Increase Brand Awareness with Clever Copy in the Nooks & Crannies

Hiding in the corners beneath the bold headlines, under the compelling benefit statements, and around the action-packed verbs are bountiful opportunities to inject your brand with personality. A recent trend is “nooks & crannies copy” as I’m calling it, because it often pops up in unexpected places. Here are three examples:

1. Yahoo Chat

Yahoo Chat Screenshot \

While it may be difficult to see in this picture, Yahoo has brilliantly introduced humor into their chat feature. Between the conversation above and the text box below is the status report indicating if the other person is typing a message. However, instead of a plain and boring “Apple123 is typing a message….”, yahoo has sprinkled clever anecdotes such as:

  • Apple123 really should learn to type with more than two fingers…
  • STAND BY FOR A MESSAGE FROM APPLE123
  • Apple123 is about to drop knowledge…
  • Apple123 is hammering out a wicked comeback…
  • Bate your breath, Apple123 is typing…

among a plethora of others.

While not directly selling anything, introducing conversational wit in this unexpected place allows Yahoo! to showcase their brand’s personality. It gives the user the impression that Yahoo! is a fun, easy to work with company that doesn’t take itself to seriously.

2. Verizon Wireless

Verizon Highspeed Internet Loading Icon

Located directly before a purchasing decision, this otherwise overlooked loading page has been transformed into a mini flash ad that reinforces the product’s effectiveness right before the sale. The ad shows an animated film strip loaded with a series of technological leaps. The last one, “From Dial Up…To High Speed Internet” subtly suggests “You wouldn’t live in a cave, would you? Then why on earth would you have dial up?” An effective suggestion, I would imagine.

3. You Need a Budget (YNAB)

YNAB screenshot

Jesse Mecham, the developer of YNAB, tells the story of how he and is wife needed a personal budgeting system. They developed a simple excel spreadsheet that over the years has developed into a sophisticated yet user-friendly budgeting tool. While the site has been dramatically improved on the design side, Jesse still maintains the heartfelt honesty in his conversational copy, as evidenced by the “Download Update” screen for his product. He is an accountant, and occasionally a grammatical error will pop up in his copy, but it doesn’t seem to matter when it comes to the bottom line. His conversational style is obviously effective due to the growth and endorsements of YNAB.

Related Links

Three Tips to Make Your Copy Conversational – by Mila Sidman

How to Make the Online Sales Copy for Your Website More Conversational – by Evelyn Lim

The Right Way to Write Sales Copy – by Anthony Vicenza

A Fun Game Between the Superbowl Ads (And I’m Not Talking About Football)

Ok. I admit it. When it comes to sports, I could frankly care less. I didn’t even know who was playing in the “Big Game” until this afternoon (sad, I know).

But I still get super jazzed around this time of year…for the commercials!

Last year, I created a survey (I know, I’m a dork…I get it) to poll the party I attended to find out what people thought of the ads. What started out as a tremendously nerdy exercise on my part ended up being the catalyst for some very interesting debates (Rodney, I’m not going to let you throw Frito’s at people you disagree with this year!)

If you’re like me, you may want to partake in the fun. Here’s the list I came up with last year. Take this list to your party and let me know what you and your friends think by posting a comment below. Additional categories welcome. 🙂

  • Best Use of a Celebrity
  • Most Controversial
  • Most Effective
  • Best New Product/Service/Idea
  • Funniest
  • Best Tagline
  • Biggest Waste of Money
  • Most Likely to Be Blogged About/Talked About Around the Water Cooler

Or, you can skip the whole “fooseball” thing all together and just attend an “Adbowl” like the one hosted by the Richmond Chapter of the American Marketing Association 

Either way, have a safe and fun Superbowl Sunday!

Brainstorming vs. Editing

So I have the green light to continue with the blogging (you may notice the lovely disclaimer under my picture, just to be on the safe side). Horray! Let the blogging continue.

