Origin Of The Color-Coded Copy System
When my friend Sage Polaris offered to help out at my first live event in Niagara Falls, we both thought she’d be managing the sign-in sheet, tidying up water glasses, and answering the odd question.
It surprised us both when she ended up co-hosting the whole thing.
Her talk that day was where I first heard about a personality-based system for writing sales copy, which I later learned is based on the DiSC personality assessment.
Since then I’ve delved into it deeper, and color-coded copy has become one of my core teachings when it comes to writing great emails. I’ve taught this method on podcasts, at live events, and in small rooms at private masterminds.
If you’ve ever struggled with what to put in a 30-email stack for your online course promotion (or wondered why you should have to write so many emails), color-coded copy gives you a simple system for getting it done.
Here’s a rundown of the color-coded personality types:
- (D) Dominance: Direct and Decisive
- Reds are the born leaders, the quick decision makers. They want everything done yesterday.
- Monica Geller, Simon Cowell, Danaerys Targaryen, Buzz Lightyear, Tywin Lannister, Harry Potter, basically all the main characters in Billions
- (i) Influence: Optimistic and Outgoing
- Yellows are the life of the party, even if they always arrive late. They need to be invited more times than you’d think before they’ll take action.
- Han Solo, Joey Tribbiani, Homer Simpson, Oprah, Elaine Benes, Tyrion Lannister
- (S) Steadiness: Sympathetic and Cooperative
- Greens are the story lovers. They’re emotionally-driven and known for their loyalty. They’re kind, patient, and make great team members.
- Jon Snow, Frodo Baggins, Marge Simpson, Luke Skywalker, Neville Longbottom
*I’ve taught this differently in the past! It took writing and researching this post to see I’d mixed up Green and Blue.
- (C) Conscientiousness: Concerned and Correct
- They are detail-oriented, insightful ones who need all the information before they’ll feel safe enough to take action. They take a scientific approach to life. They love a good FAQ.
- Samwell Tarly, Ross Geller, Hermione Granger, Niles Crane, Mr. Spock, C-3P0, Lisa Simpson
Color-coded copy was a revelation to me because it explains things that I’ve been doing instinctively for years. Now there’s a formula to follow that increases the effectiveness of copywriting! If you write emails with these four types of people in mind, it will cut down on your time and help you understand why you're writing what you're writing.
This system illuminates a big part of what makes my emails so effective, but now that I know why they work, I can teach it to you.
This color-coded system works for:
- All marketers!
- Facebook Ads
- Sales Page Designers
- Personal relationships
For course creators and the copywriters who write for them, this information is gold.
Not only will it help you plan and write your emails, you’ll no longer be mystified when one person hates an email and another loves it. For example, ask me if I ever read the upgraded FAQ email. Never. I can barely even read it when I’ve written it myself! I’m extremely low Blue, as you can see from my DiSC results:
A true Blue will read your FAQ email five times and hit reply to ask, “Could you tell me more about this?” Knowing this system is going to give you a framework for crafting all of those emails and help you understand your results.
Sales page designers will get ideas for appealing to the four personality types in their designs.
Facebook ads managers, consider writing ads for all four color types. If you need four variations on a cart open ad, just write one for each profile.
You can also use the color-coded system to understand the personalities of your team and how they all work together, and you can get insight into your personal relationships as well.
Why it’s okay to send lots of emails
I got this email right at the end of a launch, just after the cart closed. This subscriber had missed the whole launch.
It’s affirming to get emails like this. Marketers carry a lot of guilt about emailing too much. Even I have to push through it sometimes.
“Am I really going to send five emails today?”
“Yes, yes I am.”
Remember that there are people who are really excited to hear from you — and once we get into the personality types, you’ll see that there are people who need to hear from you. More often than you think.
(By the way, you better believe I reached out to that subscriber personally during the next launch!)
I’m about to show you how the color-coded copy system can make writing your emails easier, more fun, and better for your bottom line. It’s important to remember that everyone’s got all four colors. These are broad generalizations so I’m sure you’ll identify a little with each personality type.
The 4 color personalities, brought to you by Game of Thrones
RED (D) (DAENERYS)
Daenerys, Mother of Dragons, beloved and feared leader, is a Red. She’s decisive and takes action, often without thinking it through. Reds are always trying to get you to bend the knee. And if you don’t bend to our will?
Death by dragon fire.
Reds want what they want and they want it yesterday. When you’re writing an email with Reds in mind, make it easy for them to get the gist in a few seconds.
As a Red myself, even when people personally email me, I sometimes struggle to slow down and read all the way through. I have to say to myself, “Okay Tarzan, focus. This is important. Read the whole thing.”
