Thursday, July 30, 2015

Very Punny

Some people hate puns. In my family, if you can't take puns, you'll take some punishment. I grew up with wordplay and have a healthy appreciation for puns (thank goodness, or I wouldn't be able to tolerate my husband for five minutes).

Obviously, there's a time and a place; copywriters need to be judicious. It seems journalism allows more opportunity for punsters than digital marketing does. I wish I'd been the one to write this headline:

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Take a Lesson (or 36) from Don

Just came across this fantastic infographic from Joanna Wiebe and Copy Hackers. I got a lot out of Mad Men, but it's wonderful to have the copywriting lessons all assembled in one place! Now I need to go rewatch the whole series.

Courtesy of: Copy Hackers

Monday, July 27, 2015

Boy do I love me some good button copy

A call to action (CTA) is an exhortation to do something specific. On a website, they usually appear on buttons or links; the action here (sign up, buy now) will happen after the user clicks.

At the 2014 Authority Intensive conference, I heard Joanna Wiebe of Copy Hackers discuss the user's fear of commitment as it relates to clicking a button. Joanna advised that we remove that fear by helping the user understand what will happen after the click. (Joanna wrote the book on button copy, btw.)

Clear CTAs that provide a sense of what's going to happen create good user experience; they're good for conversion; they enrich the whole site; and they're fun to write, unlike this:

Recently I wrote about the concise, verb-rich writing on Zuli's site. Their calls to action deserve a few words of praise, too. Just look at these clear drivers from their home page:

  • See for yourself
  • Experience it
  • Pop the hood
  • Check it out
  • Get answers

For every one of these, I had a good idea of what was going to be on the other side of the click.

Simplicity IS harder than it looks. It's nice to see some folks doing a great job.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Verbiage need not apply.

I love the word "verbiage" because I'm a bit off and I tend to like confusing things.

"Verbiage" is often misused. My coworkers might say "maybe Heidi can just write some verbiage," but they don't want me to craft "writing that contains too many words or that uses words that are more difficult than necessary" (thanks, Merriam-Webster). They actually mean "maybe Heidi can just write a short, concise blurb."

And, "verbiage" sounds like something it's not. The word isn't related to verbs at all; Merriam-Webster gives its origin as being from the Middle French verbier, "to chatter," and further back, from the Old French werbler, "to trill."

I also like it because it always brings to mind "roughage" and "foliage," so I get a mental image of a chewy, leafy word-wad. It's just fun.

Better in Absentia

More than I love the word, I love that verbiage appears (in name or fact) absolutely nowhere on Zuli's lovely website.

What does appear here are verbs--a lot of them. In the hero copy alone, including the CTA, we have five verbs out of 27 words total. Yes, 18.5% of the copy is verbs. That's effective.

They're great verbs, too: simple and imperative. Meet. Connect. Control. Enable. Shop. If you just read the verbs (and I believe they resonate more with readers than other words), you already get the message. Now, that's doing it right.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Selling to zombies.

Is it wise to imply your customers, or their teams, are dead?

The people even look like zombies--well, except for the robot. This headline doesn't mean much, unless the customer's team IS, in fact, dead. It's a waste of words. "Bring your team together," although equally un-snappy, is so much stronger.

The Subhead Is Dead, Long Live the Subhead

The subhead is as dead as the team here. It's not a complete sentence, so why does it get a period? It's not a complete sentence because it doesn't contain any verbs, but verbs are what sell. How about this:

"Chat in groups or privately. Share files. Work seamlessly."


Thursday, July 9, 2015

Repeat the right line.

Sometimes, a little repetition makes a great point, which is especially handy if you're really sure of the point you want to make. Check out this succinct "about" copy from theSkimm:

"Across subject lines and party lines" says a lot with just that little bit of epistrophe (the repetition of a word at the end of successive clauses). You can't always fit "we're a bipartisan publication" into so few words.

But why "subject lines" and not "headlines"? Their service creates synopses of news, not emails. Nice effort here, theSkimm, but you need to push a little further.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Selling ash with a story.

I learned about storytelling as an integral part of marketing the summer after Mt. St. Helens blew. My little brother and I were in Michigan visiting our grandparents, and somehow we wound up with a little stand in front of a Baskin-Robbins, selling little vials of ash for a dollar each.

When a man accused us of tipping our parents’ ashtrays into the vials in lieu of real volcanic ash, I was outraged. By the time I finished telling about the sky-ripping crack we’d heard all the way to the Oregon Coast and the ash-covered Jungle Gym in our back yard, the man had become a customer—and we’d gathered a crowd. We sold out of ash and I learned two things about storytelling: that it’s an incredibly powerful means of product marketing, and that I wanted to do it.

(The third thing about storytelling, which I learned much later, is that it’s a clichéd term. But like any of Shakespeare’s famous quips, it’s become cliché because it’s an accurate descriptor.)

A product’s story, or the story of the brand behind it, creates a connection. For the doubting Thomas in front of that Ann Arbor Baskin-Robbins, the detail and emotion of my recollections validated the authenticity of the ash. For a housewife buying laundry detergent, a product or brand story can be equally important. Its purpose isn’t to convince her there’s actual detergent in the jug; it’s to convince her that the detergent will work and is the right choice for her family.

Brands go about telling their stories, and their products’ stories, in very different ways with varying degrees of effectiveness. A large part of the story is big-picture: big concepts, like integrity, or quality, or comfort. But a large part of storytelling is in the details, from design decisions to word choice. To be truly effective, marketing must not only choose the right concepts but also make sure that the details back up and pay off those concepts.