Here’s a thought…

How should you respond to someone who says “OMG – We could (insert crazy idea here).”

a) “That would never work.”

b) “Maybe, but we’d have to do a lot of things to make it work.”

c) “What a great idea! We could also (insert a different crazy idea here).”

The correct answer is c.

There are two parts to creation – brainstorming and editing. You brainstorm first and edit later.

In brainstorming mode, rules do not apply. You have an unlimited budget, no legal problems, and zero logistical hurdles. The goal is to purge the crazy and wacky ideas from your brain and get them down on paper. The sky’s the limit – dream big!

Then….much later…..

You edit. You look at your crazy ideas and say “This is a great idea, how can we make it work in the real world?” You’d be surprised how achievable many of those crazy ideas actually are. Don’t kill them – incubate them!

The Amazing Technicolor Networking Jacket

andrea-and-her-technicolor-networking-jacket.jpgIn the ten years I’ve been in sales I’ve attended a lot of networking events where a lot of people stand around in black suits. Black suits are safe. Black suits blend in. Black suits don’t get noticed. There’s nothing wrong with wearing a black suit, just don’t expect anyone to remember you.

A few months ago I was browsing through one of my favorite department stores when the loudest, most brightly colored jacket caught my eye from across the room. It was so bold that several sat on the clearance rack for a whopping 75% off. It was almost as if you could hear the voices of the people who had picked it up prior saying, “there’s no way I could wear this – I’d stand out too much.”

Suddenly, I had a thought. If this jacket could stand out among racks of other brightly colored clothes, imagine what it would do in a room full of black suits. I found my size, tried it on and was pleasantly surprised at how well it fit. It seemed to perfectly embody the image of the “fun, young, hip, creative chick” look that I was going for. Bingo.

So it’s been three months and here’s the result. I’ve worn this jacket 4 times to networking events (considering I go to 3 -5 events per week, that’s not very often). Yet, I’ve had the following experiences:

  1. A friend of mine gave me a pair of earrings she had that “just seemed to match that jacket of yours perfectly.”
  2. A fellow networking professional remembered me as “the girl in the bright colored jacket I met last week.”
  3. A colleague confessed that she thought of me and my jacket when she purchased her shirt.

Proof that it’s working – this jacket helps me not only stand out in a crowd, but people remember me more afterwards because of this jacket. Association and recall are two goals of any branding effort.

So where is your technicolor jacket in a room full of black suits?

  • If everyone else uses words like “innovative”, “quality”, “turnkey”, “synergy”, and the other overused business phrases do you opt instead for a genuine and conversational tone to your writing?
  • When every other IT service firm is using blue corporate colors and pictures of politically correct people for their websites are you being bold with bright colors and custom illustrations?
  • If every other financial services professional is focused on pushing a product do you flat out say (and mean it!) “I do this because I’m passionate – not because of the money. I do this because my clients become friends for life. I want to grow with them and be involved in helping them grow. If you’re looking for someone to simply transact on your behalf, I might not be the fit for you.”

Keep in mind that markets change and shift. People catch on to a good thing. In time your once bright jacket begins to blend in. In which case, a black suit just may stand out against a room full of color.

Related Links

Be Remembered at Networking Events

16 Ways to Make Your Business Card Unforgettable

Scarcity Matters

5 Myths of Business Communications

Take a moment and think about all the words you send to your prospects and clients – all the content of your website, brochures, e-mails, letters, fliers, blogs, etc., etc., etc. Imagine all the vowels and consonants you’ve used to describe what you do piled high into an ever growing heap of words. Mind-boggling, isn’t it? In business, we communicate…a lot.

The ability to clearly describe what you do, how it is different from everyone else and why your prospects should buy from you is an essential part of the success of any business. From the smallest e-mail to the most expensive advertisement every piece of communication is an opportunity to form an impression in your customer’s mind (A.K.A. your “brand”).

But are we really clear when we write our business communications? Do we accurately convey the points we are trying to make so our prospects and clients can “get” our message? Take these 5 common myths of business communications and test your CQ (communication quotient).

