Your business doesn’t need a slogan – here’s why.

India - Sights & Culture - Tourism Slogan

Slogans are often regarded as a fundamental component of a corporate identity – an assumed marketing requirement as essential as a logo and a website.

But does your business really need a slogan? Does your business need a single snappy line to encapsulate everything you do?

I suggest that, unless you are a major corporation or engaging in a national advertising campaign, you don’t need a slogan.

Modern businesses that do most of their marketing online are better off investing in social media, great design, informative content – just about anything other than a clever phrase that is likely to baffle, bewilder and bemuse more than it attracts, persuades or sells.

Here are my arguments against slogans:

1: Taglines are typically esoteric and evocative but lacking in meaning

Evocative and inspiring slogans are wonderful things in the right context. If you’re advertising on TV, print or billboards (for example) it’s useful to capture the essence of your brand in a few memorable words that burrow into the audience’s ears.

The advertising helps to contextualise the slogan and lend it greater meaning. So those few memorable words manage to mean a great deal because your audience has been exposed to your brand and conditioned to feel an emotional response to your slogan.

This works well when your brand is a household name, or you are running a national ad campaign.

Without this contextual support your audience may not have enough background knowledge to parse the meaning of your tagline.

2: Taglines waste valuable real estate

Taglines are typically placed in the most conspicuous places. And that is usually prime real estate on websites and ads.

But why fill that precious space with a weak attempt at an evocative tagline when you could communicate something tangible?

Why give people riddles when you can give them answers?

3: You don’t have an audience to entertain

If most of your marketing happens online then you don’t have the same kind of audience that you might have with TV, radio and outdoor ads (where the audience may be stationery or otherwise restricted).

Audiences online are not really audiences. They’re participants, and there’s nothing to stop them from clicking away to something better, something they can understand and something that leads them towards action.

4: You don’t have the budget to make your slogan meaningful

The world’s most famous slogans have been battered into our brains through repetition. Ads for Nike, L’Oreal, VW and Apple have a chance to soak into our souls because we’ve lounged through hundreds of hours of TV ads and had the copy hover over our heads on the tube. We’ve gazed sleepily at soft pictures in magazines and caught earworms off radio ads.

Big brands have memorable, meaningful slogans because they’ve invested billions in making them meaningful.

5: Taglines waste time

If someone gives fives seconds of their life to skim your website, consider yourself lucky.

There are millions of websites that can’t even get a cursory glance from a disinterested consumer.

You’ve only got a few seconds to make a great impression – so why waste those precious seconds by making someone decode your half-baked, ill-advised, quasi-cryptic, pseudo-mystical slogan which, in attempting to communicate everything, manages to communicate nothing?

The caveat…

There is still space for clever, witty, evocative and emotionally-charged copy online. Marketers still need conceptual copy to adorn social media campaigns and to capture attention on landing pages.

And slogans can still be helpful branding and marketing devices – as long as they communicate the fabric of your business as well as the fashion.

How do you choose a freelance copywriter?

ELEGIR- CHOOSE

 

How do you choose a freelance copywriter or a content agency?

It’s a tricky choice to make. But here are a few things to consider – in no particular order…

1: Personality

Do you like the copywriter, or the managers at the content agency? Will you enjoy working with them?

Personality and likeability are important factors because you’ll need to get along, especially if your project is challenging (i.e. with a tight deadline).

2: Skill

Does the writer have the skills to write great copy for your business? If you’re using a content agency, be aware that the account manager may not do the writing. Your contact might be an expert but is the writer equally qualified?

3: Experience

Direct experience of your industry isn’t always essential – and in some cases a fresh perspective can be invaluable – but sometimes you want to know that your copywriter ‘gets’ your business immediately, without you having to bring them up to speed.

Check out their portfolio and ask whether they have any relevant experience.

4: Price

It’s a terrible idea to base your choice entirely on cost, but you may have a fixed budget and need to rein in costs. It’s best to be open about your budget so you don’t waste time talking to someone you can’t afford.

5: Availability

The best copywriters are usually the busiest. So if you have an urgent project and just can’t wait, you may have to settle for a second-tier copywriter.

6: Longevity

How long has the copywriter been in business? If a copywriter has been in business for a few years it’s safer to assume that they’ll still be in business when you need them next.

7: Your needs

Some copywriters have minimum project sizes (e.g. £1000) or are only looking for ongoing client relationships. Make sure the copywriter you pick is going to be happy doing the work you need.

8: Approach

How does the copywriter tackle projects? Do they work remotely – or will they come to you? How will they get to know your organisation? How will they deliver content? How do they manage amendments? Does their approach fit with your organisation?

