[Update 23 July 2023: Two and a half years after publishing this post, Stefan found it while he was Googling himself like a narcissist, and decided to write an email about it to his email list making fun of it. I’ve left the entire post intact as I wrote it in 2021, because a) I actually think it aged very well, and b) unlike him, I don’t have to be ashamed of some of the things I’ve said in the past. You can read Stefan’s email making fun of me — and my response — here. The original post follows below.]
Does the thought of losing your job to a ridiculously-smart copywriting AI scare you?
Apparently it scares sales page copywriter Stefan Georgi.
The other day Stefan shared his fears that in as little as 3 years, AI could be a risk to all copywriters … himself included.
Of course, he tried to stay positive by saying that being able to write good copy will help you in other ways … like being the “in-person” salesman when the computer gets smart enough to write better copy than you.
(Well, that’s reassuring! 😅)
But he was clearly worried that AIs are coming for his job … as well as yours and mine.
He’s mostly right!
And guess what?
Once Copywriting Skynet becomes self-aware, the first casualty of the War Against the (Copywriting) Machines …
… will be the kind of copy Stefan teaches people to write.
Not because Stefan teaches people to write bad copy. (He doesn’t.)
But because his approach — by design! — is formulaic.
And the robots are going to eat that stuff for breakfast.
Those legions of rookies who take his RMBC course and pump out formulaic sales letters?
They might as well have “Sarah Connor” stamped on their forehead.
Stefan himself literally advertises RMBC as a plug-and-play deal, which is why newbies love it so much.
So … of course AIs may well be able to do it better one day.
Because in theory, you could program RMBC into a machine …
Combine it with data-harvesting AI that can scour the Internet and do years’ worth of market research in microseconds …
And you’d probably eliminate the need for 90% of these copywriters.
I’m talking from experience, too. In my Inbox Detonator coaching program, I’ve seen plenty of writers who were clearly following RMBC blindly, afraid to even deviate a tiny bit from the templates. It’s so obvious. And I totally agree with Stefan … robots are gonna be way better at doing that.
So if that’s you … better start buying up shotguns.
But there are two ways I disagree with Stefan.
Here’s the first:
There’s no way he, I, or many other copywriters are going to be under threat from AI.
Because Stefan is one of the copywriters who has a skill no AI will EVER have:
He MAKES the copywriting templates.
Yes, RMBC may be heavily formulaic.
(Stefan fans, don’t @ me. Stefan literally says great copy is “formulaic” and an “assembly-line process” on the sales page.)
But the important thing is, he MADE the formula.
He put in the hours to get good and master the first principles.
As a result, Stefan is one of the best copywriters in the world at what he does.
And even though he claims to use RMBC himself, he also knows how to NOT use it if needed.
If RMBC AI robots started flooding the market … Stefan would be able to pivot to write non-formulaic copy that stands out.
That’s something that most of the people who take the course simply can’t (or are too scared to) do.
In other words:
People like Stefan — who create copywriting templates — are fine.
It’s the slavish template users who should be scared.
As for me?
Well, none of my sales letters would be replicable from a template:
- The lead for Upwork in One Hour is … well … unlike any sales letter I’ve ever seen before.
- The sales letter for Market Detective takes an extremely unusual angle to argue for why a course on market research is something you need.
- And even my (opt-in focused) homepage itself works so well because of the amount of times I flaunt convention.
That’s how my brand works. No AI could do that even with 100 years.
“But that’s only copy for YOUR business,” you protest. “What about for some other client who isn’t you?”
You’re missing the point though.
My brand doesn’t stand out just because it’s me.
It stands out because it’s human.
And only a specific person — Daniel Throssell — has the kind of personality, sense of humour, knowledge etc. to do those particular things with his copy.
That makes it unique.
But any other copywriter who can write personality-filled, human copy like this for a brand … will also stand out from AI-generated copy. And thus, be valuable.
This is related to a basic principle of modernisation:
Whenever technology replaces a human industry … it hurts the ‘assembly-line’ workers way more than the skilled craftsmen.
Take … shirts for an example.
I read somewhere that in the Middle Ages, shirts would cost around $250 in today’s dollars.
Nowadays — with sewing machines, cheap transport and more — you can buy a shirt for less than $10 …
… but you can also buy designer shirts that cost way MORE than $250.
In other words, the ‘assembly-line’ shirt-maker saw the value of their work go down from $250 to $10 …
… while the luxury designer is still making the same money, or even more!
It’s the same thing for anything technology helps us make:
Computers … notebooks … bags … watches … guitars … and more.
