Category Archives for "Copywriting"

Enough, already, with the exclamation punctuation.

I’m an Advertising guy. And ad guys are not nit-pickers when it comes to grammatical details like sentence structure and punctuation. We write how normal people talk, not how english teachers write.

So it’s pretty unusual for me to take issue with anything grammar related. But someone has to speak out about all the exclamation points popping up in marketing circles. If I see one more boring marketing cliche punctuated with three of these !!! I’m going to scream.

exclamation_mark1Exclamation points are everywhere these days… in social media posts, on home pages, in emails, ad copy, and even in straight-forward product descriptions.

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Clarity. Clarity. Clarity.

Clarity is the key to many things… Relationships, international relations, politics and parenting would all benefit from more clarity. But let’s stick to the subject at hand; Clarity in branding, advertising and marketing communications in general. Doesn’t matter what form… from a quick tweet or a simple email to an in-depth webinar or long-term TV campaign, you need to be clear about what you’re trying to say.

It’s a war of clarity vs. confusion. Simplification vs. Complication. Cool persuasion vs. a lot of hot air. Straight talk vs. bullshit. And it starts with your internal communications.

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1 Bad puns, bribes and other branding blunders

Graham Robertson of Beloved Brands recently revealed some reasons why advertising is so damn hard. I won’t give them away, but I will share this:

Advertising is hard for the corporate brand manager who has big ad agencies, market research firms, and millions of dollars at his disposal.

It’s hard for the mid-level marketing manager who knows his consumer and his sales pitch, really, really well.

It’s even hard for the hottest advertising agencies.

So why do so many CFO’s, CEOs, scientists, sales guys, golf pros, engineers and accountants think it’s easy? Why do they take it upon themselves to write headlines, choose photos, and dictate the art direction of print ads, commercials and digital campaigns?

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5 Who reads copy these days? The hungry ones.

I’m really tired of people telling me no one reads anything anymore.

For instance, a client recently said he didn’t want professionally-written web copy because, “no one reads it anyway.” He insisted that “People go to a site looking for something very specific. They don’t want to read, they just want to find what they’re looking for and move on.”

Begs the question… what ARE they looking for?

If a user has found your site, and has gone to the trouble of clicking in, they’re obviously looking for something they think you have… Information or insight of some kind. They’re following a crumb of promise, and you darn well better feed them something tasty.

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In great advertising, God is in the details.

I’ve never heard such a hush fall over a Superbowl party. The commercial titled “So God Made Farmers” disrupted things almost as much as the Superdome power outage.

If you don’t think poetry has a place in business and marketing, think again. Just listen to these words:

“God said, I need somebody strong enough to clear trees and heave bales, yet gentle enough to yean lambs and wean pigs and tend the pink-comb pullets, who will stop his mower for an hour to splint the leg of a meadowlark. So God made a farmer…”

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2 Just the facts on how to do more effective advertising.

When I was growing up I used to watch re-runs of an old cop show called Dragnet. The theme song alone left an indelible impression on me.

Narration from the main character begins every show: “This is the city; Los Angeles California. It’s 7:18 a.m. I’m sergeant Joe Friday. This is my partner, Gannon.”

Dragnet approach to bad advertising

Jack Webb as Sgt. Joe Friday in Dragnet

Joe Friday means business. He works his case methodically, interrogating everyone. He’s buttoned up so tight he can hardly part his lips to deliver his famous lectures. His favorite line: “Give us the facts, Ma’am. Just the facts.”

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5 How to conjure up a new business name.

Eons ago, advertising pioneer Claude Hopkins said “a good name should almost be an advertisement in its own right.”

He wrote the original bible on the subject, called “Scientific Advertising.” And now, some 90 years later, recent studies in behavioral economics and psychology show that many of his theories were dead on.

There’s a proven correlation between a memorable name and market value of the company.

Fortune 500 companies have figured that out. They pay naming firms huge sums to concoct new words that eventually become successful brands. Those firms employ teams of poets, neologists, writers, comedians, behavioral psychologists and linguists to come up with names like “Acura for Honda’s luxury car division. “Pentium” for an Intel Processor. Viagra for, well, you know what.

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4 3 Easy Resolutions For Better Branding.

2014 promises to be a great year for business owners and marketers who are willing to follow a few simple resolutions. I could have written a dozen or so, but that would go against the number one resolution:

• Resolve to be short and sweet.

There’s a proven paradox in marketing communications that says: The less you say, the more they hear. So stop with the generalities and the corporate double speak. Instead, try plain English. Hone in one specific idea and pound it home with powerful mental images and just a few, relevant details.

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1 How to build brand credibility, one detail at a time.

The brands I work with are not like WalMart. They don’t spend a half a billion dollars a year flooding the airwaves with traditional advertising. They don’t have enough money to sway public opinion in their favor. And all of them face stiff competition from bigger businesses.

Last week I had to convince a retail client that he couldn’t change people’s minds regarding his biggest competitors; the big box stores.

“You can’t compete on price,” I said.

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3 How to sell more stuff online.

Awwwww, the traditions of autumn… Halloween candy, the first snow in the mountains, and holiday shopping. You’ve heard of Black Friday… the mayhem-loving bargain hunter’s favorite day of the year. And “Cyber Monday,” the online equivalent. They’re coming up quickly.

The Wall Street Journal predicts there will be ninety six million online shoppers. That’s almost one-third of America’s population Googling for bargains. And there are probably nine million shopping sites to choose from.

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