Pattern Interrupt Copywriting Guide For Stealing Attention

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Hi. My name is Carmine and this is a gold fish.

Goldfish 1

Why am I telling you this?

Because that goldfish has taught me a lot about copywriting.

Not actually.

I just wanted to get your attention.

And, that’s exactly what I’m going to be teaching you today: how to use pattern interrupt copywriting to get people to read your copy.

What is Pattern Interrupt Marketing and Copywriting?

Pattern interrupt is a neurolinguistic programming (NLP) technique that interrupts someone’s thoughts and states to grab their attention.

For example, I started off this blog post talking about a goldfish which might’ve caught you off guard or confused you a bit.

It interrupts the normal pattern of reading a blog post or what you’d expect.

Thus, you’re more likely to continue reading.

This is also a technique used in hypnosis, but I promise I’m not doing that right now.

A lot of marketers and entrepreneurs don’t take advantage of NLP copywriting, however.

It’s a shame.

Using neurolinguistic programming in sales copy is one of the most powerful ways to drive conversions, get people hooked, and promote action.

It’s advanced. A little bit of a secret, you could say.

Gong, the revenue intelligence platform, did a cool study on this.

They analyzed a dataset of 90,380 cold calls, and one single open line outperformed the rest.

Beavis gif

Do you know what it was?

“How have you been?”

Let’s step back a bit and think about this.

One, this implies that the caller and recipient have had some form of previous contact.

Secondly, it’s much different than the usual “Hey, I’m Joe Bob from another company that wants to take your money. Do you have five minutes?”

This makes it the perfect pattern interrupt. It’s not the usual opening line you would expect to hear from someone calling you.

Oh, it also generated a 6.6x higher success rate!

Cold call success rate 1 1

When to Use Pattern Interrupt in Copywriting and Sales

Okay, when should you use pattern interrupts in copywriting and marketing material?

Ideally, it’s going to be used at the very beginning of an interaction

After all, most people are skimmers.

They read headlines. That’s it.

If you don’t hook their attention right away, you’ll lose them.

That’s why I suggest first placing a pattern interrupt in the headline of a campaign if possible.

It takes some time and practice, but when done right, it creates truly epic headlines people can’t resist.

Check out this headline from The Motley Fool, for example:

Motley Fool copywriting

“The Next Billion-Dollar Apple Secret” is a pattern interrupt because of its extremely bold claim. (Related read: Apple copywriting examples)

This sales copy was written for a financial news service that The Motley Fool offers for free.

Most people would expect much more realistic investment advice, so this claim is outside the norm. It gets people glued to the screen and filling out the email form.

Take what your readers would expect and flip it on its head. Integrate that into the headline, and you’ll captivate the audience with no problem. 👌

It’s Killer For Email Subject Lines

Many people open an email based on the subject line alone.

Think about yourself.

You don’t want to waste time reading emails that will slow down your day.

Naturally, you use the subject line as a determining factor if it gets opened or dunked in the trash bin.

Michael Jordan slam dunk 1

How can you avoid that from happening and boost conversions? You guessed it. Pattern interrupt.

According to MarketingSherpa, 86% of marketers agree the subject line is the most important element to split test.

Most important email elements

Yours need to be different. It has to cut through the static and do something new.

Most people use basic subject lines like:

  • “Question”
  • “Quick question”
  • “Hey {First name}”
  • “Question about {Company name}”
  • Etc.

Instead, I recommend using a fascinating statistic or piece of data.

Let’s imagine that you’re pitching prospects your new AI marketing software.

Instead of using a predictable, boring subject line, you could write:

  • “{First name}, the AI market is exploding 1,288%!”
  • “{First name}, AI software generates an ROI of 177%.”

You could also make a bold claim to jump from the inbox, like:

  • “Your tech stack probably sucks, {First name}.”
  • “You’re missing out on growth big time, {First name}.”

Close More Deals When Cold Calling

It’s proven that first impressions are everything.

So, it shouldn’t be surprising that the first few seconds on the phone with a prospect are the most important.

It can make or break whether you book a meeting or not.

As I mentioned in the Gong study, saying something out of the norm can drastically increase success.

However, you don’t have to use that exact question. It can be anything related to the prospect and their business.

Or, it could be completely unrelated.

Imagine someone rang you up and asked what you thought about your favorite football team’s recent game.

You’d be a little confused, maybe shocked, yet albeit interested.

This isn’t difficult information to find.

For example, when you’re targeting a lead within a company, go snoop on their social profiles.

Let’s look at my friend Dalton from Huvr.

Dalton Instagram example

Taking a peek at his Instagram, you can see that he enjoys soccer and rock climbing.

