Tag Archives | copywriting

Estate agent #Fail

There is a sign in a local estate agent’s window, which reads:

LANDLORDS
All types of properties
urgently required to
meet the demand we
are currently
experiencing.

It fails the Who cares test, doesn’t answer What’s In It For Me, and there isn’t any call-to-action.

Instead, it should be written from the landlord’s point of view e.g.

LANDLORDS
Want to rent your property
quickly? We have 100s
of tenants on our books.
Call in today, and find
the right tenant for you!

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Cliché-ridden!

Clichés

I’ve rarely seen so many clichés in one piece of text:

  • “Working in partnership”
  • “Integral part of the team”
  • “Only ever as good as our last job”
  • “No matter how big or small”
  • “Going that extra mile”

What’s more, all these phrases are meaningless. Every supplier wants to ‘work in partnership’ with their clients. They all want to ‘build a lasting relationship’. Of course they want to be ‘an integral part of the team’. Suppliers just want clients’ money, on an ongoing basis!

If you want to say that you ‘go the extra mile’, that you do projects large and small, and that your last job was pretty good actually, don’t tell me, show me! Clients need to see evidence or they just won’t believe you.

Top tip: If you can’t think of anything original to say, don’t say it! (Or pay a professional, like wot I is, to write compelling copy for you.)

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7 ways to be a good writer

As well as knowing about spelling and grammar, a writer has to be many things. In this article, I share my top seven writerly attributes.

1. Psychic: To get inside the mind of the reader – to work out what message needs to be communicated, what channel will be most appropriate, and what tone of voice will achieve the desired response.

2. Clear-headed: To make sense of confusion and obfuscation.

3. An agony aunt (or uncle): To identify the problem and solution – to highlight the problem to be solved or goal to be achieved, and how the communication fulfils that need.

4. A story-teller: To structure the content with a beginning, a middle and an end – a beginning that attracts attention, a middle that contains all the information required and nothing more, and an end that prompts action.

5. A brutal pair of scissors: To cut, cut and cut again – leaving only the words necessary to communicate the message. And that’s all.

6. Back-to-front: Start from the end and work your way forwards. First, decide the objective; what action you want your readers to take. Is it to pick up the phone, visit the website, agree to funding or something else? Write everything with that end in mind.

a. For printed documents, write the body of the text, then write the heading and introduction.

b. For websites, you don’t know what order people will navigate the pages. Each page should stand alone. Still, it’s easier to write the content page(s) of the site before the home page.

c. For speeches, write the conclusion before the introduction. Why? Because, until you know what you are going to say, you can’t introduce it!

7. Patient: It takes longer to write something short than to write something long.

I originally wrote this article for Fresh Business Thinking

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Great slogans and rubbish slogans

When Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic played tennis at the O2 in November 2010, there was a pause while Novak had a contact lens attended to on court. Some wag in the crowd shouted: “Should’ve gone to Specsavers” — five words that have proved very effective for the company.

It’s harder to write something short than something long. So, in this article, I’ve analysed a range of slogans and suggest the reasons why they work (or don’t).

Positive emotions

People buy because of how you make them feel, not because of what you tell them. These examples all contain positive emotions:

– Terry’s Chocolate Orange: “Smash it to pieces. Love it to bits.”

– Recruitment agency: ‘Love Mondays.’ That’s just it. They don’t sell jobs. They sell happy Mondays.

– Head & Shoulders: ‘Making heads happier.’

Anthropomorphising is a commonly used technique (that is, giving human qualities to something).

NLP in slogans

In Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) terms, people have a preference for Visual, Auditory or Kinaesthetic sensory inputs. That is to say, they like pictures, words or feelings.

– Canon: ‘Take more than pictures. Take stories.’ By combining a visual word ‘pictures‘ with an auditory word ‘stories‘, the slogan appeals to a wider audience.

