“Nobody reads ads. People read what interests them. Sometimes it’s an ad.”
The late Howard Gossage, a Mad Men-era iconoclast renowned in certain corners of the advertising industry as “The Socrates of San Francisco,” once shared this pearl of wisdom over 50 years ago about the importance of good copywriting.
He’s still right.
Let’s face it: Why would we make time to read something that doesn’t remotely interest us? Every day, from the moment we have our first sip of coffee to right before we turn off the lights for a night’s slumber, we are bombarded with information and convoluted messaging from brands that run the gamut from car insurance companies and soft drink giants to news organizations and political campaigns. Every. Single. Day. It can be exhausting, and our collective overreliance on smartphones has only further exacerbated the issue.
With such an oversaturation of brand messaging in today’s media landscape, how can a company cut through all the clutter and noise to reach their target customers?
Now, there are a number of valid answers to this question: respecting your target market, understanding their needs, powerful design, etc. – all very important variables. But clear, concise, and well-written copywriting is the key.
But let’s back up a little bit for a moment.
What is copywriting?
Not to be confused with the realm of copyright law, copywriting is the art and science of strategically crafting and publishing targeted, reader-focused words (or “copy”) that compel people to take some form of action.
Copy is used to create everything from billboards and TV spots to websites, social media posts, and product descriptions. What really distinguishes copywriting from other forms of writing, however, is the last line of its aforementioned definition: it compels people to take some form of action.
Copywriting vs. content writing
Despite their similarities, copywriting and content writing are strikingly different. Let’s take a closer look at how they’re constructed and what they’re intended for.
Words sell things.
That’s basically the main idea behind copywriting. Whether it’s products, services, events, ideas, or brand perception, copy is designed to directly drive people into action and generate sales. While there’s no secret formula or sorcery behind the trade (we’d all be swimming in vaults of cash like Scrooge McDuck if such a thing existed), effective copywriting is clear, persuasive, consistent, and, yes, even emotional.
Content, on the other hand, is writing that offers value to the reader/consumer – in the form of information, entertainment, news, etc. – without a direct call to action (CTA) or strategy to drive profitability and a desirable ROI. Articles, blog entries (ahem), and social media updates all fall under this category.
Content gives the reader a reason to keep visiting your company’s website or Facebook page. Copy compels those readers to become your customers.
Why copywriting is important
We’ve previously written on this site about the importance of branding your company, but the crucial role that copy plays throughout the process cannot be understated.
Think about the last time you visited a relatively high-end looking website – one with an aesthetically pleasing design, an intuitive layout, good use of color, and easy navigation. All of the vital components were there, with one glaring hangnail of an exception: weak copy. Whether it was feature-dumping writing, sloppy typos, or used-car-salesman-caliber CTAs, something felt “off” about the copy that created a disconnect, possibly on a subconscious level, which ultimately brought your site visit to an abrupt end.
Thousands of companies make the mistake of treating copy as an afterthought; merely a cluster of words hastily strung together to tell people what their businesses are about. What this unenlightened bunch has yet to realize is words have power.
Good copywriting not only reflects your company’s core values, it speaks directly to your target audience and creates a lasting impact on them, steering them toward connecting with your brand and engaging in the action you want them to engage in.
Copy should be more focused on your customer, not your company.
Following this concept can be a somewhat tricky balancing act, but when deftly executed, it can yield far more positive returns to your business.
While it’s certainly important to tell your target audience about your company’s history, values, achievements, and accolades, it’s crucial that you’re consistently keeping their needs and interests at the forefront of your focus. Remember that quote from our ol’ pal Howard Gossage near the top of this page? “People read what interests them.”
And it’s your job to find out what those interests and needs are, because that’s what every copywriting strategy needs to consider. Copywriting is less about your company or any other company, really; it’s more centered on your target audience’s perception of your brand. What can you do, specifically, to meet their needs and desires, making their lives a little easier in the process?
Define your brand voice
Defining your brand voice – your company’s overall style of communication – boils down to asking yourself one question: How do you want consumers to perceive your brand?
There’s a specific way you personally communicate with your friends, loved ones, colleagues and other acquaintances, right? Your brand voice works exactly the same way, except it’s carefully designed for and directed toward your target audience. It can have any style – be it authoritative, playful, quirky or passionate – as long as it feels true to your company’s value and overall persona.
Consumers tend to invest more in brands that they feel a deeply human connection with, not companies that come across as inconsistent or insincere in their copy. Establishing a relatable, honest tone that speaks directly to your customers is the gateway to creating a successful brand voice – and consistency is paramount.
It’s less about what you say – it’s how you say it.
Bringing it all home
Every line of copy in your brand messaging and every sentence on your website have to serve a purpose in order to make an impact on readers. You have one shot at creating a desired impression. Make sure your copy is clear, purposeful, insightful, and persuasive.
Within the walls of Mighty Fine Design Co.’s Ybor City lair, we’re constantly crafting strong, strategic copy for clients who want to not only pierce through the noise of modern-day media, but also establish an emotional bond with customers that translates to higher sales. When you’re ready to take your brand messaging to the next level, we’re here to help.