Reds want to know the whole story in under three seconds, so for Reds, keep your emails short and punchy. Or, if you need to write a long email with a lot of detail (for the other colors—wait for it), do a TL;DR at the beginning or the end (Too Long; Didn’t Read), and give them the bare bones.
Think of Reds whisper-shouting, “Just give me the link already. Preferably straight to the checkout page because I already made up my mind.”
You can use the P.S. in the same way:
P.S. I’m giving a webinar about color-coded copy on Tuesday at 1 pm ET. Here’s the link to register. (Not an actual link)
Likewise, if there’s a link in your email, it’s a good idea to put one near the top for Reds. How close to the top? If they’re reading it on mobile, will they see the link before they scroll? That's how close.
Make sure that there’s clear hotlink text so that it’s immediately obvious where the link is going to lead them. For example:
Register for The Color-Coded Copy System Live Masterclass (Also Not an actual link!)
This helps Reds skip straight to it. Beware of unclear hotlink text! It doesn't bother only the Reds. It’s frustrating to anyone when they click on a link and it takes them somewhere unexpected. It causes friction, and you always want to cut down on friction.
Monica from Friends is also a Red. She's so decisive and quick that she can come off as a bit cold. There's a misconception that Reds are bitchy but they're not really — it's just their Red showing. 😉
Reds aren’t trying to hurt anyone’s feelings; they're just trying to move on to the next thing because they are fast processors. They don’t always catch the details though, and they also need a good moral compass on their team. (I’m lucky to have Vanessa and Sandra, who are both high Blue/Green.)
If you look at any TV show, you can probably find a Red. Actually, writers tend to balance the cast with all of the personality types.
Hot tip: If you want to write a screenplay, use the DiSC personalities to round out your cast!
YELLOW (I) (TYRION)
Yellows are the fun-loving folks, like Tyrion. He’s very social, loves to be in the center of things, and adventurous. He travelled all the way to The Wall just for a lark! He loves to laugh. When Tyrion’s in the scene, you know it's going to be entertaining.
Yellows aren’t the best at accountability and follow-through though, so they need to be emailed A LOT before they’ll think about signing up for anything. And yes, they do like to be entertained while they’re reading.
On the day of the webinar where Sage Polaris and I taught this color-coded copy system, I sent out this email:
Subject line: Colors Training—Last Chance To Register
This email is for the “yellows.”
The ones who are always late to the party.
The ones who need to be emailed 85 times before they’ll sign up to anything.
And the ones who I LOVE having on my webinars, because they always bring the fun.
The Color-Coded Copy System For Finding The Words That Convert. We’ll tell you how to write for the yellows, the red, the blues and the greens. What they love, what they don’t like, and what ultimately will get them to hit your “buy now” button.
It’s happening today at 2pm ET. So…soon!
Actually, Yellows hate being called late. They often feel guilty about showing up late, and then they turn out to be the life of the party. When people replied to that email, laughing and saying, “That’s me!” I was thinking, “Yep, you're a Yellow, all right.”
Yellows love the funny stuff. They love puns and gifs and funny subject lines and emojis, and anything that keeps them entertained while they read the email.
They also love personal communication. So, if you really want a Yellow to join your program, try sending them a DM or a personalized video using BombBomb.
Sage once told me, “When Yellows come into my programs, they almost never come in through the funnel like everyone else. Instead they’ll pop into Facebook Messenger or into my DMs. We’ll send messages back and forth a few times and they'll be in.”
YELLOW CASE STUDY: EMAIL STAR + COPYWRITER LIZ
Liz is one of my Email Stars. I chased her to join my program back when it was a mastermind.
I knew she was already doing great things with email and I had a feeling she’d be a good fit for Email Stars. So before I even launched, I sent her a video invitation via email. She also got the entire promotion, which was a lot of emails. No response.
I sent her one last message. It was my Hail Mary: “Come on, Liz!”
Here’s what she sent back.
(SIDE NOTE: Email Stars is a digital program now, and it costs a lot less. Click here if you want to get on the Email Stars notification list.)
Liz is a textbook example of a Yellow. As predicted, she was the life of the party. She always shows up. She makes jokes, and she was a joy to have in the program. I'm so glad that I gave Liz the push to come and join.
As someone who sends a lot of emails, Liz’s response was validating. This is why it’s okay to invite people over and over again to a webinar or course, because some people need to hear it that many times.
Like Tyrion, Joey from Friends, and Kramer from Seinfeld, Yellows light up the room and they're always fun to have around. So you want them in your community, even if you have to chase them down!
GREEN (S) (JON SNOW)
Ah, Jon Snow! Sigh. Greens are emotionally driven. They’re known for their displays of loyalty, love, nostalgia, and patriotism. Jon is always loyal and true to his word. He even lost his life for it once. Greens just want everybody to get along. They have the biggest hearts.
