And they did this without the internet

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Have you ever climbed the spiral steps in a medieval castle?

Traipsing up to the top of a wonky tower?

Well, maybe you noticed this…?

The steps run clockwise – always. They were designed that way. So any invader who made it through the ramparts (without getting flayed in boiling oil) was gonna be caught off guard.

If he was right-handed.

Think about it. He’d have no room in the stairwell to swing his sword. So he’d reach the top unprepared. Then he’d be greeted by a gang of swordsmen, already armed and swinging…

Result: his head would be lopped off in one grizzly swipe.

Clever, huh?

Okay, there’s more to it than the clockwise effect. The steps are all different sizes, too – again, by design. The peeps who lived there would know the stair pattern, so they could scurry up in a jiffy. But invaders would trip and stumble, and get to the top in a daze.

Fight over.

I find all this fascinating. And you’ve got to admit – for people who lived without the internet and mostly had rats for tea, them medieval types sure knew their stuff.

And yet…we seem to think we’re smarter than any generation before us.

Know what I mean? We’re dismissing the past as “wrong” or “backward” or “misguided”. Refusing to learn from its mistakes or its ingenuity. We just laugh at the way people used to live. We mock their values, as if they were primitive. When in truth, they’ll be laughing at us from beyond the grave – as the ones who are always reinventing (then rebranding!) the wheel.

Marketers make this mistake more than anyone. Look at it this way…

The pre-internet era holds most of the answers we’ll ever need. Read Claude Hopkins’ Scientific Advertising or Eugene Schwartz’s Breakthrough Advertising, and it’s all there. Keys to the kingdom. Not in sexy fonts with pop-ups and share icons and wotnots. It’s just boring old ugly text – but it’s priceless.

And we ignore it. Thinking we know better.

I’ve lost count of the “social media gurus” and “internet ninjas” who’ve told me “people behave differently online” and “it’s all about engagement now”.

FFS. No, it’s not! It’s just as it ever was.

Folks’ll buy when they want or need you. As long as they know, like and trust you. That hasn’t changed since the days a potato cost half a cow and your first-born son…and as long as we’re selling to real live people, it ain’t gonna change in the future.

The internet is a different means of delivery – nothing more. If you treat it as a special tool where users morph into some other species, you’re going to waste a load of time and money getting no sales.

So, let’s quit reinventing. Our ancestors were way smarter than we give them credit for. So you’ll find more answers in the past than in bright new shiny objects.

UK Copywriter James Daniel

James Daniel

You might not know who I am, but no doubt you've read my copy. If you've ever bought a hearing aid, a pizza oven, flat roof or vacuum cleaner. If you've hired a will writer, an IT guy or accountant. If you've been to events on marketing, acting or how to buy a business. There's every chance it started with a bit of my copy - a few simple, chatty, gently persuasive words. Ring any bells?

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