Archive | Writing Without Waffle

Copy disasters of the month

Banana skinPeople often send me copy mistakes they find, and I can’t help proofreading as I go about my day. Here are some disasters I’ve seen in the past month, with added commentary.

Opening an online chat with Apple Support:

Hey there, Jackie! I am Senior Advisor, Brandon! First off, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to work with us on your issue. How are you doing?”

Brandon may be trying to be friendly but this is not helpful. All I want to do is find a solution to my problem. Not engage in inane chit-chat with too many exclamation marks.

But it got worse. Here’s how the chat ended:

“Since it worked prior to changing what was changed, then something may need to be changed again.”

Er, yes. Although that’s not exactly the answer I was hoping for.  

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How to make your copywriter smile

SmileIt will come as no surprise to learn that we copywriters are a tiny bit obsessed with words. Not only the ones we write, but also the ones we read.

This enquiry popped into my inbox recently recently, and it made me smile.

“This website is so secret I’m actually writing this blindfolded in a cave from an unknown location.”

I can’t wait to dig out my trusty old Secret Squirrel typewriter and get started on that project.

In a recent LinkedIn conversation, I enjoyed this exchange with a stranger who wanted to connect with me:

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Psychological tricks worth buying into

HotelHave you ever noticed messages like these when you book hotels, flights and insurance?

  • 35 people have already booked this
  • 17 people are looking at this
  • Hurry, only 10 seats left

University College London (UCL) has recently published some research showing that these phrases significantly increase profits for travel websites.

They work due to the principle of perceived scarcity.

What’s more, UCL found that reviews are even more effective than a price cut.

Due to the power of social proof (peer pressure), this means the most convincing copy of all is written by your customers.

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Icebreakers, energisers and gamification

GamesAs a copywriter, I know that sometimes the best way to get your message across is verbally, rather than via the written word.

But that doesn’t mean a list of bullet points in PowerPoint.

Years ago, when I worked at Freemans home shopping, I was asked to design some slides for an IT presentation.

“I want you to put a lingerie image in the middle of the slideshow,” my client said, “so it will wake the audience up.”

I refused, saying: “Why don’t you just rewrite it so it’s not boring?”

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Can you copyright a colour?

ColourJust for a change, let’s explore copyright rather than copywriting.

Last night, I met the owner of a small business who’d been sued by Getty Images for thousands of pounds.

She had recently taken over the business from the previous owner. He’d innocently grabbed a picture from Google images and used it on the company website.

She managed to win the argument by immediately taking down the photo and proving it wasn’t her that had used it. Unusually, Getty backed down.

Many people think it’s OK to search the internet and help themselves to whatever images they find there. They are wrong.

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B2B v B2C copywriting: What’s the difference?

plastic cupOn my copywriting training courses, I sometimes ask delegates to write a headline to sell a plastic cup. Usually, they focus on the drinking experience of the end user – a business-to-consumer approach (B2C).

However, the purchaser of the cup is likely to be the procurement manager of an office block, who buys the cups in bulk. They don’t really care about the user experience; they care more about the price and speed of delivery – a business-to-business message (B2B).

It’s not really a trick question. I do it so the trainees remember to always ask themselves who the real customer is and write their copy accordingly.

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How copy really DOES make a difference

Many moons ago, I did a copy test for ad agency Ogilvy & Mather, in which I was asked to describe the last product I bought as a result of an ad.

At the time, I think I claimed that ads couldn’t persuade me to buy anything I didn’t already want.

I was wrong.

You may remember a blog post I wrote last year, about Eve mattresses: Oh, what a lovely bit of copy

BoxThat copy was so good, I have now invested in an Eve mattress. It arrived three days ago in a beautifully branded box (see right).

It’s evidence that a simple value proposition and clear tone of voice actively promote sales.

I’m not surprised that Eve has been listed in the CoolBrands® survey 2016/7. Congratulations to them – and a good night’s sleep to me.

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Let’s talk about tone of voice.

tin canJust as every individual has their own personality, so does every brand. Some clients want simple copy written in Plain English. Others are brave enough to express their personality through their words. In one week, I was excited to write very different copy for a fashion-forward hairdresser, a family-friendly coffee supplier and a young, funky housewares retailer.

Clients sometimes ask me to produce a tone-of-voice manual to match their visual brand guidelines. It includes an analysis of their competitors’ language, and suggests a list of words and phrases to use or avoid to express their uniqueness while making them stand out from the rest and appealing to their target audience.

During these conversations, the fun and friendly tone of voice used by Innocent Drinks is often held up as a model.

But has this approach gone too far? Continue Reading →

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