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Clean up with killer copy

The tortured howls of 1000 undead

If you're selling a clapped-out 25-year-old washing machine with a $1 reserve on a New Zealand auction site, would you describe it like this?

It's the loudest most violent sounding washing machine I have ever encountered. It makes guests scared and children cry. I've lived with it like that for almost a year and it still scares me.


On heavy duty spin cycle it sort of sounds a bit like the tortured howls of 1000 undead writhing in the sulphury pits of hell mixed with a train with carriages full of scrap iron sliding down the road with no wheels, on fire, into a bell factory.


If your [sic] in a fix and need a cheap washing machine and are either completely deaf or hate your neighbours this baby is for you.

TradeMe Ad

And if you did, what response do you think you'd get?

  1. A final selling price of over $5,000
  2. A spot on the TV and international press coverage (e.g. The Times Online)
  3. More than 800,000 page views
  4. Over 800 comments
  5. A spin-off website and new online business (

No? Well that's what Mike Whittaker did. So how did he do it? Through listing the amazing features, explaining the benefits and hiding all the bad stuff behind a glossy corporate-sounding sales pitch? Not exactly…

Mike described the thing in glorious and vivid ways:

…a porthole to another dimension open above it just for a second, there were dinosaurs on the other side…

…I drew a picture of the dinosaurs I saw in case people didn't believe me, they are partly red because my green felt ran out half way through…

…I think it would be good to paint it matt black and put steel spikes all over it and draw demons on the front…

So what's the secret to this killer sales copy?

In a word "engagement". Through a spot of creative writing Mike gave the infernal contraption a vivid identity that caught people's attention and then their imagination. This was the perfect sales copy for his audience, the ‘product' and the sales channel he was using.

And don't forget these stunning results were achieved for an old, battered and truly scary washing machine.

Don't be scared of standing-out

How much would Mike have got with a stale listing? Would he have sold it at all? He definitely wouldn't have built that new revenue source.

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