For many years I made a living helping business owners strengthen and reinforce their brand … by just writing words. My background is in copywriting so it’s probably safe to say that I get a bit more excited about copy than the average Joe. Crafting the right combination of words that propel people to take action, is a pretty big rush. But, it’s no easy feat. Admittedly, I still read ads and listen to radio spots just to see if I can determine who they are targeting with their copy. And if the copy is well written, it’s a pretty easy task.
Good copy can break grammatical rules. It’s important to remember that you’re not vying for a literary award; you’re trying to speak the lingo of your target audience. Good copy can also make up words or use words in unusual ways… as long as the copy is relatable and easily understood. Bad copy is riddled with clichés’, sentence structure is paramount and it doesn’t have any personality. But worse than that, bad copy is self-centred and focused on the product features instead of the benefits. It’s a one-sided relationship and it’ll have your customers wondering … what’s in it for them?
Copywriting is a critical component of your brand but it’s also arguably the most under-valued service on the branding continuum.
Copy is everywhere, but nowhere is its power more evident than in branding. In order to write copy that will resonate with your audience, you first need to imagine your brand as a person. How would you describe them to someone? Is your brand the class clown? The office hero? Fun, intelligent, thoughtful? Good copywriting will use these brand attributes to transform your product or service into a persona with emotional and engaging qualities.
Now that you have a personality that your customers will identify with, you need to get inside the mind of your ideal client. What makes this person happy? What makes them sad? How can you help? Then have a conversation with them in the same tone as they would speak, while letting your personality shine through. This is called your brand voice and it plays upon just the right mix of pains, fears and desires that causes a specific market to take action. Not everyone, just a specific market.
But isn’t it risky to target just one specific group?
Anyone who has ever worked in a marketing or copywriting, has encountered clients who feel that their market is everyone. It sounds like a good idea, right? A sure fire way to have eons of customers. Except by not excluding anyone, you are actually excluding everyone.
Trying to be everything for everyone is a recipe for disaster.
Imagine going to a restaurant that sells almost any kind of food you could ever want. Perusing the menu, you see Jamaica style jerk chicken, all you can eat sushi and prime rib. As a consumer you’re going to feel confused, undecided, and even worse, you’re going to doubt that anything is actually good.
Many new entrepreneurs and business owners fear that if they only talk to a specific and defined target audience, they will isolate other people, thus leading to lost sales. But, this isn’t the case. Without a clear, targeted message, your efforts are going to fall flat. When you focus on a specific target audience, your message becomes extremely clear and effective.
Not convinced? Let’s take a look at the Snowbird Ski Resort. They have a specific niche audience. To reach this market, they have strategically and purposefully ostracized other markets. By using the negative reviews of people who didn’t enjoy the Snowbird Ski Resort experience, they have cleverly captured the attention of the people who can handle their extreme hills. Take a look at a few of their marketing examples.
By using the copy from their one star reviews, they’ve built a stellar marketing campaign and positioned Snowbird as one of the most unforgiving and rewarding mountains in Utah.
In doing so, they’ve created a feeling of exclusivity and pride for being the type of person who can handle their ski hills. If you’re a thrill seeker, extreme athlete or adrenalin junkie, their branding is talking your talk.
Snowbird is just one example of targeted branding but they aren’t alone. Moosejaw is also specifically targeting their messaging except they are using humour to do it. Here is an example that shows the fun writing style of the brand Moosejaw:
Moosejaw has positioned themselves as the most fun outdoor retailer in the world. They target young people, age 18 to mid-thirties, who are drawn in by humour and like to have fun. This group dislikes corporate culture and their copy reflects that feeling. Check out this promotional video. Can you see how it appeals to this group?
Moosejaw has made it a mission to prove to you just how much fun they are. Their website is full of quirky one-liners and clever copy pared with engaging photography that shows off their clothing.
Fun is a key component in the Moosejaw brand, in fact, in store shoppers at Moosejaw, have been known to get caught up in an impromptu game of hide-and-seek. They’ve embraced fun into their culture and it shines through across every imaginable brand platform, including the back of their trucks.
In an interview, Moosejaw’s CEO, Eoin Comerford had this to say,
The vision was to aim to be the most fun outdoor seller on the planet. Not the biggest, or the most profitable.
In order to create a brand people love, some people are going to hate it. Some think our voice is over the top. They’d rather someone who is serious about climbing gear. To be a strong brand, you have to have your own evangelists. There are lots of companies that sell the same brands as you, even at the same price, but it’s through our tone that we’ve been able to differentiate.
We’ve had customers who pay more at Moosejaw for the same product just because they wanted to buy it from us.”
If you want to read more about Moosejaw, you can find the full interview here.
Branding is more than visual
When we think of branding elements, we get lost in a sea of logos, packaging, imagery, fonts, colour and so on. Copy is an essential element of your overall branding and one that is important not to overlook.
Here are the 8 best steps to writing effective copy for your brand:
Know your target audience and speak their language. Companies that have been able to define their core target audience and then use copy to talk directly to them will always be two steps ahead of the competition.
Don’t be too clever, wordy or technical. People will not take the time to think about what you are saying. You need to get right to the point in simple language.
Lead with the most important benefit. Capture their attention and then use secondary benefits to seal the deal.
Trust me, you have extra words in your copy. Take them out. Then take a break, and edit. Wait a day and edit some more.
Grammar rules do not apply. Talk like your target audience, be conversational and casual.
Use an emotional trigger. Good copywriting will take the audience on an emotional journey.
Include a call to action. Don’t hook them and leave them hanging. Let them know what you want them to do next, even if it’s just a link to your website.
Lastly, your brand is a reflection of your customers. Take a look at your reviews, they will give you insight on how consumers perceive your brand. Consider they way they speak and incorporate that tone and language into your writing.
Remember, your copy should always engage your target audience, be a solution to a pain point and compel an emotional response. Find your brand tone and be consistent on every platform, from email to web to advertising and brochures. Every word you type is the beginning of a great conversation with someone who could be your next customer.