Greens love it when I tell heartfelt stories in emails. I occasionally include pictures of my kids and talk about my life as a mom. If I get real and talk about how things are hard and sometimes I just want to hide in the closet, Greens will reply saying, “Oh thanks for saying that, Tarzan. I feel that way too.”
In the middle of a launch I’ll often send case studies and stories. Greens in particular really love that because the stories are full of emotion. Anywhere you can, add it in. For the Green in us, include heartfelt stories, and acknowledge what's happening in the world.
For Greens, I always include warm language and strong visuals too. People strong in Green are highly visual people and they love branded images. I wouldn't recommend putting branded images in every email, but peppering them in for the Greens is a smart idea. Mix it up with non-branded, everyday pictures as well, to keep your emails friendly, as if you’re writing an email to your bestie, as Laura Belgray teaches.
Phoebe from Friends is clearly a Green, with a big Yellow streak. She leads with her heart and is ready to take up any cause. She’s driven by her feelings and doesn't always think through her decisions. (Maybe that’s just a Phoebe thing, I’m not sure.)
I have this weird Green streak: I always cry at parades and during the national anthem.
Greens want to take care of everyone in the room, make people feel good. They’re great at customer support, and making sure people’s needs are met at events. Take care of the Greens, and they’ll take care of you. 😉
BLUE (C) (SAMWELL)
Samwell Tarly, it’s your time to shine! Blues love research and factual details. They know how to extract insights from the data. Remember when Sam solved that complex puzzle in the history of Westeros and figured out who Jon Snow’s parents were? That was classic Blue.
Blues are the ones who read your FAQ emails that are eight miles long — and then email you back with more questions! They’re doing you a great service by replying, because they’re highlighting any gaps in your marketing, questions that you may not have addressed yet.
Hot tip: When Blues ask you questions, add them to the FAQ on your sales page or in future emails for the other Blues who were too afraid to reach out.
For the Blues, be clear on your “Who is it for, who is it not for?” And be crystal clear on what your bonuses are, when they're available, and when they're expiring. If you mess that sh*t up, the Blues are going to know.
Give Blues as much detail as possible; this will make them feel safe to say yes to your offer in an email. Don't be afraid to write long emails (or sales pages)!
My business manager Sandra is very high in Blue and so is my Executive Assistant, Vanessa. You want team members in these roles to be really into the details. The more I go into my Red, which I need to do as I become a leader and the visionary for my business, I need to shut down my inner Blue and rely on other Blues to have my back, taking care of those details.
Ross from Friends is also classic Blue. The Grumpy Grammarian is a classic Blue persona. Taylor Mason on the show Billions is a Blue, but they’re also high in Red, as are most of the characters on Billions.
Lisa on The Simpsons is definitely a Blue. Blues tend to skew towards being nerdy. When Bruce Banner, a Blue, turns into the Hulk, he’s becoming a Red (even though he’s turning Green which is so confusing!). Maybe that's why he's always fighting with himself!
Remember: Blues love reading whatever you have to say. They're soaking up every word, so don’t skimp on the details.
Strategic summary: How to get the 4 personalities to take action
Reds: For direct and decisive Reds, all you need to do is convince them of the ROI and that it's the right choice for them. Give Reds all the details and incentives they need for fast action and they’ll be in if the time is right.
Yellows: Once you've got their attention by sending lots of emails, personally connecting with them (if possible), and making it fun, here’s something that might surprise you: a fast action bonus or a contest might attract Yellows too.
True story: Liz, mentioned above, decided that she wanted to be the first one to sign up for my recent Impacting Millions affiliate promotion and get the fast action bonus. She set her alarm to make sure she didn’t miss the opening! She’s also determined to win a contest I’m running in the group. Are Yellows competitive? Maybe just a little . . .
Greens: For emotionally-driven Greens, write stories they can relate to so that they feel like they belong. Make good use of visuals. Acknowledge the world situation and show how your offer is appropriate for this time. Stay connected to them and they’ll be your loyal fans (and clients) for life.
Blues: For conscientious Blues, provide all the information they need so that they feel safe to make a decision. Make sure your logic is sound. Have a FAQ section on your sales page and in at least some of your emails. Consider making a BombBomb video to answer their questions and concerns (this goes for all the colors!).
And now you know what will ultimately get the 4 color personalities to hit your “buy now” button when your offer is right for them.
Satisfying all 4 colors in one email
You don’t have to do this, but it can be fun to try. Here’s a promotional email I wrote where I magically hit all four colors. It was about my program called “Get Paid in USD,” targeted at Canadians.
