Hitchcock’s Suspense in Sales: Building Anticipation in Your Copy

Suspense in Copywriting

There’s been a murder…

Pretty catchy way to grab some attention right? Well, that’s how legendary director Alfred Hitchcock would often do it.

Recently I’ve been on a HUGE Hitchcock kick after the great Ben Settle had mentioned him a few times in his emails.

Now, I have always been fan of  ” The Master of Suspense”. But when I REALLY started studying his style, especially the way he would GRAB YOUR ATTENTION like a homicidal maniac, that there were many lessons to be learned.

Especially when it comes to copywriting and marketing.

But I’ll get more into that in a minute…

First, you’ve gotta promise me that if you’ve never watched a true Hitchcock masterpiece like The Birds, Psycho, Rear Window or my favorite North by Northwest…


In fact, watch them each once for entertainment…

Then watch them AGAIN in order to STUDY them.

There are literally a TON of lessons to learn for copywriters, marketers and especially anyone who wants to write FICTION.

And being able to write fiction is an INCREDIBLE skill for anyone to learn.

Now, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of how Hitchcock’s suspense tactics can be seamlessly integrated into your sales copy.

Begin with a BANG, then tease the REVEAL

Hitchcock’s knack for opening scenes wasn’t just about shock value; it was strategic genius. The audience, once captivated, would find themselves trapped in a web of suspense. As a copywriter, your headline serves as that cinematic moment, shaking readers from their slumber. Once you ignite that spark of intrigue, it’s about pacing. Like a film reel, slowly unfurl the wonders of what you offer, but don’t give away the climax.

The Art of Misdirection

Hitchcock’s narratives were maze-like, each twist masterfully calculated to defy expectations. One moment you’re on steady ground, the next, the rug’s pulled from beneath. Your copy should echo this dance of anticipation and surprise. Guide your readers, making them think they’re on familiar territory, then dazzle them with the unforeseen.

The “Bomb Under The Table” Technique – Build Anticipation

Hitchcock once described suspense as the anticipation that comes from knowing there’s a bomb under the table, but not knowing when it will go off. In copywriting, you’re doing the same thing. You’re building anticipation. Tease your audience, give them a hint of what’s to come, and keep them on the edge of their seats.

The MacGuffin – Understand Your Customer’s Desire

In many Hitchcock films, there’s a MacGuffin: an item or goal that the protagonist pursues, often with little or no narrative explanation. It drives the story. In copywriting, understand your customer’s MacGuffin. What do they really want? What are they pursuing? Speak to that desire directly.

Time is Ticking

Hitchcock’s ticking clock was more than a prop; it was a heartbeat that accelerated the film’s pace. The audience could practically hear every second, compounding their anxiety. Use this strategy to amplify urgency in your copy. The fear of missing out can be a potent motivator. Perhaps it’s a flash sale or an exclusive webinar seat, dwindling as they read. Each moment they hesitate should feel like a lost opportunity.

Deep Emotional Connections

Hitchcock was more than a filmmaker; he was a psychologist. He knew how to tug at the heartstrings, making viewers emotionally invest in every character and storyline. Your copy should be the bridge that connects your audience’s emotions to your offerings. Dive beneath the surface benefits. When readers see their reflections in your words, they don’t just read; they feel.

The “Wrong Man” Scenario – Relatability is Key

Many of Hitchcock’s films center on the “wrong man” scenario where an average person gets caught up in extraordinary circumstances. Relate to your audience by showing them that you understand their ordinary problems and have an extraordinary solution.

The Unresolved Ending

Hitchcock thrived on the power of the unknown. Some of his films refused neat endings, instead letting imaginations run wild. Harness this tactic by leaving threads of your narrative dangling enticingly. Maybe it’s a hint about an upcoming product launch or a cliffhanger leading to your next content piece. Such tantalizing tidbits ensure your readers remain in your narrative web, eager for the next installment.

Powerful Imagery

Each frame of a Hitchcock film was a meticulously crafted painting. He understood the power of evocative visuals, drawing the audience deeper into the story. In copy, words are your canvas. Weave a tapestry so vivid that readers can almost touch, taste, and smell the scenarios you describe. It’s about creating a mental movie where your product stars, leaving an indelible mark on their psyche.

Cue The End Credits

Hitchcock’s methods might belong to the world of cinema, but their essence is universal: capturing attention, maintaining suspense, and leaving an unforgettable impression. By infusing your copy with these elements, you don’t just inform; you mesmerize. So dim the lights, delve into the Hitchcockian psyche, and let the magic of his storytelling prowess infuse your next piece. In the vast theater of marketing, it’s your time to shine.

Need some help crafting your next suspense filled masterpiece? Then let’s connect…

About the Author

Direct Response Copywriter Robert Sean Pascoe

Robert Sean Pascoe is a direct response copywriter and marketing strategist who works with entrepreneurs worldwide to create advertising and marketing campaigns that MAXIMIZE their profits.

He (obviously) LOVES Rock N Roll, old school pro wrestling, Star Wars and pretty much ANYTHING 1980’s.

With 7 years of freelance copywriting experience and a lifetime in sales, Robert knows how to use the power of words to sell virtually anything to anyone, especially if the market has been properly defined (and you BETTER have that right!).

Robert enjoys primarily working with small business owners to sell more of their products and services through the power of direct response advertising and marketing.

He has written sales copy for companies in such diverse niches as Weight Loss Supplements, Skin Care, Male Enhancement, Local Marketing Agencies, Live Event Seminars, Software Developers, Insurance Agencies, Real Estate Brokerages, Marketing Consultants, and many, many more.

If you need some help crafting a KILLER sales message that puts more of the GREEN stuff in your pocket than contact Robert now.

Freelance Direct Response Copywriter Robert Sean Pascoe

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