9: Location

Do you need a copywriter who can travel to your office? While the majority of content projects can be adequately completed remotely, there are occasions where face-to-face meetings and workshops are invaluable. Check your copywriter’s location – and whether they’re happy to travel.

Are you looking for a freelance copywriter? Get in touch to discuss your project and how we might help >>

Why front-loading is important when writing online

Writing for the web should feel as urgent as trying to de-fuse a bomb.

If you can’t get your point across quickly, the reader is going to explode. Or just stop reading.

People scan websites. Eyes flit across the page looking for something that meets their needs. People skim. They don’t kick back in their arm chairs, light a pipe and soak in your prose.

Eye-tracking research suggests that people typically scan in a vaguely F-shaped pattern (as depicted in my crude illustration below).

Skitch

Front-loading means putting the important details, special information and keywords at the front of sentences, headings, paragraphs, links, list items and calls-to-action.

Put your key details at the front and your readers are more likely to discover the key messages – and less likely to get bored.

Let’s consider a few lines that are NOT front-loaded:

  • Enter our competition and win a new iPad
  • Learn how to train your dragon
  • Download documents to help you sell more cattle
  • Discover how to deal with difficult relationships

I’ve highlighted the key words in each line – these are the words that are likely to cause our reader to respond.

Clearly, it makes no sense to hide the trigger words at the end of a sentence, especially when most readers scan pages in an F-pattern.

Here are those same sentences front-loaded:

  • Win an iPad by entering our competition
  • Dragon training – we show you how
  • Sell cattle with our advice
  • Difficult relationships and how to deal with them

By moving the key words and most pertinent details to the front of a sentence, link or list item you can improve the odds of your reader seeing them.

By front-loading your copy you don’t just improve your chances of success, you improve the user’s experience by helping them find what they’re looking for.

Why I won’t be your grammar pendant*

The Egregious Sin of the Erroneous Apostrophe

Among copywriters you will find plenty of grammar pedants. It’s not surprising that people who work with words take pride in knowing the rules of language.

So you might think that I, as a professional copywriter, would be a total grammar nerd.

But I’m not.

Grammar is important, certainly, but grammar ≠ copywriting.

Copywriters must understand grammar, but it’s important to remember that copywriting is about more than writing correct English.

Copywriting is about writing compelling, interesting, clear, commanding, intriguing sentences that help organisations achieve goals.

Here’s why I prioritise effective copy over grammar:

Copywriting is about selling

Copy is there to sell, persuade, inform and entertain. Your copywriter should use words to help you achieve these goals. Clarity and correct spelling are important, but your copywriter should focus on creating an impact, getting attention, persuading an audience and inciting action.

Language can flex

The English language is an incredible beast, evolving so quickly that our dictionaries struggle to keep up. Copywriters make use of this space between canonical English and current usage – particularly in the more conceptual world of advertising. Slavish commitment to grammar can kill inspiration and leave you with dull, limp copy.

This ain’t your old-school English

Your English teacher might not approve of today’s copy. They may object to sentence fragments, split infinitives, beginning sentences with conjunctions (and, but), ending them with prepositions (about, with, by, in, on) – but these are all rules that copywriters like to break. By breaking these rules copywriters can create active, direct copy that makes a powerful connection with your audience.

Accuracy is still important

Correct grammar and spelling are still vital in all your business communications. Spelling mistakes, typos and mangled sentences can damage your organisations’ reputation. So check and double-check everything your business publishes. Your copywriter should understand grammar and they should be a stickler for the details. If your business is selling anything remotely valuable, or critical, or sensitive, then it’s doubly important that your copy is well written.

But don’t let an obsession with grammar get in the way of great copy.

*deliberate mistake

A tale of two taglines

Slogans are tricky little buggers.

It’s hardly surprising that slogans are tricky to write (and get right) because we expect so much from just a few short words. Slogans may need to sum up a brand, capture the essence of a product, or suggest a transformative experience.

So what makes a good tagline in practice? In this post I look at two slogans in action and consider what they do well and how they fail.

Exhibit A: 

2015-09-08 09.37.24 (3)

 

This tagline, spotted on a van, is rather mysterious: “The Total Coffee Solution”.

Unless you’re familiar with UCC Coffee, this copy doesn’t tell you exactly what the business offers. And I think that’s a missed opportunity. The tagline could have conveyed some details of the products and services offered – or a sense of the quality of those offerings. The tagline is certainly confident and authoritative, but it seems to assume the reader already knows a lot about UCC.

And we have yet another example of the word ‘solution’ used to mean just about everything (but telling us nothing). This may be a deliberate play on words because, of course, coffee is literally a solution. But I doubt it.