Myth #1 – The more information I can cram in, the better.
Have you ever tried to find a needle in a haystack? It takes a lot of patience. Unfortunately, patience is not something readers of your business communications will have. Simply put, if your message is buried in mounds of text no one will take the time to search for it. Effective business communications focus on a singular message and eliminate everything else.

Do you pass the test?
Show your business communication piece to a stranger and give them only 5 seconds to look at it. Can they tell you the main message?

Myth #2 – If I use big words, people will think I’m smarter.
Prodigious colloquy induces an antipodal consequence. Using big words is like a guy with an expensive sports car – it can be perceived that you are trying to compensate for something. Instead, go for short, clear, easy-to-understand words that you would use in everyday conversation. Your tone will be friendlier and your readers will be more receptive to your message.

Do you pass the test?
Give your business communication piece to a 4th grader. Do they understand every word?

Myth #3 – By using buzzwords, jargon and acronyms I’ll prove my industry knowledge.
You might as well write in Ancient Greek because that’s about how many people will actually understand what you’re trying to say. Acronyms are especially deadly, so if they’re necessary – take the time to spell them out. As for buzzwords and jargon – save them for the water cooler.

Do you pass the test?
Have a friend from an opposite industry read your marketing material. Do they understand it?

Myth #4 – I’ll use adjectives like “best”, “excellent” or “outstanding” to set myself apart.
Have you ever been stuck at a party with a person who just won’t shut up about how great they are? Not only is it annoying – it actually turns you off. Instead of bragging about yourself, gather testimonials and allow your customers to boast on your behalf. You’ll find prospects intrigued and eager to learn more.

Do you pass the test?
Ask your best clients to give you a quote about their experience working with you. Did you replace your boastful comments with their testimonials?

Myth #5 – I’ll write in first person so it won’t be boring.
Most of your readers will have one question in their mind when reading your document – “What’s in it for ME?” That means, using the Y-O-U word – not the I (or W-E) word. Yes, there are times that a compelling narrative story can make an impact. But in general, business communications should be about the client – not about you.

Do you pass the test?
Take a piece of business communication and change “I” and “we” to “you” (also, change the tense of the verbs, etc.). Give both versions to a friend and ask them which is more compelling.

Hopefully by now your pile is a little lighter and your message a bit clearer. By taking the time to crystallize a clear and conversational message you engage your audience with your message. This can lead to longer loyalty, more referrals and ultimately increased revenue – and who couldn’t use that?

 

Adventures in Amazing Copywriting #6 – Creating Conversation

aussieshampoo.pngThis week’s adventure brings us Down Under with Aussie’s revamped branding. You may recognize their mascot – the iconic kangaroo and their signature purple bottle. But what catches my eye is the overwhelming personality of the product descriptions.

I’ve been an Aussie fan for years and on my list this weekend was to pick up more product for my personal stash. Since the brand rollout, Aussie has introduced new products, which gave me a perfect excuse to take some time to read each description. (Yes, I do enjoy reading the backs of shampoo bottles in my spare time – when they’re well written.) You know the copywriter has done a good job when I’m laughing out loud in the middle of the aisle.

My favorite description comes from their “Clense & Mend” line:

Front:
“Sometimes your roots are greasy, your ends are frazzled and your car won’t start. This helps two of those problems.”

Back:
“Listen…we’ve all got problems. If yours include greasy roots and frazzled ends, Cleanse & Mend shampoo can cease the crease and quench the tips. If your problems include greasy tips and frazzled roots, you’re in deep trouble.”

Directions:
Work through your other problems as you work this through your clean, damp hair. Rinse well and prosper.”

And I’m also a fan of their new “sprunch” spray:

Description:
“Combine a kickin styling spray with a little scrunch and what do you get? That’s right – Sprunch”

Directions:
“Spray into your hair as you style. Pretty clever, huh? Spray it all over to set your style, which is even more clever. Clever-er, if you will.”

Tagline:
Add some Roo to your do.

Why this works:

1. Understand Your Target Market. Aussie understands their target market which, I’m guessing is 16 to 35 year old women who are hip, thrifty and down to earth. This style of copywriting might not resonate with everyone, but that’s okay. The quirky conversation tugs at the heartstrings (and pursestrings) of the people who matter most.