With few exceptions (e.g. rocket engineering), technology never manages to fully replace the value of a skilled human craftsman.
In fact … often it even increases that value, because it makes the skill rarer.
In my view, copywriting is no different.
IMO, a skilled sales copywriter probably has as much to fear from AI as a fiction novelist.
(i.e. not much)
There’s just too much creativity, skill, personality and human talent required to do it well.
But the newbies who want to buy a course with a “copywriting system” and start making money fast?
Who actually believe the people telling them they could be earning thousands of dollars right out of the gate … if only they buy this one course that will teach them ALL the secrets to CoPy ThAt CoNvErTs?
Yeah … they’re toast 😂
So much for the first part of my argument.
The other thing I disagree with Stefan on …
Is that I don’t believe long-form sales letters will be as relevant in the future.
(This is important, because this is the kind of copy that AI is most likely to learn how to write.)
We already know attention spans are getting shorter. The Shallows by Nicholas Carr (which I’ve recommended) gives a brilliant look at how tech is actually changing our brains and our society. People literally can’t watch movies anymore without checking their phones.
So my view is that the marketing world is shifting away from single, long-form sales letters and VSLs that try to make the sale in one hit …
… and toward businesses like mine, that focus on building a long-term relationship through email marketing.
I’m not alone. I’ve had this view confirmed by some connections in the finance publishing world (Agora etc.) who admit that their huge one-off promos aren’t working as well as they used to.
Maybe some brands are “CrUsHiNg It On CoLd TrAfFiC” with VSLs now.
But there is no doubt that as a whole, these things are more relevant for OLDER markets.
And in the next few decades …
As market demographics shift away from boomers, and towards millennials …
I don’t see super-long copy working as well as it historically has (at least not on its own).
So … what will?
Regular — maybe even daily — emails.
(Or whatever kind of short, regular communication replaces emails … it’s the idea, not the medium itself.)
The process of selling will shift from concentrated, one-off interactions … to being distributed among regular emails that build trust over time.
Not totally, of course. There will always be a place for long copy and impulse buys.
But I believe emails will become far more important in the scheme of things.
And that’s something AI will never manage to do well.
Because the reason emails work is that they bond us to a personality.
And given that we haven’t even passed the Turing Test yet … there is a looooooooong way to go before AI can write regular emails full of personality.
(In fact, personally, I don’t believe it’ll ever get there.)
Ironically … Stefan actually gets this.
He writes a daily email to his list that bears ZERO resemblance to his RMBC method.
One of the best sales page copywriters in the world, selling one of the most popular “step-by-step copywriting templates” in the world, focuses a large part of his marketing efforts on … writing daily emails that do not follow said template.
Which simply … proves my point.
So, what is the future for copywriters?
It’s clearly not just as a pile of skulls beneath the feet of Copywriting Skynet.
Here are the characteristics of copywriters who will thrive after the robots rise:
- Skilled at email copywriting, along with the massive differences in that medium (you do NOT just put short sales letters into daily emails … later this year I will be elaborating on my take on how storytelling works differently in regular emails)
- A solid grasp on the fundamentals of a sales argument — knowing when to break rules rather than slavishly following formulae from copywriting courses
- Good market research skills (you might think this one is weird since this is one area where AIs will get WAY faster than humans — but I believe that while AIs will beat humans in speed and searching power, they will never be able to match a good copywriter’s sense of nuance and lie detection — more on this at the end of this email)
- Work ethic to be able to pump out good copy consistently — i.e. it’s not a “one-email-a-week” deal
- The ability to write not just persuasively, but with personality (something that will set AIs back decades trying to catch up with)
- And related to the above, some good storytelling skills — another thing that AIs will probably never be able to do (it’s one of the uniquely human things about our species)
Copywriters who can do this stuff will be like the craftsman in my example … they’ll always be in demand.
Of course, Stefan Georgi is one such copywriter, which is why he has nothing to worry about.
So am I.
And so are many, many good copywriters.
But those legions who endlessly buy courses promising “templates” and “systems” and “headline formulas” and “swipe files” for writing copy?
They’re gonna be robot food 🤖😵
And on that … I agree with Stefan Georgi.
Okay, so that wraps up probably the longest daily email I’ve ever written.
Hopefully this gives you something to think about with your career.
And if you want a real demonstration of what I’ve been talking about in this email?
Take a look at my homepage at persuasivepage.com…
… and see how much of the appeal there could have been written by AI.
As you can see … there’s a lot more to brand-building and selling than just knowing how to structure a sales argument.
And if you get that … you can rest easy.
The robots aren’t coming for you …