If I didn’t know him and cold-called his office, I could say something like, “Hey Dalton, I didn’t know you loved rock climbing so much. I’ve been doing it every week for years!”

It would interrupt what someone thinks a cold call is like.

Pattern Interrupt Examples

Next, let’s look at some examples of pattern interrupts in copywriting and marketing.

Hathaway Shirt’s Yale Story

Let me ask you something.

If you’re about to read an advertisement for a dress shirt, what would you expect?

Probably to read about its quality, fabric, color, and similar features, right?

That’s precisely why Hathway Shirt and David Ogilvy did something bazaar in this advertisement for Hathaway to steal attention:

Hathaway David Ogilvy example

Let’s start with the headline. “How three trunks of India Madras Started Yale University” makes the reader curious to learn the rest of the story.

Immediately the sales copy jumps into a character named Elihu Yale and his experience traveling to India for rare material.

Storytelling and cutting to a seemingly unrelated topic get you interested in reading more and how it applies to Hathaway Shirt.

Note the use of the man with an eyepatch-wearing the product in what appears to be India. The visual also gets you wondering who this man is.

Quickly the sales copy begins elaborating on the Madras cotton being shipped back to New England.

It is hand-spun, hand-woven, and hand-dyed, so it fades and takes on the famous hallmark of genuine Indian Madras. Not imitation material.

Even though these shirts have bold and vivid colors, “they will never clash. Your shirt may be bold—but it will never look garish.”

The advertisement then uses a call to action, telling readers to get a free fashion dictionary and a list of stores that sell these shirts.

Hathaway CTA

Make sure that you tie the main offer in smoothly when using pattern interrupt copywriting, or it can look awkward.

AwesomeWeb’s Banner Ad

Normally advertisements tell you what to do, correct?

Not this one.

AwesomeWeb, a web development service provider, told readers what NOT to do.

In particular, this small banner ad says, “Don’t Click Here! Unless you want awesome web designers & developers.”

Dont click here pattern interrupt

It’s cheeky.

It also instantly grabs your attention because it’s not what you would think a banner ad would say.

You can take this same approach by instructing readers to do the opposite, such as:

  • “Don’t read this”
  • “Don’t buy this”
  • “Don’t click this”
  • Etc.

However, always follow it up with “Unless you want X, Y, Z.”

Scribd’s Mobile App Pattern Interrupt

Imagine you visit to read a good book or document when suddenly you can’t scroll anymore!

A popup appears telling you that to read the rest of the material, you have to download its mobile app.

Scribed interrupt

This is a very literal pattern interrupt.

You’re not expecting to see a big popup when reading a document or book on a website like this.

It gets your attention and then immediately funnels you into their mobile app.

This would then allow Scribd to upsell you on other services to generate revenue.

Pattern Interrupt Scripts For Copywriting and Sales

Here’s an effective pattern interrupt script you can use for cold calling, email, sales letters, or anything in between.

Customize it based on the offer you’re presenting and the individual campaign.

Cold Calling Pattern Interrupt

Hey {First name},

How’ve you been? | {Custom compliment or observation}.

My name is {Name}, and I’m calling on behalf of {Company}.

We help businesses like {Clients} achieve {Results} and thought {Prospect company} would be an awesome fit.

Mind if I tell you more about what we do?

Great, here are some ways we help businesses in {Industry}:

  1. Feature and benefit #1
  2. Feature and benefit #2
  3. Feature and benefit #3

Advertising/Copywriting Pattern Interrupt

{Attention grabbing visual that creates curiosity}.

{Curiosity-inducing headline}.

{Sub-headline that explains a benefit or value proposition}.

{A relevant story and character that can be tied into the product or service}.

{Products features and benefits}.


{Offer, guarantee, and CTA}.

Email Pattern Interrupt

{Bold, mysterious, or customized subject line}

Hey {First name},

{Custom compliment or observation}.

My name is {Name}, and I’m the {Position} at {Company}.

We help clients like {Clients} achieve {Results} and thought {Prospect company} would be a great fit.

Do you have time this week to chat about how {Company} can help {Prospect company} grow? Book a time here.



Concluding Pattern Interrupt Copywriting

Neurolinguistic programming is a high-level skill all copywriters need to learn.

If you’re struggling to keep attention and generate a response, it will do just the trick.

Pattern interrupts, a form of NLP, is a strategy used to tactically interrupt the customer’s expectations and thoughts.

You can then lead them down a path toward the sale with their attention secured.

Pattern interrupts can be implemented into just about any campaign too.

Cold emailing.

…Cold calling.

…Short form ads.

You name it.

If you need a mentor and coach, enroll in my copywriting courses.

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