Copy is a broad term, so to keep it simple, I’ll be referring to marketing copy and how brands use social media and their website to communicate with their audience. Marketing copy is difficult, but as long as you consider the points below, you should be on the right track.
Mastering the art of simplicity doesn’t come easy, and in a fast-paced, digital society, people’s attentions spans are low. If you don’t get your message across in a few seconds, it’s probably too late. So stick to the rule of keeping your copy short and simple. Simple doesn’t necessarily mean to dumb something down however, but rather to prioritise information so that you are focussing on the core message at hand.
Why jargon (usually) doesn’t work:
From personal experience, jargon and hyperbolic phrases usually do more harm than good. If I receive an email with numerous exclamation marks and “buzzwords”, such as “unbelievable” and “exciting”, I usually assume that their claim is false. This kind of approach is universally associated with spam and false promises, so it’s probably safer to follow the rule of “less is more” when it comes to marketing copy! It’s really important to think about the reader and how you can get your message across in as little words as possible.
Storytelling isn’t always easy, but this approach does work, especially when it comes to communicating a brand’s personality and tone of voice. One good example that Seth Godin gave in “All Marketers Tell Stories” is the history of the company Kiehl’s. They told narratives through their products which made their brand seem authentic, honest and personal.
Through this they managed to create a unique reputation for themselves, totally different to any cosmetics company at the time. As Seth explains, “the message was loud and clear: this is the work of a person, a unique individual, not a corporation”, which is why it’s quite shocking to know that they are actually owned by L’Oreal, one of the biggest beauty corporations in the world.
Another example of good storytelling would have to be Hendrick’s Gin. Although owned by the parent company William Grant & Sons, their copy communicates a unique story that fills its audience with curiosity. Hendrick’s maintain a quirky sense of humour throughout their website, but they also maintain this personality on social media when communicating with their audience. Hendrick’s Senior Brand Manager explains:
“We want our consumers not just to enjoy the terrific taste of our cocktails, but to jump into our brand’s world, which is a unique and special place.”
This special place that Hendrick’s has created is of course aimed at a specific audience, which is why it’s so successful. There seems to be far more success in communicating a message to a niche audience, rather than trying to appeal to the masses, where your message is likely to get lost.
Yes, this is a simple one, but it can be what makes or breaks a message. Even with one letter out of place, you could end up with a totally different message to the one you intended to make! Even someone experienced in writing copy can miss out on errors, so it’s always useful to get a second pair of eyes to establish 1.) whether there are any mistakes with the grammar and spelling and 2.) whether your copy communicates its message well enough. Sometimes when you work on a piece of copy for too long, your judgement can be skewed, so asking for a second opinion is always a good idea.
Humour is subjective. One person may find something funny that is offensive to another. However, if you have a clear brand and goal, you will probably know whether humour is going to work for your audience or not. Humour can be presented in several ways and even professional services can benefit from some witty copy here and there to prove that real people exist behind their (potentially “boring”) business. Incorporating humour into your communication could really help your audience warm to your brand, so there is no harm is testing this approach out.
Who is doing it well?
Urban Daddy are a good example of a brand that uses a combination of the above to engage with its audience. Their copy is usually clear and concise, with a hint of humour, and some storytelling to create an enticing representation of the experiences they are sharing (information on the best nightclubs, restaurants and hotels across America).
The homemade cosmetic brand Lush have also mastered their presence on social media through their unique products, colourful imagery and ethical statements. They maintain a cheeky, fun tone of voice which has helped build their reputation as a friendly and approachable brand.