Monday, July 06, 2020

Copywriting: Be Innovative


Why Do We Need to be Innovative in Copywriting, and How Does it Benefit the Reader?

The ability to create innovative copy is the core of  good copywriting, and should be strived for at all times. Being able to produce creative copy that shows the customer the benefits of the product is top of the list when it comes to copywriting. 

So how do you know real innovation when you see it up close?
The answer is split into three different parts:

1. Originality

When you write something that is original and creative, people will remember it because of its uniqueness, instead of a dull 'me too' message.  This is because we're more likely to remember something that jumps off the page, than sits quietly in the background.

Well known copywriter Steve Harrison author of  'How to Writer Better Copy' calls it 'relevant abruption', which is to say that it gets under the reader's skin, without the reader noticing it, making the reader even more intrigued.

2. Being Humorous

Being able to say what needs to be done in a humorous way that will make the reader laugh out loud.  This is a considerate copy that requires subtlety, intelligence and intrigue that will leave your audience wanting more.

Creating humour makes your product less evident but more appealing, which requires the reader to pay more attention, allowing their brain to do the rest of the work.  Their prize is twofold, understanding the message, and the satisfaction of working it out.  

3. Being Emotive

Writing innovative copy allows you to write something that might be fun, exciting or aspirational.  On the other hand this could also mean writing something that is mysterious, deep like love, or shows compassion.  It could also be the complete opposite and be full of negativity, anxiety, or fear.

This is why ads that involve something close to home like ads for new parents, always appeal to the parent's love of their children.  This may come into play if you're writing an ad for a charity, that style of writing brings out the best in people, and makes people feel emotional.

If you can make the reader feel strongly about something they're more likely to listen to your message and remember it.  Be careful when you start bringing emotion into your copy, this could lead to more  negative thoughts in the reader's mind.

Emotion, humour and originality are things you can dial up or down.  Which means you can be as conventional, original, or unusual as you like.  All of these things can be done in different combinations.

Imagination With Intent

Our culture is often enriched by the lessons learned in marketing, and is a reflection of the lives we live, a lot like art.  While your copy is complete in its own right, marketing has a hidden agenda, whether it wants to tell you or  not.  Contrary to a Van Gogh or da Vinci, marketing wants to lure you in.

At the end of the day innovative copy is all about solving a problem you may have.

So What Does Your Innovative Copy Need to Do?

Ultimately your copy has a job that needs to be done, which comes in three parts: to answer your brief, amplify the benefits of the product, and most importantly sell the product.

Answering the brief means staying with the plan you were given, so you can aim your copy at the right reader.

Magnify the benefits and make them as appealing to your audience as possible. 

Sell the product, which is the most important point of all.  Your innovation has to be good enough to sell sell sell. You may get swept away in your ideas, and creativity, but all of this could be to your detriment, and be selling itself instead of the product.

Some Important Points for Innovative Copy

The process of innovation and creativity can be unclear at the best of times, so I'm going to help you out with 14 helpful starting points to get you started.

1. Make an Uncomplicated Start

When you start writing your copy, keep it simple and uncomplicated, addressing your reader in the simplest way you can think of.  Stay clear of humorous dialogue, and originality.

For example:

Urban Apples is a light cider that is made in the UK, with only organic ingredients.

It is an artisan cider, quite light, with a unique taste that comes from the distinctive red apples grown in Northumberland.

Making a simple start gets rid of the blank page right off the bat, leaving you with the process of improving, and refining your editing process. Which is a lot easier when you already have words on the page.

2. Shake Things Up a Little

It may surprise you to know that most ideas aren't that new anymore, they're just new combinations of things that are already out there.  
Or as Steve Jobs put it:

Creativity is just connecting things.

One of the best ways to spark creativity is to read and gather as much information as you can, then mull it over and let your subconscious mind do the rest.

3. Look at Things From a Different Angle

Looking at the product from a different angle will bring in new suggestions and ideas that are more effective things to write about, such as:

What would the product look like if its purpose was reused for a different purpose?  Ask yourself things like how would a child use the product?  Could it be mistaken for something else?

What would the product look like if it was distorted in some way?  Made to look longer, or shorter etc?

What would the product look like if it was relocated to somewhere more exotic or exciting like the jungle, under the sea, was put in the past?

This kind of creative play leads to new thinking and fresh ideas, that may lead you to new places you hadn't thought of before.  So don't knock playful thinking!

4. Use a Metaphor

Metaphors are used when you use a word or phrase and an object or action is applied.  This helps if you're trying to explain something, not unlike a simile which takes a figure of speech and compares it to something else. You can use metaphors in your copy to connect the product with something familiar that the reader might know, enabling you to make light of some of the advantages of the product.  For example:

When Was Your Last MOT?

If you're over 40, and male, your health is at risk of all kinds of problems.  Make sure you make an appointment with your GP to keep you on the retirement road.

The human body doesn't share that many similarities to a car, but they both suffer from breakdowns and engine trouble, if they're not properly monitored.

This clever piece of copy creates a connection between something that may interest the audience (motoring), and something they might want to avoid (their own health). 

If this kind of copy is too similar to the niche you're writing about, you might fare better with something more literal.

