Just like every religion has its holy book, copywriting has it too. It’s called a swipe file, and it’s a must-have for every copywriter, especially newbies.
Most people are alien to the concept of a swipe file outside of marketing. In fact, outside of copywriting, and that’s why I wanted to bring it up today.
To be clear, the concept of swipe files started from copywriting. Sure. But it can be used pretty much anywhere, especially in marketing.
The major idea behind a swipe file is inspiration. You need to look at the masters to imitate them. But also be mindful that you’re just imitating, not copying.
Moving on to the question most people have at this point,
What exactly is a Swipe File?
A swipe file is a collection of marketing content & copy stored in digital or physical folders. Most copywriters use it to store ads, emails, social media posts, and even sales pages.
Marketers also use it to store pretty much everything related to a campaign. It does the job of an inspiration bank.
If you’re struggling with creativity and don’t know your way out, you can turn to your swipe file. Mind you, inspiration and copying are two different things.
Words, phrases, graphics, or anything else that helps you write better copy can go into your swipe file. It’s nothing fancy. Just a way to make seeking inspiration easier.
Why should I care about looking at old marketing copy?
Well, simply because it provides you the material you need to start. A writer’s block is bad enough, and if you can get to a starting point, it definitely is a sigh of relief.
Meaning that you’d have everything in one place so that you can never be in a creative rut again.
When I say imitating, most people might not understand what it really is. It isn’t copying. That’s for god damn sure.
But what is it then? In simple words, absorbing. It’s learning by seeing. It’s about studying copies that made millions and what made them do so.
Was it the words, the graphics, the offers, or something else? You see and decide for yourself. If you can’t, mix it all and create something of your own.
The ones that did it before you and succeeded might have had some secret sauce. Now you don’t know exactly what that was, but you can find out something of your own.
Anything that does the trick really.
What is the best way to learn from a swipe file?
Being a copywriter, the best advice I ever got was to write copies by hand. I was a little annoyed. I mean how stupid would I be to waste my time writing something that’s already written.
It’s not even original. It’s not me. And to some extent, it wasn’t. But here’s what happened next.
Over the next couple of months, I started enjoying re-writing marketing copy.
I was able to:
1. Understand the writing styles better, labeling what I felt about them.
2. Understand the way copy defines where graphics need to be and increase conversions.
3. Understand how social proof and authority play a role in selling and are almost as important as copy.
This led me to a great discovery. That originality is nothing but collected wisdom. I might have a preference in writing, but I’ve definitely seen it somewhere before and retained it. I’m pretty sure about that.
And the best part is, I’m learning from literally what’s out there. What has worked in the past and what could potentially, with a twist, work in the future too.
So the takeaway is, consume your swipe files. Not tuck it away neatly in a folder that’s not even on your desktop. Make conscious efforts to write, re-write or absorb what’s out there.
This might not work for everyone, but for writers, it hits the right chord every time.
The downside is that any new copy you see would probably feel like you’ve seen it before. But the truth is you haven’t.
You’ve just seen how different styles you’ve absorbed are coming together in this new one.
So, how do I actually build my swipe file?
The word “how” might not be the best here because everybody knows “how.” You can put things in a physical or drag and drop elements in a digital folder, and you’re done.
It’s not rocket science. Obviously. What did you think?
The main question is, where to find it?
There are 3 styles that I prefer, and that’s what I’ll list here too. (Personal blog, you know. My rules kinda thing.)
1. Dedicated Websites: These websites scream “you had one job” in a marketer’s face but not in a bad way. Maybe mockery, but who am I to judge?
It’s like a done-for-you swipe file stored on a website. These websites store thousands of vintage ads, digital pages, emails, pop-ups, modern examples, and more.
2. The holy word: A word that can give you so much learning potential you couldn’t even imagine. The word is “example.”
Feels pretty dull, right? But that’s because I haven’t really told you how to use it.
The way to go about it is to type the kind of copy you want and suffix it with the word example.
Like copywriting examples, Facebook ad copy examples, and so on. The nicher you get, the better your chances of tapping into blogs, much like the one you’re reading right now.
Pro Tip: Check out top B2B SaaS brands in marketing like Hubspot, Unbounce or Active Campaign.
3. Freestyle: This is the old-school bad boy that says anything goes. This is the OG. By freestyle I mean, the game of collections.
Like something on the internet? Screenshot and save. Add it to the swipe folder, and boom! You’re done.
Also, don’t forget offline examples like billboards, newspaper ads, banners, or flyers.
Save it in a physical folder if you’re an oldie, or take a snap and let them meet other examples in the folder meetup session.
The choice is yours.
What you absolutely need to know
There’s never going to be any limit to your imagination. The same are the rules for your swipe file. It’s not just about marketing materials but literally anything you like.
Could be blogs, tweets, fridge magnets, packaging, quotes, or anything else. Make sure it arrests your attention, and you stick around it longer than usual.
A swipe file is not magic, but it’ll definitely help you carve your way to originality.
It’s always good to keep one handy, so you’re never short on ideas. As a marketer or a copywriter, you better not be.