Why Every Marketer Needs a Swipe File

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This is a podcast episode titled, Why Every Marketer Needs a Swipe File. The summary for this episode is: Keeping a swipe file has been a game-changer for DG. It helps him come up with ideas and find patterns between ideas. If you don’t have a swipe file, you should definitely consider it. It's so important, we named our show after the concept ;)

DG: Hey, it's DG, and on this episode of the Swipe File, this is a super meta thing, I'm gonna talk about why every marketer needs a swipe file. Which is actually how I got the name for this podcast. But I've been keeping a swipe file since I read that the old great copywriters used to do it a couple of years ago, and it's completely changed the way I do marketing. It helped me come up with more ideas, get more inspiration, and just write better copy and come up with greater concepts. So, I thought we'd do an episode just talking about the value of a swipe file. And, hey, little fun fact, that's how we got the name for this thing. So here we go, this is why every marketer needs a swipe file.

Speaker 2: Thing I want to talk about today, speaking of ideas, I want to talk about keeping a swipe file. Because for me, keeping a swipe file has been an absolute game changer for coming up with ideas, looking at patterns for common and familiar ideas. And what made me think of this is I'm reading this book right now called, Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This, by Luke Sullivan. And he's an ad agency guy for 30 years, and the book is about a bunch of different advertising and copywriting things but he talks mainly about this guy, William Bernbach. Bernbach was the guy who, if you've ever seen the legendary, the black and white, because it's old, VW ads? One of them is lemon and the other one is think small. Bernbach did all those. I think he actually did also the Avis ad, which is I've talked about this a bunch, but if this is the first time listening there was this amazing Avis ad. Avis was second in the rental market next to Hertz. And so they had to come up with some different positioning. And so their positioning was, Hey, why should you go with us? Well, we're only number two so we have to try harder. There's shorter lines, our cars are cleaner, blah blah. So anyway, he's talking about Bernbach in the book and tells a story about how in the early days of his agency, this guy, Luke Sullivan, his manager told him, he said, look, this is your first month, whatever, year on the job, I want you to copy ideas until you have your own that are great. Unless what you come up with is better, I want you to copy other people's ideas and innovate on them. And that is everything. We talked about this so much on Seeking Wisdom, which is innovate don't invent. And I still think I see this mistake happened so many times where everybody wants to create something brand new, where you can get just as far if you can copy something that already exists. And I'm not saying plagiarize, but go back and look. Steve jobs said it, good artists copy, great artists steal. Or the other way around. Whatever way that makes that quote best and make the most sense, that's the example. That to me, that's why I keep a swipe file. There are so many ideas out there and so many good examples of stuff that you have to be able to go and pull from that. Every time you have to go create a webinar, or a landing page, or write a press release, or create ad copy, you can't sit there and just go and invent that from scratch every single time. So for me, I keep a swipe file, it's in Evernote and Evernote's amazing for this, because they have a system where you can just tag stuff. So I have one big notebook in Evernote called swipe file. And then everything that I add there, I can add little tags. The tags make it sortable. For Drift, for example, there's stuff that relates to Drifts messaging and positioning. I put all those in a file that I call like Drifts story. Then when I need to find something that's related to Drift's messaging and positioning, or things I want to use later, I can just go sort Drift story. Another example is pricing page copy. Pricing pages are notoriously hard to write. I just keep a stash of great copy from pricing pages, and those are all in my swipe file under the tag, pricing page. I do this for everything now. I do this for blog posts ideas that I think are good podcast ideas, ad copy, I put everything in that swipe file. The crazy part about having a swipe file is that oftentimes I don't even reference it. It's the act of just saving stuff there that forces me to remember it, because something happens in my brain when I actually saved it there, something happens. It's like, oh yeah, I do have a good example of that, that I can lean on. Then occasionally I can actually just go and search for it and find good examples. So I can't talk enough about a swipe file. And this is something that, again, not to make this whole podcast about, and not to make my marketing podcast all about lessons from the copywriting old school days, but they all did this. They had a drawer, literally a drawer. My wife kills me cause she says, I says, drawer like, I'm drawing like hand drawing, but that's what it is to me, it's a drawer, drawer. They would keep a drawer full of literally a cabinet where they would pull out ideas, they would pull out something, files from the drawer and they would say, hey, look, here's an example of X, Y, and Z. And before they ever wrote anything, they would pull from those examples to then go out and create it. If you don't have a swipe file already, that's the tip I want to leave you with today, is start keeping one. The next time that people start sending you ideas, I don't know if you have a company where my CEO, David, he sends us a million ideas, people on the team, I just save everything. I save the things that I like and think are good and I have them for later. So my push for you is to keep a swipe file, whether you're in marketing, sales, I would definitely do this in sales, to keep a list of emails that worked, messages that worked, I would always keep that. Even in product; designs, common patterns that we want to use, great examples of mobiles inside of an app or something like that. I would always keep a swipe file. I don't see enough people doing it. The reason I wanted to do this podcast is cause whenever I tell people that I have a swipe file, they're like, whoa, oh, that's so cool, what's in it? How do you use it? I heard the copywriters used to do that, but I don't have one. Just do it. It's in Evernote., It's so easy. Just start clipping there. You can also get the Evernote web clipper. In Chrome, just add the web clipper. Every article that I'm on online within one click, I can just save it to my swipe file for later. Ultimately the lesson is keep a swipe file. The bigger lesson here is to copy until you make yours better. It's crazy to sit around and have a blank slate and be stuck all the time. Use the swipe file to come with ideas, to draw from inspiration, and it's so much easier to copy an existing framework and then make your version of it than it is to start from scratch. That's not just easier on you, that's going to be easier on the people that are going to be interacting with your stuff. Because you have to lean on common patterns and familiar patterns. If you're going to introduce something brand new to somebody they've never seen before, the learning curve there is going to be a little bit higher. So I always try to take something that's common and existing and then make my version of it. That's what I got for you today. I hope everybody is having amazing week.

Speaker 3: Thanks for listening to this episode of the swipe file. If you like the podcast, make sure to subscribe, leave a review, text your friends, tell your mother, do whatever you want to do. It'd be awesome if you help spread the word about the show. I have a little special for you because you're listening to my podcast. If you go to Drift. ly, Drift. ly/ steve, you will see a six minute video that I made that is about Steve Jobs storytelling secrets, and you can get it all for free. Plus, if you sign up there, you will unlock this crazy new thing that we're building behind the scenes called drift insider, where we're going to give you some of our best content, exclusively. So go and check it out. The secret way to get on this list right now is to go to drift. ly/ steve. You have to watch the first video and you'll be able to get the rest when they all come out. Check it out, if not, check it out soon and I'll see you on the next episode.


Keeping a swipe file has been a game-changer for DG. It helps him come up with ideas and find patterns between ideas. If you don’t have a swipe file, you should definitely consider it. It's so important, we named our show after the concept ;)