2. Conversational Copy Creates Emotion. The overall goal of any copywriting is to sell. When a product or service uses a conversational and descriptive style, an emotional connection is made with the consumer. This emotional connection leads to increased brand loyalty which adds to a customer’s lifetime value.

3. Stand Out. Let’s face it, facts, figures and features are BORING! As a consumer, I have far to much information to filter out already, so to make me notice you – you’ll need to stand out from the crowd. Conversational copy can help you do just that.

Related Links

Dawud Miracle – “Maybe The Best Copywriting Tip Ever”

Scott H Young – “Ten Skills Everyone Should Have”

Open IT Strategies – “Finding a voice people can understand”

How to Get Your Name in Print

market-square-in-alexandria.jpgEver wondered how people are chosen for feature articles in the newspaper? Here’s how it worked for me.

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in my “satellite office” at Market Square in Alexandria, VA. I go here on warm summer days because the granite benches surrounding the water fountain have power outlets right next to them. With my Sprint Broadband service and my power outlet, I have everything I need to work productively. And, might I add, the scenery calms me down and makes me appreciate my life as an entrepreneur.

During the lunch-hour, this place gets pretty packed, and strangers pass by, look at me and remark, “You look like you’re actually working – wow, I wish I had your job!” On this particular afternoon, a gentleman sat down on the bench next to me. He inquired as to the nature of my job and I replied that I was a “freelance writer and marketing consultant and I focused on Online writing like websites and blogs.”

Turns out this gentleman was a reporter with the Alexandria Times. We carried on for a bit with a conversation about the difference between “old media” and “new media”, I mentioned my involvement with the New Media Nouveaux Conference and we casually exchanged business cards.

Fast forward two weeks and I see in my inbox the following e-mail:

Hi Andrea, it was nice meeting you the other day. I want to write an article about you and blogging – what do you think? Let me know when is a good time to sit down and interview you – maybe at Starbucks or out on the market square like when we met the first time.”

So, if you want to get your name in print, be prepared to:

1. Do something different. Reporters need an angle – something actually worth reading about. If you’re doing the same-ol-thing as everyone else your chances for an interview are slim.

2. Have a tight elevator pitch. Be prepared to explain exactly what you do, how it is different from everyone else, in bulleted benefits and in less than 15 seconds.

3. Don’t be afraid to talk to strangers. You never know who you are going to meet. Networking is not reserved for places with nametags and an open bar.

4. Be yourself. Reporters (make that most people) can tell when you’re being authentic vs. when you’re being a flack. People like to work with people who are genuine.

5. Follow up immediately. If the media calls to ask you for an interview, drop everything you’re doing and reply right away. Otherwise, they will move on to somebody else.

Related Links:

Execupundit.com – Make it Pithy

Modern Magellans – Elevator Pitching

Scott Ginsberg – 10 Different approaches for your 10 second commercial

PR Squared – Pitching in Public

Toby Bloomberg – Relationships are the New Currency

Conversation Agent – Media as Connectors of Ideas and People

10 Interview Questions to Create Stellar Copy

I’m about to share a secret with you. It may sound far-fetched, but it’s true. Ready?

The key to great copywriting is not writing – it’s about intimately understanding the motives, beliefs and emotions of your audience. Don’t worry, you read that sentence correctly. The key to great copywriting is not writing.

So then, what is the secret to stellar copy?

The interview. That’s right – 90% of the work happens before you even stroke a key, write a sentence, or open a word processor. If you ask the right questions, you will intimately understand your audience and the writing will be easy. Once you completely comprehend your purpose the words will flow like water down a steep incline.

Here are 10 types of questions to help you write stellar copy:

1. Facts – These are the “who”, “what”, “when”, “where” questions. They give you just the facts and not much more. Most of these can be answered with a bit of research prior to your interview, so if you want to be professional, come prepared to confirm instead of collect answers to factual questions.