This company has clearly invested in their branding, but I think they’ve missed an opportunity to communicate something tangible about their business. Sure, we know they do coffee, but what kind of coffee, for what kinds of business? Do they sell beans or machines? Do they sell to cafes or corporations? What’s important to them – and what do their customers love about them?

Exhibit B:

2015-09-08 09.38.23 (2)

This sign is simple and fairly crude. And it doesn’t even include a traditional slogan – just a bald statement of facts.

But it does a good job of conveying a clear message: they offer driving lessons for young people.

The sign makes a clear offer to a well-defined audience. If you’re in the market for driving lessons then you know this might be right for you. You can look at this sign and decide if it’s relevant within 3 seconds.

The author of this sign didn’t spend hours thinking up something witty or evocative. They just wanted to communicate a message.

The verdict

High-quality branding does not guarantee results, especially if nobody can work out what you do. Your evocative or conceptual tagline might give your CEO chills but does it mean anything to the public?

Maybe you don’t care whether your identity makes sense to the uninitiated, but I think you’re wrong.

There are occasions when it’s arguably okay to be more conceptual and evocative. If you’re creating a stand for a trade show, or putting ads in specialist publications, it’s reasonable to assume that your audience already knows something about your services.

But even then you should err on the side of communication, because not everyone is an expert. Remember the grads, the newbies and the passers-by – people who aren’t yet proficient in your industry jargon but who might be future advocates for your business. You can either sell to a broad audience or you can leave these people behind.

Put a price on their head: what’s the value of your next customer?

Project 366 #239: 260812 Stay On Target!

How much are your customers worth? How much does an average customer spend with your business? What’s the average lifetime sales of a customer?

Without knowing the answers to these questions (it’s basically the same question re-worded) you can’t evaluate the effectiveness of your marketing. You might also struggle to decide how much to spend on marketing.

However, if you know that the average lifetime value of a customer (CLV, LV or LTV) is £1,650, you can plainly see that it’s worth spending £500 on marketing each month in order to bring in new customers.

Much of the work I do is about bringing more customers to your door. So let’s put a price on their head. Let’s figure out what each customer is worth so we can decide if it’s worth devoting more – or less – time to content marketing.

In a future blog post I’ll look at ways to calculate the lifetime value of your customers.

Why defining the brief should be your first copywriting milestone

Solid Foundation

Where does a copywriting project start? What comes first? A test page? Tone of voice? Key messages? Brand guidelines? Keywords?

When a client comes to me, particularly if they’re a new client, I usually insist that we build the brief first.

My clients are often in a hurry. Many clients arrive after struggling to produce their own copy. They’re usually close to their deadline and eager to start NOW. And while my accommodating nature inclines me to acquiesce, I’ve been a copywriter for long enough to know that it pays to slow down and build the foundation. Instead of jumping in and writing stuff, I know it’s better to step back and think about the big picture.

By taking a little time to write a brief you can ensure that both client and copywriter have the same vision of the project. Writing a brief can prevent delays, snags and miscommunication. Writing a brief can ensure that the client gets what they want – which means the copywriter gets paid and everyone stays happy.

Briefs often evolve, or they may take the form of a flurry of emails from the client. It can be fruitful to adapt these rough notes and additions into a proper brief, especially if you begin to feel that some of the pointers or direction is conflicting.

So what should go into your copywriting brief? That’s a subject for another blog post. Adieu!

How should a freelance copywriter submit work to their clients?

stack

The short answer is: probably in Word format.

The longer answer: however they want it. And that’s something you should check, just in case they’re expecting you to submit HTML, Pages files or post-it notes.

This question falls within the realm of ‘assumptions’. There are certain things that you might assume about an agreement with a client, such as:

  • file formats
  • delivery dates
  • review process
  • sign-off process.

Instead of assuming that your 100th client will be like the other 99, define the specifics of your project so there are no unexpressed assumptions and no nasty surprises.

WriteClub is 5!

WriteClub, the informal networking group for all kinds of writers, turns 5 today!

If you would like to meet other writers and talk about all kinds of stuff, such as:

  • writing fiction
  • freelancing
  • poetry
  • books
  • publishing
  • copy writing
  • journalism

– and much more, then you should head along to a WriteClub. Absolutely everyone is welcome at WriteClub. We’re all people who either write stuff or think about writing stuff, but there’s no limit on who comes along. For a long while two of our most dedicated members were artists!

WriteClub meets in London and Brighton. Find all the details on WriteClub.net

 

 

Kendall Copywriting is 6!

I’m another year older and a tiny bit wiser. Kendall Copywriting has now been trading for six years.

It’s been another good year packed full of copywriting. I’ve written web pages, brochures, tweets, Facebook updates, blog posts, presentations, posters and white papers for:

  • PowerVote
  • Acas
  • WWF
  • Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres
  • GS1
  • Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust
  • MBA & Company
  • TBSCG
  • Allianz
  • Mercedes Benz
  • smart (cars)

– and many more!