– Lloyd Grossman sauces: ‘Sauces with a distinctive voice‘. It fits. And I like the fact that they have combined the sense of taste (a sauce) with the sense of hearing (voice).

Repetition in slogans

Repeat something three times, and maybe add a touch of innuendo. It sticks in the memory!

– Deep pan pizza: “Real deep. Real good. Real thing.”

– Martini: “Anytime, anyplace, anywhere.”

– Aldi: ‘Great food, great prices, pass it on‘. It has the benefit and a call to action. Like on Twitter, saying ‘Please Retweet‘ (or ‘Pls RT‘), it results in more people actually doing what you say.

Weasel words

You have to be careful about literal meaning:

– Anadin: “Nothing works faster.” So take nothing, because it works faster!

– ‘Renault build a better car’. Better than what?

Rubbish slogans?

And these examples don’t work for me at all!

– Dolland & Aitchison opticians: ‘We promise to treat you like a person, not a sausage.’ Assumes that other opticians treat people like a sausage factory while I’m not sure that they do, do they?

– Haulage van: ‘Customer driven.’ It’s clever, as it has meaning on more than one level. But it’s stupid, because the customer doesn’t drive the van. If it were on a self-drive vehicle, that would be a different story.

– Oasis Drinks: ‘Fruity drinks and lunchtime dreams.’ Just doesn’t make any sense!

What you want from your slogan

Magnum ice-cream: ‘World Pleasure Authority.’ This slogan was used with an on-pack promotion to give away £3m-worth of pre-paid Mastercards, so winners could buy whatever they like. That’s because Magnum don’t sell ice-cream, they sell pleasure. And what’s the usual response to pleasure? “Mmm, that’s nice.”

Similarly, I don’t sell marketing and copywriting services. I sell ‘Writing Without Waffle‘, to which the usual response is “Ooh, that’s useful“.

So what do you sell?

Is it something that people really, really want? Does it make them go “Mmm” and “Ooh“?

If not, perhaps you’d better change it!

I originally wrote this article for Fresh Business Thinking

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The end of the word is nigh!

As a copywriter, I’m often asked what I think about txt spk. I’ve always said it’s OK as another language, but not a replacement language. It’s not (yet) appropriate in academic writing or business writing. But, language is continually evolving, the word ‘innit’ is in the OED, and – just as we don’t write now how we wrote 100 years ago – we won’t write in 100 years the way we write now.

Ladies and gentlemen, as the logo above shows, the shift has already begun.

I saw it in an ad on the back of a bus, to advise 16- to 24-year-olds about chlamydia. As soon as the 16 to 24s are old enough to influence mainstream media, I suspect we’ll all be writing ‘ur’ for ‘your’ and no-one will have time any more for us old fogeys who know about ‘proper’ spelling and grammar.

#TimeToGoOutToGrass?

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Notes on copywriting

You’ve heard that you have to turn features into benefits. That you should write from your customer’s point of view. That you ought to use the word ‘you’ more than you use the word ‘we’. So here’s an example of how it’s done:

Before

Each apartment features a unique layout, designed with ease of living in mind. These luxury apartments offer ample space for everyday living.

After

If you are looking for great accommodation with a light and contemporary layout, designed with ease of living in mind, you’ll find we have an apartment to suit you.

If you want to check your own website, you can use the We We Test.

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Talking of signs

I saw one at a hotel entrance the other day that reads: ‘Smoking is not allowed in this building. If you observe someone smoking, complaints may be made to the management.’

So what’s wrong with that?

Well, what it actually says, is that if someone sees you watching someone smoking, they can make a complaint about you.

Warning. I’m going to talk about grammar now.

The problem is that it mixes passive and active tenses which changes the meaning.

It’s better to use the active tense throughout (and be more specific and simplify the language at the same time) i.e. ‘If you see someone smoking, please tell our staff at Reception.’

It doesn’t tell me where to complain about dodgy sign-writing.

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