Tag Archives | copywriting

Sainsbury’s: What in the world were you thinking?

You might have seen this story; it was all over the press and social media this month. Here’s the ad that caused all the trouble (published 12 May, page 14, Camden New Journal):


Putting aside the fact that a £5.2billion organisation wants a local artist to paint their Camden canteen for nothing, the copy is appalling.

I had planned to list all the errors, but it’s SO bad, I almost lost the will to live. Here are just a few:

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A copywriter’s rant.

Dear Clients,

When I write copy for you, I spend quite a lot of time. I draw on my skill, qualifications and over 30 years of experience to research your business, your customers and your competitors, and then craft words that will work. Then I edit what I’ve written. Then I tweak it some more. When I’m finally happy I really can’t do any better, I send the draft to you.

What you get is words that represent your unique brand personality, make you stand out from the rest, and contain the psychological triggers that will cause the reader to take the action you want them to take.

Every word is there for a reason.

Despite that, I’m not precious. I’m not going to argue with you about the position of a full stop, or whether a sentence can start with ‘And’ or ‘But’.

I’m happy to change the copy when there’s a good reason to do so.

So don’t dive in and rewrite it yourself.

If you want to change anything, just ask me. That gives me the chance to explain why things are the way they are, or we can agree what needs to be changed.

There’s a well-known saying: “Don’t hire a dog then bark yourself”.

In this scenario, I’m the dog.



Oh what a lovely bit of copy

I saw this ad on the train yesterday, and read it several times out of pure enjoyment.

How refreshing to see the copy over-riding the visuals (because we all know what mattresses look like).

What a nice, simple, sunny brand (makes sense, it’s about waking happy).

Even the offer code is perfectly written. (A ‘no brainer’, in fact.)


Copy by Paul Belford.

I love a confident client who allows me to write in a conversational style like that.

For example, here’s what I wrote recently for a contact page:

You’ll find our grand old office building tucked away behind a surprisingly residential street. Please make an appointment before you visit, and we’ll put the kettle on.

If you want your brand to sound like a human, give me a call.


Calls to action: read this now


What do you think people do when they read the instruction on this package?

They might try tearing the plastic open, but my bet is that most of them will find a pair of scissors and cut along the line.

That’s because people are generally very obedient (especially to people in authority or uniform, but that’s another story).

In my early days as a copywriter, I was taught that more people cut out a coupon when it has a dotted line, plus a scissors symbol or the words ‘cut here’.

More recently, I’ve been assured that more people phone a number when it says ‘call now’ or similar.

Given that the main objective of any marketing communication is to get people to contact you, it makes sense to use any tips, tricks and techniques you can.

Tell them what you want them to do, and there’s a better chance they’ll do it.

For example, if you like this post, please share it on your social media platforms or add a comment below. Thank you.


Erm, what actually is a blog?

A client asked me that question yesterday, after I had rambled on about digital marketing strategy for ages.

Blogs have become such a common part of marketing today that I had forgotten some people still don’t know what they are. So here’s a beginner’s guide.

The (ugly) word ‘blog’ is a contraction of the words web and log. That is, a log that is kept on the web.

A log is a diary or journal in reverse chronological order so the newest information is at the top and the oldest at the bottom. You might recognise the word from Star Trek e.g. ‘Captain’s log, star date 160116’.

Each entry in your blog is called a ‘blog post’, or simply ‘post’. As soon as you start ‘blogging’, you are a ‘blogger’.

So what are the advantages of having a blog?

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Why writing your own web copy could be a false economy


photo credit: Homework via photopin (license)

  • Have you got a website?
  • Has that website got Google analytics or other web stats on it?
  • Have you ever looked at those analytics?
  • Have you ever made a change to your web content as a result of your analytics?
  • When was the last time you updated your web copy?

Those are some of the questions I ask at the beginning of a website workshop.

There is usually some embarrassed laughter at question three, when people realise there is no point having analytics if you never look at them. I give out a prize after question five to the person who has updated their website most recently as a result of what their analytics show.

These days, many people have a Content Management System (CMS) website that they can update themselves. WordPress is by far the most popular CMS platform. According to W3Techs quoted on Wikipedia, it was used by more than 23.3% of the top 10 million websites by January 2015.

But, just because the technology exists to enable you to write your own web copy, it doesn’t mean you should.

Learning how to throw a sentence together at school doesn’t mean you can write effective, compelling web copy.

Admit it. You don’t know what you don’t know.

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Case study: Blogs and newsletters

TucanaAn IFA asked his clients what they thought of his company’s service, and what would make them rate it 5/5. Here’s what they said:

  • “A ‘little’ bit more contact”
  • “Having more active engagement on a proactive basis”
  • “If an opportunity came along in between our 6-monthly reviews… proactively bring that to our attention”

A contact recommended him to me, to help write regular blog posts that can be compiled into a monthly newsletter.

Let’s face it, most financial advice is delivered in a dry, dull and boring style. So we agreed that each post would start with a real-life story, to act as a ‘hook’ and draw readers in. What’s more, instead of graphs, charts and clip-art cartoons, each post would include an intriguing photo to add visual interest and differentiation. Of course the bulk of each article would be topical, useful and interesting news or advice that is relevant to his audience, so demonstrating his expertise.

Now, his clients are commenting:

  • “I read the insights you shared and thoroughly enjoyed the way they are written.”
  • “I found [your insights] both interesting and entertaining, unlike some of the dull and long-winded fare that gets distributed most of the time”
  • “I look forward to future editions… Keep them coming.”

Would you agree? Read the blog.

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The hardest copy you will ever write

When you start a new business, you may well decide the first thing you need is some business cards.

You are likely to be tempted by online deals, offering you hundreds of business cards for little or no cost. Suppliers tease you with templates that you can update yourself to make it really easy.

But, as with all marketing, even your business card has an objective.

In most cases, the objective is to share your contact details in a way that encourages people to get in touch. They will only do that if your card is written and designed to be compelling. And that takes careful thought.

Suggested content

You might be wondering how much copy fits on a business card, so here are some ideas:

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How to make your call to action buttons work better

Buttons When I was masterminding at the Ritz recently, Chris Haycock of CliqTo told us how changing the text on a hotel website button increased clicks by 45% in the first ten days. He admits that more influences might be at play, and the long-term results are not yet known.

The original button just said:
Details & availability

The new button includes a calendar icon, and says:
Show availability
Hotel details, map & prices


Before and after

Read the full story on Chris’s website

A 45% increase in clickthroughs in 10 days is pretty impressive. But why is it happening?

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KISSing is good for you.

KissYou’ve probably heard the acronym KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid. I’ve never liked the ‘stupid’ bit, so prefer to say Keep It Short and Sweet.

But what’s the science behind why simplicity works?

I’ve recently read the book Presentation Genius by Simon Raybould, which contains 40 insights from the science of presenting. Chapter 3 describes research by Daniel M Oppenheimer of Princeton University, with the gob-smackingly beautiful title of ‘Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly’.

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