I know a successful artist – you know, the messy form of using paint, oils, brushes and a canvas of some sort – and he has always told me that anyone can be an artist; if they can hold a brush and move it with confidence, then they can paint.
That particular faith in human ability does remind me very much of working with copy; if you are able to read this, then the chances are that you can write too. With your pen freshly dipped into the well of your lexicon, you are ready to apply confident strokes upon your empty page and create beautiful imagery for all to enjoy.
You can. Anyone can…
We all have a book inside us
I truly believe that; if it is scratching at the surface of your mind already, or something that lies dormant deep within your soul, we all have at least one amazing story lurking inside of us, just waiting to be teased into the light of day.
Committing to a labour of love is vastly different to writing copy for a more commercial or business purpose. Having written a book myself and produced copy for many clients for over a quarter of a century, please believe me when I say – I speak from experience.
Still, for a copywriter, the practice carries the same ultimate goals. We want our copy to attract, engage and propel our reader to the end of the journey. It could be an editorial article in national press, website copy or a succinct tweet – it still has to work as a copy led solution.
The power of the written word
Words can elicit a smile from the most resolute of us. I personally can remember reading The Time Traveller’s Wife and being in tears (this is strictly between you and I). Again, just like art, the act of stringing the right words together can generate real emotion from the reader.
However, unlike art, well written copy should not jump out at the reader as such. When I cried at the aforementioned book, I didn’t think it was because of Audrey Niffenegger’s clever use of language, it was due to the scene, the story, the plot and the characters.
Next time you click on that button in an email, or you type in an URL from a printed advert, stop and think what made you do that. Was it the overall design, the images…or could it have been those rascally little words?
I often think of copy as the straight man in a double act. It confidently goes about its business, allowing the other to take centre stage and shine. Or perhaps it is the bread in the lovingly crafted sandwich – the one ingredient that allows you to grasp it in the first place.
Design or Copy?
I have heard many clients in the past tell me that they prefer to spend a much larger percentage of their budget on design, leaving a pittance for copy. I would argue, and have, that this is the wrong way round.
With great design and poor copy, you may engage the eyes for a short time, but you won’t get your message across, and definitely won’t sell anything. If we flip that around though, great copy can still sell, even with really poor design.
Believe me, I tried this out. We had a campaign that was performing really well. A bespoke DM piece was achieving a 55% offline to online conversion ratio. We tested what this was down to, so removed all clever design and packaging from the solution. Once stripped back, it was just words on a piece of A4 paper. We sent this out and it achieved an even better result, albeit slightly. We then cut the words down, in fact, ending up with just one word and an URL. Guess what? The percentage went up again.
Never underestimate the power of words, or even word!
Understanding is key
Now for this above example to have worked like it did, the idea had to be bang on. And this all comes from understanding the audience. We were confident that we knew our audience so well, that we could strip everything back to just one single word on a page. That came from careful research and planning.
If you were to speak to a child in the same way you do an adult, you may not get the required result. Know your audience and speak to them in their own language and phrasing. You might even change the tone of your voice. Find out as much as you can about an individual child and so make the conversation as relevant as possible, relating to their issues or problems and providing wholly relevant solutions, and you are bound to get a positive result.
Marketing, and copy, should use the very same approach.
We are an integrated society
Being from a very mixed background, I can speak with an unbiased authority on various subjects. I may wax lyrical about the virtues of well crafted messaging, but I also know that careful campaign planning and strategy, highly segmented targeting, well timed activity and lovingly crafted design, can truly make for a great end solution.
In today’s marketing mix, integrated solutions are really where it is at. We won’t survive long in this industry with one trick up our sleeve, no matter how well we do it. The marketers toolbox may ebb and flow; constantly change to suit the latest fad or technological advancement, but…
It’s all empty space without copy.