2. Reasons – Why, why, why, why, why? What is the reason or motive behind an action, decision, or response? Try channeling the spirit of your 4-year-old niece and inquire “why” almost more often than is comfortable.

3. Problem/Solution – What was/is the problem and how does the product/service solve it? The answers to these questions are key to producing clear benefits in your copy.

4. Descriptors – Adjectives turn words into a picture. They describe a scene so readers can connect via their imagination. One trick to drawing these words out in an interview is to get your interviewee to describe their product or service in the third person. For example: “Imagine your best client is referring you to their best friend. What would they say?”

5. Feelings – Understanding feelings is important for establishing the proper tone for your copy. Should your tone be happy and upbeat or calm and subdued? When in the interview, be sure to ask about how the reader feels both before and after the product/service experience.

6. Actions – Verbs are the most important words in your copy because they inspire readers to take action. One method for drawing out action words is the question, “What does your product/service help people do?”

7. Typical Customer – The more detail you can gather about the customer you are writing for, the more easily you can put yourself in their character. Go deeper than traditional demographic info and get creative with your assessment. Where do they shop? What’s their favorite food? What are they doing on the weekends? What kind of clothes are they wearing? Although your interviewee may be thrown off by these types of questions, the detailed descriptions will help you visualize your audience when you are writing and get in their mind.

8. Personification – Particularly useful if you are selling an intangible, such as a service. Try using questions like, “If your service was a person, how would you… fix them up on a date? recommend them for a job? introduce them to your mother?” Again, you may have to warn your interviewee to simply trust the process.

9. Competition – With so much noise on the market today, a thorough understanding of the competition is key to standing out. Ask the tough questions like “What advantages does your competition have over you?” Knowing what you’re up against can help you focus on which benefits to feature.

10. Analogies/Metaphors – A master copywriter will craftily weave in analogies and metaphors. Doing so solidifies the brand awareness of the product/service to an existing object or experience in the reader’s mind. Try testing analogies and metaphors throughout your interview and see if any resonate with the interviewee. If you get a resounding “YES!!” you know you’re on to something.

Adventures in Amazing Copywriting #4 – Variations on a Theme

eggspectation.jpgToday’s adventure comes to us from Eggspectation – a theme restaurant where the egg is front and center. Just look at their mission statement:

We are a company committed to innovation and eggcellence. Meeting your “eggspectations” is part of our everyday eggsperience, striving to surpass them is what makes us “eggstraordinary.” On this notion, we strive to achieve the best possible in food quality & service while maintaining an overall relaxed & pleasant atmosphere. Welcome to what we call “le cirque des oeufs” an all-day eggsperience.

Looking around at the eclectic decor you can see how the egg theme is all around you through sculptures, paintings & knick-knacks. Even the backs of the chairs bear a familiar oval shape.

The menu is chocked full of continued creative copy with items such as:

– Muffin Eggplosion

– Egg-Chilada

– Eggcitement (French Toast)

– Eggsuberant (Breakfast Combination Platter)

– Uneggspected (Steak & Eggs)

Why this works:

1. Consistency – Using the same word over and over and over again helps solidify your brand in the minds of your customer. Repetition leads to recognition which leads to referrals.

2. Creativity – Clever copy causes clients to stop and think (and maybe even chuckle). Using words in a new way is a great way to help you stand out from the crowd.

3. Capitalize – Creating your own words gives you terms that you can trademark.

Adventures in Amazing Copywriting #3 – Alliteration

sprecker-brewery-orange-soda.jpg

Today’s example of amazing copywriting comes to us from Sprecher Brewery and their Orange Dream soda.

On the top label, a simple sentence stands superior.

In your wildest dreams, cows roam the orange groves in search of a starry spot for sitting and sipping a succulent citrus soda. Enjoy this super citrus drink of natural orange flavors, honey and vanilla for a creamy dreamy taste experience that’s over the moon.

Although it’s short, here’s why it works:

Alliteration (several words in consecutive order beginning with the same sound) is a secret weapon in any copywriter’s toolbox. As Brian Clark from Copyblogger notes, alliteration can make copy “bounce”.