 

It’s official: hype is a turn off

I’ve always encouraged my clients to use copy that is positive without being hyperbolic and promotional without being desperate.

To me, it seems intuitive that audiences are turned off by companies that over-sell themselves or litter their copy with bombastic language. Hype and superlatives might sound great to you, but to many of your potential customers those words sound like empty promises. Instead of inviting a reader into your world, those empty words create a barrier that your business can hide behind, leaving readers to wonder what else you’re hiding.

A recent study of branded content found that a significant majority of people trusted branded content, but their trust evaporates in the face of blatant self-promotion.

Factors which are guaranteed to turn off your readers include:

* Not being honest about the brand behind the content.

* Talking down to readers.

* Ignoring other arguments or viewpoints.

Thanks to Contently for writing the original article which inspired this post.

Accepting criticism and feedback as a copywriter

I always tell my clients, “I’m not really writing for you; I’m writing for your customers, or your supporters. They are the most important audience.”

But recently I’ve been thinking about how a copywriter has to juggle the needs of a client’s audience with the need to appease and satisfy client-side stakeholders.

For example, I can’t get away with just writing copy that will work for my clients – I also have to please them sufficiently so that they accept my suggestions and use my words to represent their business. If my clients don’t like the copy I provide, they won’t use it. My clients might have bad taste in copy, but to a certain extent I have to please them in order to help them.

Of course, no self-respecting copywriter is going to submit weak copy just because it’s what the client wants; the challenge is to lead your client towards a middle-ground where they get what they want while you also get to deliver copy you can be proud of.

So here are my tips for accepting client feedback and moving towards a result that pleases everyone.

1: Try your damnedest to see their point of view

This is difficult to achieve, but you must try. Even if you think their feedback is wrong or ignorant or misguided, you must try to understand their point of view. Why do they have wrong-headed views about the copy? What informs their opinion? Where did they get their ideas from?

2: Try to agree with their comments

Play devil’s advocate. Imagine that your client is entirely right and you are completely wrong.  Consider the feedback from every angle – but start from a point where you assume they are completely right. Will them to be right. Pray for them. It’s much easier to roll with a client’s punches than to fight back.

3: Be gracious in your communications

Remember that the copy you wrote is now a business tool. It’s not poetry. So even if you do feel hurt by a client’s criticism, take a few deep breaths and let those feelings fly out of your body.

4: Focus on the things you can accept and agree with

Instead of responding to feedback with justifications and combative comments, start softly and positively by talking about the points you completely agree with and understand.

5: Discuss contentious points carefully

It’s entirely right and proper to  resist any changes that diminish the copy, but do be careful how you argue. Be gentle, give evidence for your arguments and remember that your client knows their business and their customers better than you.

6: Remember that, after all, it’s their copy

If push comes to shove, the client won’t use any words that they don’t believe in. You can nudge a client towards the copy you think they need, but you can’t force it on them.

 

Do you have any tips for handling criticism and getting your client’s approval?

Writing for WWF International – new case study

I was thrilled to get a chance to write for WWF International last year.

WWF were busy with a number of global campaigns and their in-house team needed a little support. I think they also valued having some fresh ideas from someone not immersed in the world of conservation – which I hope I was able to provide.

I wrote blog posts and social media content for two WWF campaigns. I loved the complexity of their material – and it was great to get involved with such a worthwhile cause.

I do offer a discount to charities – so get in touch if you need help with campaigns, web copy – or anything else!

Read my WWF International case study

 

 

Copywriters in Dorset…

… WHERE ARE YOU?

Are you – or do you know – a copywriter in Dorset?

I am a copywriter in Dorset and I’d love to meet some of my local peers. So if you write copy in Dorset – or know someone who does – please tell them to give me a shout.

I attend local meet-ups like Dorset Digital and MeetDraw – so if you’re writing copy in Dorset get along to one of these events.

Incidentally, the next Dorset Digital meet-up is tonight (27 November 2013) at the Goat and Tricycle in Bournemouth: http://www.dorsetdigital.co.uk/

Kendall Copywriting is 5!

Birthday Cake!

 

As is now the tradition, I was too busy writing copy for my clients to notice my starting-a-business-anniversary. I’ve now been in business for 5 whole years.

Thanks to everyone who has helped me along the way. When I started, I didn’t know if I would last 5 months – let alone 5 years.

I’m not sure I would have survived without the support of the Farm, the Werks and the many great people that make up Brighton’s digital community.

Although now, of course, I’m doing business in Dorset.

Let’s chat about your projectContact us