Archive for the ‘copywriting’ Tag

Cliques Don’t Click with your Customers   Leave a comment

Quick:  how many of you immediately know what “location-based social media” means?

More importantly, how many of you think the average person knows what this means?

I recently had to discourage a smart, valued client from using this term in a customer survey I was creating for his company.  I reminded him that most folks simply won’t understand the question, resulting in a missed opportunity for client connection and getting important information.

It’s second-nature for all of us to use shop talk or technical terms in our day-to-day work life.   The danger is when you use it
with your customers, whether in person or through your marketing.

Using “insider” talk is embedded in our psyches, pushed by our very natural human urge to merge with others, to be on the “inside.”  Remember those heady junior high and high school days where the latest slang would race like wildfire through your group,
further cementing your place as the cool groupie?

But in the work world, using “professional slang” or shop talk is very alienating to your clients and customers.  If they don’t get what you’re saying, they feel confused.  Or stupid.  Or irritated.  And most times, they walk away.

Keep it simple.  Keep it clear.  Keep it direct.  Always have someone outside your department and (even better) outside your industry review your materials for clarity and understanding before they go out to the client. When in doubt – leave it out.

Because we never want our customers to feel left out.

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Posted May 16, 2011 by promobabe in Copywriting, Creative Services

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An Inconvenient Truth* #3: Don’t Make ‘em Work   Leave a comment

I watch yet another car lurk around the parking lot, scoping out the closest space possible to the building’s front door. Despite the fact that just a few rows away are dozens of empty spots, ignored by just about every driver. Round and round she goes, where she’ll stop, nobody knows – except you can be certain it won’t be far away.

And, of course, all this walk-avoidance is happening at the gym.

This hunt-for-the-nearest-parking-spot scenario is played out in parking lots across America day after day, at malls, restaurants, the airport, and yes, even the gym.

So what does this mean for you, dear Marketer? Another inconvenient, but important truth: At heart, most people are lazy. They’ll rally during times of crisis, show extraordinary strength and courage during history’s darkest hours – but just don’t make ‘em walk across the parking lot.

And don’t make ‘em work at trying to figure out your marketing message.

We’re talking too much play on words, “insider” jokes, copy that doesn’t know when to quit…anything that’s confusing, muddled, unclear, or even worse, boring.

Make sure your advertising is simple, to the point, and is conversational in tone. Cut out the cleverness if it gets in the way of the clarity. As a quick test, write your entire message in a ten-second script, being sure to clearly state your brand promise in that time. It’s a great starting point to develop a complete, concise message people can quickly understand.

Give your customers the chance to get close to you – without having to work at it.

*ignore at your own peril

An Inconvenient Truth* #2: Know Thyself   Leave a comment

I’ve spent far too much of my time and limited mind space thinking about this rather inane question:

What on earth is Allstate thinking?

For the last couple of years, they’ve had the Strong Soothing Black Man as their spokesperson in their TV spots.  Don’t know his name, but it doesn’t matter.  The SSBM exudes what we all need right now:  quiet strength, unwavering confidence, the feeling that no matter what may go wrong in your life, the SSBM will make it all go away.

Are you in good hands?  We sure are, Strong Soothing Black Man.

Then inexplicably, it all changed.

Like a child wrenched from Daddy’s arms, my safety and security were suddenly blasted from me.  Because, without warning, the Allstate commercials began featuring the uber-creepy Mayhem.   

Mayhem’s your basic Psychotic White Guy, posing as every threat you’ve never thought of.  Your everyday life, your most basic and innocent acts – such as cruising to Vons to pick up bananas – are made sinister.  Because Mayhem is lurking everywhere. 

He’s the tree smashing your windshield, the teenage girl texting her way into the back of your head, the ghoulish fool howling through the sun roof in a parking lot – as he careens into your back bumper.

I watched in horror.  I waited for the Strong Soothing Black Man to appear and make it all go away. 

But he never came.  And I was afraid.

Because this sudden, crazy shift in Allstate’s marketing freaked me out.  I wondered, who IS this company?  And why do they suddenly want to scare the living crap out of me with this Psychotic White Guy?  Allstate’s bipolar positioning shift left me confused – and wary.

Which leads us to Promobabe’s Inconvenient Truth #2:  Know Thyself

Does your company project a consistent brand identity?  Do your customers have a clear idea of who you are and what you stand for?  Here are Promobabe’s basic guidelines for making sure you know thyself:

  • Resist the urge to be all things to all people
  • Understand your company’s “core personality.”  Use research, customer feedback, etc to help determine how your target market sees you. Are you the smart guys?  The friendly helping hand?  The cool, sexy alternative?
  • Be consistent in your marketing.  Remember you can change and freshen your creative, just like we all change our clothes.  But your basic persona still remains the same.
  • Customer confusion = frustration = marketing death!

 Clearly, Allstate was having a crazy, whirlwind of an identity crisis. Played out in expensive TV spots to confused viewers.

 While I don’t have the inside skinny on whether or not the Mayhem campaign worked for them, I’m betting it didn’t.  Because a few weeks later, the Strong Soothing Black Man appeared in new spots again.

 Is your marketing message in good hands?

