I recently sat down with my family to watch one of our favourite films: The Greatest Showman. And, believe it or not, it inspired me to write this very blog.
As a Copywriter, I am no stranger to writing content – it’s something I do on a daily basis. But watching this film again made me realise that copywriting plays an important role in this story, and we’re going to explore that in this blog.
I apologise in advance for any earworms this article may incite, but let’s dive in!
A little bit of background
If you’re not familiar with the film, The Greatest Showman is based on a real story and shows the endeavours of a historical American showman (you can see where the name of the film came from!) called Phineas Taylor Barnum, more commonly known as P.T. Barnum. Barnum recruited different acts and spectacles and created incredible, circus-esque shows.
These shows became wildly popular and attracted huge crowds, with fans eagerly waiting in long lines to pile into a packed venue just to catch a glimpse of the amazing performances. Barnum’s shows left audiences in awe, and people couldn’t wait to see the new acts and performances he had in store. The film follows his journey, showcasing the trials and tribulations of creating these shows and how they grew in popularity.
Enough about the film, where is the copywriting?
Now, I know what you’re thinking, how on earth does copywriting come into this?
Back in the 1800s, being ‘different’ was frowned upon, and anyone who displayed unfavourable quirks or attributes would be forced to hide away in the shadows. But these were exactly the sort of people P.T. was looking for; he wanted to celebrate these differences and show off their talents by putting them on stage for the whole world to see.
The film’s portrayal of Mr Barnum’s way with words left nobody in doubt of his goals. His presence commanded a room, and his words would make anyone listening buy into his vision – so, he used it to his advantage.
Powerful copy to capture his audience
To find acts for his show, Barnum created posters and plastered them all over New York City. In big, bold letters, the poster stated:
Wanted! Unique persons and curiosities. Daring acts, wonders of the world.
The posters communicated a powerful message that encouraged the readers to take action. By using influential and impactful words like “daring,” “wonders,” “curiosities” and “unique”, it inspired the audience to act, appealing to their emotions and creating a sense of urgency.
By conveying his message, Barnum was able to get flocks of people and performers to come forward and be a part of his show. This is a great example of how marketing materials and persuasive language are able to create an impact on your audience.
Once he had his performers, he came up with intriguing names and created more posters to promote his new acts and encourage the public to come and visit. These acts included Dog Boy, The Irish Giant, and The Tattoo Man.
These statements may be incredibly simple, just two or three words in fact, but they’re powerful enough to spark curiosity. They left the audience with a load of questions that they wanted answers to – so they went and saw the show, a win-win for Barnum!
How copywriting helped P.T. Barnum
He created a brand
P.T. Barnum used his knack for storytelling to create a brand and designed posters to nurture that image. He wanted to give these people a platform and change their lives – which he certainly did.
Through his words, he was able to draw attention to his show, build anticipation and capture the eye of the public – inspiring them to act and buy a ticket.
He engaged his target audience
He went looking for people who were hidden away and used his talent for words to empower them. He wanted to bring these people out of the shadows and used copywriting to emphasise that he was the solution they were looking for.
By targeting the right people and creating an engaging headline that would engage his target audience, he showed them that he had the power to change their lives for the better.
Back in the days of P.T. Barnum, when technology was nothing more than a whimsical idea, the power of words is what propelled his one-of-a-kind show to be one of the most monumental and famous shows of all time – and led to a flippin’ good film as well!
We can’t say for sure, but we suspect that if P.T. Barnum was around today, he’d probably be using PPC, Social Media Marketing, and SEO (to name a few) to advertise and promote his shows – but all of these things still need the power of the written word to be successful. After all, “content is king”.