HERE’S A TEARDOWN OF THE EMAIL
Subject line: Snoop Dogg thinks you should open this email
[That’s a little joke for the Yellows. A few people wrote to me and said, “Tarzan, you shouldn't use a Snoop Dogg reference for this email because he's not Canadian.” Those were probably Blues that noticed such a small detail. Maybe it should have been “Snoop Dogg of the North.”]
Oh Hey *First Name*. I'm secretly promoting something right now, but it's just for subscribers who love hockey, maple syrup and legalized cannabis.
[Yellows are laughing. There’s a funny gif, which is for the Yellows, but everyone likes it. Along with the Greens, who are natural patriots.]
The reason you're not seeing this super short promotion is because either A, you're not Canadian, or B, you are Canadian, but ConvertKit doesn't know it yet. If you fall into category B, you can fix that by clicking, “I'm a proud Canadian.”
[Blues probably dig this part, because filling out forms is fun, and they like to see me getting organized.]
I can tag you as “definitely smokes weed” in my system. Just kidding. But I will send you some emails about my live workshop, Get paid in USD.
[That last line is funny for the Yellows, and straight to the point for the Reds, who can see the hotlink text, “Get paid in USD.”]
Over the course of a launch, do your best to write for all of the colors. Write short and to the point emails for Reds, add some fun ones for the Yellows, do that FAQ email for the Blues, and include lots of story and visuals for the Greens.
This is why you’ll be sending so many emails and writing long sales pages — there are so many things to share and so many (at least four!) different types of people you need to talk to.
A Side Note About Cannabis, Snoop Dogg, and Digital Blackface
I’ve written a few times in my emails that I smoke weed. I’ve also used GIFs of Snoop Dogg in my marketing. Partly because I like him and I smoke his brand Leafs By Snoop, but if I’m being honest, it’s mostly because it makes me look cool.
Then I read Layla Saad's Me and White Supremacy, and I learned about digital blackface: white people using pictures and GIFs of black people. I didn’t even know that was a thing but I instantly knew I’d been doing it and that it wasn’t okay.
Because I have white privilege and also live in a country where cannabis is legal, it’s completely safe for me to talk about smoking weed. But for decades black men have been killed, jailed for life and victimized in a myriad of ways for cannabis “crimes.”
For me to talk callously about smoking weed (the truth is I haven’t even smoked in months and I’m an extremely light user) just isn’t right. So I won’t be doing that anymore.
The power of connecting with your audience
When you make use of this knowledge, magic happens. You can achieve amazing results, even with a small number of subscribers. The first time I ever had a six-figure month, I had fewer than 3,000 people on my list.
You can't pull that off unless you're really communicating and connecting with your people in a deep way.
What I really love about this DiSC color system is that it humanizes people. You’ve heard me say it before: Let’s not talk about “leads,” let’s talk about the incredible humans we’re beginning a relationship with.
Life lessons from DiSC — how to get along with others
ARE REDS RUNNING THE WORLD?
Because I’m high in Red, I tend to move fast and assume that others are operating the same way. I have a tendency to skip over things or be impatient. Knowing this color-coded system helps me appreciate that others may not be perceiving and processing the same way I am. It helps me serve my clients better and be a kinder, more effective leader.
Once you’ve done your own assessment, think about how your personality type affects your interactions with others. Do you get any insights into how you can work better with clients, team members — not to mention your friends and family?
In online business, it’s easy to get the impression that Reds are running the world, but there are actually fewer true Reds than you think. In order to succeed in business, we all have to step up and put on our Red hats, but only 3% of the population are Red dominant.
So don’t be fooled — if you’re a Yellow, a Blue, or a Green working in online business, you’re not alone!
BUILDING YOUR TEAM WITH THE 4 COLOR PERSONALITIES IN MIND
Part of the reason that my business manager Sandra and I get along so well is that not only is she high in Blue, which is a complement to my Red, but she’s got a strong Green side that I know how to nurture. She responds well when I tell her how amazing she is (which she really, really is!), and she brings out the more patient, gentle side in me.
You can make it optional for potential employees to include their DiSC assessment. Once you know the color personalities and how they work together, you might look at someone’s assessment and say, “Oh, this is exactly what our team needs.”
It’s that instant recognition: “That's what I’m looking for!” It helps you make decisions faster, which I think is one key to having a successful business (that’s the Red in me!).
When you know how to connect with people, you can do extraordinary things.
It isn't just about knowing which emails to send. What it comes down to is personal connections, because we all want to feel heard and seen, and like someone is really going to be there to support us — like there's actually a person on the other side of the screen.
Did the color-coded system just blow your mind, or did you know about it already? Tell me in the comments. I want to know!
~ Tarzan “Stormborn” Kay