete list of definitions, I need your help.
Please contact me if you know other definitions of copywriting by great copywriters.
Or if you think there are better quotes for the already listed copywriters.
PS : You can also contact me if you think you deserve appearing in this list.