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Avoid Killing Marketing Copy

If you’re going it alone, avoid these pitfalls when writing your marketing copy.

Susan Gunelius

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The shift to digital marketing, social media and creating fan bases and communities means that creating pertinent content is more important than ever before.

In my book, Kick-ass Copywriting in 10 Easy Steps, I teach SME owners who can’t afford to hire professional copywriters how to write effective copy that will bring the results from their marketing efforts that they want and need. However, just as there are steps you must take to write great copy, there are also mistakes you can make that can destroy your marketing messages and reduce your ROI to a fraction of what it could have been. Whatever you do, don’t believe the five myths described below.

1. Consumers care about me and my business

No, they don’t. They care about what’s in it for them if they buy your product or service. They don’t care that you’ve been a member of the local Chamber of Commerce for 20 years, and they don’t care how cute your kids are (so leave them out of your commercials, please).

Consumers care about having their needs and wants fulfilled. The goal of copywriting is to convince consumers that the product or service you’re selling will meet their needs and desires, even if you have to create perceived needs and desires for them. Your copy must focus on the benefits consumers will receive if they buy your product or service. It’s great that your business has operated from the same location for ten years, but consumers only truly care about what your business can do for them and how your business can make their lives easier or better. Those are the messages your copy should focus on in order to drive results.

2. I can use the same copy everywhere

No, you shouldn’t. Your copy should change depending on the medium in which you’re using it. For example, if you’re writing copy for an outdoor billboard that consumers are likely to have only seconds to view while driving 120 kms per hour on a busy highway, your message must be short and to the point. However, if you’re writing copy for a direct-mail piece that will be sent to customers who have requested information about your business, your copy should be more detailed with messages that explain, answer questions, and create a sense of
urgency to boost response rates.

3. I can use the same copy for everyone

No, that’s not a good idea. Different audiences will respond to different messages depending on their demographics, behaviours and experiences. For example, if you’re writing copy for a direct-mail piece that will be sent to prior customers, your messages should be different from those for a mailing to prospects. One audience is already very familiar with your products and services, while the other has no prior experience to draw from. Clearly, the messages to both audiences must be different to achieve the maximum response rates possible.

4. I need to sound smart in my copy

Not always. The language and tone of your copy should speak directly to the people who are likely to see it. For example, if you’re writing copy for teenagers, your copy should be different from copy targeted at senior citizens. McDonald’s changes references to its brand name depending on the audience. Turn on MTV and you’re sure to see a McDonald’s commercial referencing the fast food chain as ‘Mickey D’s’. It’s also important to omit jargon unless your copy is intended for an audience that will understand and expect it.

5. It’s easy to write copy

Never. Writing marketing copy is like no other form of writing. It defies many of the rules you may have learnt in English class, and it relies more on subtle persuasion, psychology, creativity and an understanding of your business and consumers than any other type of writing. Not all writers are good copywriters, and not all copywriters are good writers. If you decide to write your own copy, study the craft prior to putting pen to paper. And if you decide to hire a copywriter, invest in one who has experience and takes the time to understand your business and your customers.

With nearly 20 years of marketing, branding and copywriting experience, Susan Gunelius is also an entrepreneur.

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Consumers Don’t Have An Attention Problem. It’s Just That Your Advertising Isn’t Very Good

With so much media available to consume, quality matters more than ever for ads.

Brendan Gahan

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If a brand releases an ad and no one sees it, is it still called “advertising”?

People have more tools than ever before to skip out on ads entirely. More than three-fourths of the people in North America engage in automated ad-blocking, and 10 percent of them block ads across four kinds of media or more, according to Deloitte. Much like the question of trees falling in forests, what good is a brand’s message at a time when people generally don’t want to hear its sound?

Ad units are shrinking in the wake of ad-blocking technology, but human attention span remains unchanged. Today’s consumers are surely more distracted than any previous generation, so they guard their attention spans more mercilessly. When advertisers can successfully command that attention for a minute or two, it means the consumer is watching an ad for the same reason he or she binge-watches Stranger Things on Netflix: The ad has managed to present itself as relevant or vital to the viewer. It wins every time.