5. Provide a Contrast

Comparisons are great for highlighting similarities, contrasts on the other hand, can make light of differences.  When contrasts are used in copy they normally convey some sort of tension going on between two things, at the same time solving them, creating a more equal message.

Contrasts have been used in car adverts, some campaigns have been more successful than others.  This difference is seen clearly with the Toyota Yaris, and the Vauxhall Corsa.

Toyota Yaris


Vauxhall Corsa

The small car with the big personality.

The Yaris's message is more disjointed and doesn't really make much sense when you think about it.  But the Corsa lays its cards on the table clearly and tells the reader in a way they understand.

6. Use Humour

When it comes to copywriting, humour is a way of really grabbing your audience's attention, while planting a message in their minds.  It doesn't help that people will really like what you've written, which doesn't hurt either.  Humour can help you lay out the product benefits in a very powerful way, as long as you stick to the script.

Your strokes can be broad or small, you can get straight or surreal, the main thing is that you're funny.  You can give the product a unique twist by choosing a particular benefit and embellishing that.  Just make sure you don't cross the boundary, because not everyone sees humour the same way you do.

7. Use Wordplay

When you start using wordplay you'll find it doesn't hold the same kind of wit that humour carries.  Plenty of local businesses and small companies use wordplay, but it leaves nothing to the imagination, and can feel a little lacklustre. 

Take a look at how Tesco has uses wordplay:

Freshly clicked.

This is used alongside a juice pyramid of tomatoes, or a bunch of asparagus.  This clever phrase evokes a similar correlation between the 'freshly picked' tomatoes, and picking them from the supermarket shelf.  Which also helps clear customers' concerns over outdated produce.

Always write your puns down, even if you think they're going to work or not as headlines, you may still have use for them at a later date.

8. Make Use of Images

Copywriting can often lie on visuals for the most impact.  Not every advert requires words.

A useful modus operandi is to use one or the other, pictures or words, but not never both at the same time.  That is to say that imagery, copy and words should only work together to communicate an idea.  Copy isn't required if the image says it all, and vice versa.  Images aren't required when your copy conveys it all. 

9.  Let the Reader Read Between the Lines

Sometimes what you want to say can only be interepreted by the actions seen.  This allows you to involve the reader to create their own message, instead of just passing on information about the product, or telling them to buy it.  You're telling the reader they need to join the dots instead of receiving the message passively.

The appeal of this kind of copy is to make the audience work harder.  Unfortunately this kind of copy doesn't captivate every company you write for, but in the long term the reader will remember the message, as long as it's been well written.

10.  Surprise People With the Opposite of What They Expect

You can do this by writing down all of the obvious things related to your product, then start writing down details that may be contrary to what you know about the product.

A good example of this is the campaign Harvey Nichols did 'Sorry I spent it on myself' shown on Christmas 2013.  This showed people giving their relatives cheap presents, while they spent all of the cash on themselves.  Most Christmas advertising is about giving, but this advert used greed and selfishness to make their competitors look saintly and quaint. 

11. Different Equals Memorable

There's no harm in standing out from the crowd, especially when it comes to writing great copy.  Things have changed quite a bit since the early days of advertising, when it was all fast trading.  In the current climate marketing is all about 'staying home' and 'reassurance' to the local community and the world.

Here are some examples:

#KeepingtheUKConnected - Vodafone.

We're never lost if we can find each other - Facebook App.

I stay home - IkeaⓇ.

Each of these adverts expressed perfectly the need for people to stay in doors, but some did that in a quirkier way than others.  Like the IkeaⓇ advert, added a sense of fun to staying home, the Facebook App ad told people they could be closer if they connected through their app.

Staying at home marketing campaigns have become the new norm, and is a long way from showing great sprawling scenes, with lush green forests, and wide open roads.

It's just a case of the angle you take, to make your copy different.

12. Serve a Curveball

Refashion your copy with a splash of humour, this can help amplify a benefit, and make people laugh along the way.  Your story can be neatly woven together with the help of a little satire, and it will be an advert your audience will find hard to forget.

IkeaⓇ's #WonderfulEveryday campaign encourages people to think differently about their homes and 'Conquer the Great Indoors'.  This is all put forward with a cuddly lion.  They've turned long hours of staying indoors into something quite exciting with the help of their furniture.  The curve ball is the creation of 'the Great Indoors'.  Who would have expected a house could look that exotic!  It's pretty easy to see how furniture, and furnishings can become something exotic and out of the ordinary.

13. Create a Swipe File

Even the best copywriters run out of ideas at some point, so why not borrow from the best instead.  No, that doesn't mean plagiarising someone else's work. 

A 'swipe file' is a file full of well-known examples of work that copywriters like, that help to kick-start their writing flow. This is a commonly used tool in the industry, so it's nothing new.  When you start delving into other marketing campaigns you understand how problems have been solved in the past, making your job a little easier.

You can find answers in your own patch, and study current trends and styles.  Companies big and small like to imitate each other's concepts, even if it's from a completely different industry, it might just work in your brief.

14. Go Further With Your Ideas

Chances are your ideas are only the start of a bigger picture, and the agency you're working for may be looking for more than just one idea.  It only takes one good idea for your copy to be snapped up by a company. 

Anyways, you need to have innovation at your fingertips, which is like a goldmine in the copywriting business.
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