*ignore at your own marketing peril

An Inconvenient Truth* #1: Don’t Make ‘em Think.   Leave a comment

The Promobabe has spun many a marketing tale in her time, much of it inside the wild world of television promotion, where we cranked out promo content on a fast-moving, never-ending conveyer belt.

Despite the Pop-Tart like nature of the work (heat, eat, repeat), I learned a critical thing about that applies to every audience in every industry – at least when it comes to marketing and advertising.

Don’t make ‘em think.

Oh, I hear some of you saying, so you think your audience isn’t as smart as a fifth grader?

Au contraire, dear Reader. I say this Inconvenient Truth with the utmost respect – and compassion – for my customers. Because the reality is:

Everyone’s busy.
Duh. Who isn’t? But for us marketing mavens, it means always remembering that no one has the time or the interest to figure out complex or muddled marketing messages.

Nope, I don’t want you to “dumb it down” – by writing stupid, inane, or insufficient copy. Obviously, marketing the latest robotics for brain surgery will be more in-depth than an ad for fiber-enriched Cheetos.

It does mean creating easy-to-comprehend content that’s always consistent with your company’s brand. Bottom line: Give your tired, overwhelmed audience a break by speaking clearly and directly to them. How?

Keep it simple!
The KISS principle is every marketer’s guiding light. As my first boss used to continually remind me: Keep it simple, stupid. She was annoying, but right.

Take out the shop talk. Avoid the acronyms. Weed out the waxing on…and on …about every detail of your product/service. Remember, really good advertising doesn’t provide all the information – it provides the promise of what makes your product/service so cool – and the push to excite your target market about your company.

Quick test: Ask a few people who fit your target audience, but don’t work for your company (or at the very least, for your department) to take a gander at your upcoming marketing, before you give it the final stamp of approval.

After one look, have them tell you what they got out of the ad. Can they basically articulate what’s unique about your product or service? What makes it good? Why they should buy it?

Or did they have to think too much?

Next Inconvenient Truth: Know thyself. Stay tuned.

*ignore at your own marketing peril

Your English Teacher Was Wrong.   2 comments

Hate to break it to you, but Mrs. Marple, your 8th grade English teacher, put you on the road to utter boredom.  At least when it comes to compelling ad copy.

You know all the rules that were drilled into our heads:

  • Use complete sentences!
  • Don’t ever end a sentence with a preposition!
  • Do not use contractions!
  • Write in the third person!
  • Give lots and lots of details!
  • Do NOT break the rules!

OK, here are Promobabe’s Rules for copywriting that works: 

Love the word “you.”  Sprinkle it liberally throughout your copy.

  Talk to one person at a time – not a group.

 Envision the prospect you’re talking to.  You’re having a conversation, not giving a speech.

 Do not use “do not.”  Or “we are.”  Or “I am.”  Stop channeling Mrs. Marple and embrace the fact that when you’re writing ad copy, contractions are your friends.  They make everything so much more friendly and readable.

 Too many exclamation points!!!!!  It’s overwhelming!!!! Unless you’re a 14 year old girl on Facebook!!!!!  Or wanna feel like a 14 year old girl again!!!!

 Sentence fragments are good.  Sometimes very good.  They add flow and rhythm to your copy.

 Ending sentences with a preposition will NOT result in jail time or the removal of your Writing Rights (in most states).

 White space is also your friend.  Be sure to break text up into paragraphs and/or bullet points for readability.  Your bleary-eyed customers will thank you for it.

And remember, now that you have the rules – feel free to break them anytime.  If you have a really good reason – and Mrs. Marple isn’t around. 

Posted August 16, 2010 by promobabe in Copywriting, Creative Services

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Confessions of a Promobabe   Leave a comment

The power of less.  Nothing teaches it to you like the merciless world of TV promotion, where I spent many years writing and producing the daily “tonight at 11pm” teases for local news stations.

It’s a world where you gotta get your message out fast.  Where 30-second spots are a luxury.  Most of the time, you’re cranking out your copy in ten seconds and even the infamous “four second ID’s.”

But you know, those tough constraints can benefit anyone who writes promo copy for any business.

At first, it’s agonizing to brutally cut your melodious marketing thoughts to the bare bones.  I mean, you have so much to say – and such clever ways to say it!!  You just know everyone is breathlessly awaiting every fascinating detail about your product or service.

But when you’re forced to crank it out down and dirty every day, you quickly learn to go lean and mean.  And a funny thing happens.  You begin to take pride in your ability to cut to the chase, to get right down to it.  You realize it forces you to drill down to the most important thing about what you’re promoting – and just spit it out there.  Quick.  Clean.  To the point. 

Before you know it, you’re a better marketer for it.  Because let’s face it, no one loves your copy like you do.  And even if they did, they don’t have the time to read it all.  The world just wants to know what’s cool about what you have to offer – and how it makes their lives better in some way.  That’s it.  The rest is just so much blah, blah, blah.

So the next time you’re writing some copy for your company, think to yourself – what would I really say about this product or service if I only had ten seconds to get my point across?  You’ll find it’s a powerful starting point for targeted, compelling messages people really care about.

Brevity can be beautiful.

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