Writer Scott Eric Kaufman explains his take on alliteration and assonance (repeating vowel sounds in non-rhyming words) as, “the interconnectedness it inspires, as if the repeated consonant and vowel sounds benumb the brain into an associative state. I want those connections to seem subtly more sound than they are, because creating an impression of interconnectedness could compel readers to respond favorably to arguments they might otherwise resist.”

I’m not sure if I agree with Scott’s notion that alliteration is a means for changing opinions. I do agree that alliteration can inspire a sense of cohesiveness and interconnectedness, can make a sentence stand out, and helps with the overall flow and pace of your work.

It should be noted that alliteration is an effective, yet potent copywriting tool. Like an essential oil, just a little goes a long way. Overusing alliteration can make you sound amateur, but the right blend can make you sound brilliant.

Adventures in Amazing Copywriting #1

One thing I love about Trader Joe’s is the copy on their private label products. Because of the catchy product titles & descriptions, I’m drawn to the private label products above the others. This is a great strategy for TJ’s because these are the products that have the largest profit margin. Ergo, excellent copy equals more moolah for their bottom line.

traderjoesapplebar.jpg

The side of the box says:

What do you get when you cross fresh apples with a cereal bar?

A delicious anytime treat that’s ideally suited to an active lifestyle: whether you need a quickie breakfast, a fast snack or just something to tide you over to your next meal. The real punchline here is that these bars are made with organic grains and none of those dreaded hydrogenated oils (very un-funny).

Our cereal bars are jammed with delicious fruit fillings and like other popular bars, ours are individually wrapped for convenience. They’re also low fat, low sodium, and contain selenium.

No joke. These bars are really tasty.

Why this works:

#1 – Catchy Tagline – Get it? Apple filling is in the bar. We’ve all heard a joke “a (insert any random object here) walks into a bar” and this clever twist is both metaphorical and literal. This multi-layered tagline makes readers think (and if they’re like me, chuckle in public.)

#2 – Conversational Tone – Doesn’t it sound like the person who is writing this description is speaking specifically to you. Conversational tone is a great way to draw readers in and make them feel connected to your product.

#3 – Continued Metaphor – Notice how the “joke” theme is carried throughout the copy on the side with words like “What do you get when you cross…”, “The real punchline…”, “very un-funny”, “No joke.” Continuing the metaphor makes the copy feel cohesive and complete.

Genius! Trader Joe’s – your copywriter deserves a raise!

What’s in a name?

One of my close friends is an architect. I love having her outside perspective when I’m explaining what I do – she almost can’t conceive the life of a copywriter.

The other day she invited me to a party to celebrate one of her friends getting a great job in San Francisco. I jumped at the chance to be in a room full of non-entrepreneurs.

As I socialized, I found a running theme when I described what I do. Here’s the gist of the conversation:

“Yep, I’m an architect too – just like everyone else here. So what do you do?”

“I’m a copywriter”

“Oh, OK.” (insert perplexed look here) “So are you a lawyer that helps people get a copyright?”

At this point I paused – learning that I certainly needed to reword my title. I tested different responses….

“…I’m a freelance writer”

“What do you write about?”

“I write all the words that go on the promotional pieces for a business. Things like websites, fliers, brochures, advertisements – things like that.”

Although this was better – it wasn’t quite there.

Then I hit it.

“…I’m the Chief Idea Officer of Write Ideas Marketing”

“Wow. Really? What does that mean?”

“I help come up with creative ways for companies who have a great product or service get the message out.”

“Sounds like you have a fun job.”

“I do.”

So the question I’m posing to all you fellow copywriters out there is this – how do you introduce yourself at a party? How do you explain your profession so people “get” what you do?

***************************************************************************************

Andrea Morris is the Chief Idea Officer of Write Ideas Marketing and specializes in helping visionaries, entrepreneurs, consultants and small businesses use high-ROI strategies to get the right message to the right people. For more information, please visit writeideasmarketing.com