I’m talking about the weird but POWERFUL technique know as “transubstantiation” — keep reading to find out how it works and how you can use it.
The idea derives from Christianity where an ordinary substance is changed into an extraordinary substance: bread into the body of Christ for example.
Transferred to sales copy, it’s where you take something ordinary and turn it into the gateway to something of value in a way that keeps your prospect moving through your promotion.
Cloaking “it” in mystery and presenting it as something EXTRAORDINARY or even secret, you then slowly reveal the details sentence by sentence, inching towards revelation but only getting there when the time is right.
Or not at all in some cases—the prospect has to buy to close the question that your copy opens in their mind.
To understand the power of transubstantiation at work, I’ve dissected this sales letter from Agora Financial (it’s a big file and takes time to load).
The reader begins with the Moon landing in July, 1969 . . . and ENDs at an offer of a year’s trial subscription to an Investment Newsletter.
Headline and Subheads
The headline is the hook that you need to bait just right.
Curiosity, intrigue . . . and GREED are all at work in this one.
The big idea is that the “key” to $3.7 billion was “unlocked” on that momentous day in 1969.
“What!?” says the prospect to themself. “I never heard anyone talk about THAT.”
Yep, everyone except the conspiracy theorists (‘Hoax…staged….never landed”… you’ve heard them) witnessed the events of that day on live TV—everything EXCEPT this “bonanza”.
The subhead builds on the intrigue by setting up a connection between the good old days of the 60s and 70s (if you’re in the audience of affluent and probably retired prospects targeted in this promotion) and similar great times ahead hence the “bonanza”.
Plus there’s that red circle drawing attention to a mysterious object in the foreground.
And whatever the hell is going on here, the prospect can find out all about it on August 6.
“Find about WHAT?” the intrigued prospect says yet again to themselves . . . which launches them right into the first section where the untold story of the “biggest ‘discovery’” EVER.
First Few Sections Build Credibility and Urgency
The prospect learns a little more about this mysterious energy “hidden in plain sight” on the moon that day and that moguls like Elon Musk and Warren Buffet AND mega-brands such Apple and Amazon are moving on it . . . and so should you, prospect is the message.
The subhead for the next section introduces the concept through which substantiation in this piece works as well as continuing to build credibility:
“The Way Humans Humans Get Electricity is About to Change Forever” -Bloomberg
“Hmm….what’s this about ‘electricity’?” thinks the prospect.
Having teased this connection and dropped this hint, the writer now names this new form of energy rather than go any deeper: “I call it ‘Apollo’s Energy’,” he announces.
A key element of transubstantiation is the creation of a neologism that symbolizes the main benefit of the product—you take something familiar and turn it into something new and fantastic . . . and secret.
You reveal the secret as you work back from the magical mystery back to reality, even though the neologism is presented as reality to begin with.
The neologism here, then, is Apollo’s Energy, “hidden in that grainy 1969 photo” where the prospect is told just what a boost to the economy this will be as it comes on stream.
It’s an opportunity, dear prospect, that will put you in a position to begin to build “life-changing wealth…” and “make an absolute mint…” is the message.
The Secret Revealed
The next two sections reveal more about Apollo’s Energy to the point of admission that it is, if “you haven’t guessed yet”, solar power.
Now, beginning the letter with solar power would have led to many readers abandoning the promotion right there—who hasn’t heard of solar energy . . . yawwwwn.
But having been drawn into the promotion in these opening sections, the reader can’t help but view solar power in a completely new light, and especially be brought to the realization that the technology to exploit it has not existed up to now.
But now it does and those in the know are moving to capitalize on it.
The promotion transubstantiates bland old solar power that everyone knows about into Apollo’s Energy.
This sets up the path leading into what the letter is really about: the economic opportunity of solar power and finding out about economic opportunities before anyone else in order to make a ton of money.
The author reveals himself as an expert in sniffing out “the market’s best energy plays” in the previous decade and presents testimonials in support of this claim.
He also continues to lay out the data in support of this particular economic opportunity which is set to “lift off” on August 6, the day on which two reports detailing the opportunity will go public.
This in turn leads into the main product, a subscription to his periodical publication Outstanding Investments containing reports such Turning On The Juice: How To Multiply Your Gains From the ‘Free Energy’ Revolution!
The rest of the letter lays out the benefits of the prospect taking him up on the main offer of many reports like this . . . for 365 days risk free—if a subscriber has not got value even on the 365th day, they’ll still get their money back.
The reader will always be the first to know about similar opportunities way before the crowd learns about them.
Here’s How Anyone Can Put Transubstantiation to Use
Here’s what you need to know to properly deploy transubstantiation: it all hinges on delivering your message to the right audience.
Over 50 years ago Eugene Schwartz gave us the 5 levels of awareness prospects have about the product you are promoting.
At one end prospects know nothing about your product or even the problem they face for which your product is a solution.
You MUST determine which of the 5 levels describes your prospects, which means you need to know your prospects VERY well indeed, of course.
I recommend a careful study of Michael Masterson’s coverage of the 6 type of leads corresponding to the 5 levels of awareness.
The Apollo Energy promotion targets prospects in the categories of Problem Aware and Solution Aware.
Prospects minimally know they have a problem; many also know about possible solutions; most probably don’t yet know of specific products that may help them solve their problem.
And their problem is their worry over financial security or the desire to become very wealthy.
The type of lead used in Apollo Energy is the Secret Lead.
Prospects targeted in this promotion probably don’t know about the Outstanding Investments newsletter product— if they did a Promise or Offer Lead would work best.
Given their lower level of awareness, you need more of an indirect approach: the Secret Lead is indirect, plus the unveiling of a secret is exactly what transubstantiation does so beautifully.
Prospects are pulled in at the start with the Apollo Energy secret and end up with the solution to the problem of not knowing about the next big investment opportunity that will bring financial security or make them lots of extra money.
CURIOSITY is central to writing good copy.
The transubstantiation technique is simply a particular use of this power.
Combining curiosity with proof builds trust: you keep the reader engaged and make it more likely they’ll take the action that you want when you ask for the sale.
Any copywriter with even basic creativity can write highly effective promotions using the transubstantiation technique.