Just 10 years ago, Gillette dominated the razor blade market. Its ads were comfortable, predictable 30-second units that reminded everyone of something they already knew: You need razor blades on the regular, so you might as well buy Gillette.

Related: Advertising Consulting Business Plan

But, the market had to reorganise itself with the appearance of Dollar Shave Club and its distinctly off-the-wall messaging. The notorious startup used quirky 90-second ads to spread its word online, presenting itself as unignorable by comparison to the competition. Even though we live in a time when people can skip ads, block ads and avoid ads, Dollar Shave Club’s marketing won major viral attention. It didn’t exactly kill Gillette’s Goliath, but it sure made Goliath sweat.

The lesson here is that people don’t hate all ads, they just hate the crappy ones. The bar for perceived quality in advertising is so low these days that many choose not to engage with anything on principle alone. People even close web pages they want to visit when the page auto-plays a video ad. When job number one of the advertiser is to interest consumers, it’s never been easier to annoy them.

Far from the rise of the six-second ad unit, there’s strong evidence that people generally want long-form content.

Ooyala reports that long-form video content consumption is up 30 percent from last year. Instagram used to be all about sharing individual photos and short videos, but now with the launch of IGTV supports 60-minute videos. The most widely subscribed YouTuber, PewDiePie, regularly posts 20-minute-long videos to a community of millions of fans. Joe Rogan’s podcast blends comedy, politics and philosophy for two to three hours at a stretch, and is one of the most popular podcasts on the internet.

People can, of course, handle stories and follow them over time. It’s one of the defining characteristics of humanity. But, there are so many stories competing for our attention nowadays that we are extremely selective about which ones we let into our lives. If any of these opt-in narratives will come from advertising, those ads must first run the ad-blocking gauntlet, then be immediately relevant and spectacular to the consumer upon arrival. The bar for perceived quality in advertising these days is actually quite high.

Related: 9 Strategies For Memorable Advertising When Your Audience Is Chronically Distracted

But, there is meaningful assistance on your way to clearing it. Social listening tools trawl the internet to learn what’s being said about and around different brands. With help from a company specialising in consumer insights and some Nielsen data, brands can better learn who their customers are, what they love and what they don’t love. This is key information in designing a vital, relevant message. In simplest terms, a brand must know its audience. The marketing needs to reflect what the audience is interested in, not what company leadership is interested in.

From there it’s only a matter of iterating and optimising. The great thing about digital advertising is that you get feedback instantly. You can iterate a campaign to make it better. Simple tweaks in copy, reframing key ideas and A/B testing can help make your campaign truly great.

Otherwise you run the risk of a mediocre campaign and a wasted media spend. No one wants to hear that sound.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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6 False Advertising Scandals You Can Learn From

Don’t stretch the truth the way Volkswagen, New Balance, Airborne, Splenda, Rice Krispies and Red Bull did.

Jayson Demers

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red-bull-gives-you-wings

New entrepreneurs are often tempted to exaggerate what new products or services are capable of. No wonder: Presented to a powerful investor, a stretch of the truth just might help land that series A funding.

And, less seriously, a bit of marketing flair or showmanship, in many cases, will help an entrepreneur accomplish his or her without many repercussions.

But, in other cases, if you’re that entrepreneur who is caught deliberately misleading investors or consumers, you could face false advertising charges – and the ruin of your brand’s reputation. Consider these six examples:

  1. Airborne
  2. Splenda
  3. New Balance
  4. Rice Krispies
  5. Volkswagen
  6. Red Bull
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Forget Everything You’ve Heard — Fear Doesn’t Sell

If consumers associate your product with fear, they may not have a strong connection to your brand.

Scott Brown

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Sixty percent of Subaru owners have dogs. So in 2008, when the company decided to sponsor Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl, it made a major break from previous advertising campaigns — ones that showed drivers with other cars getting stuck in the snow, for example. Alongside a pledge to donate $250 to charity for every car sold, the company began to understand how to appeal to its core audience through their own interests — and how those tied together in a Subaru.

Since 2008, the company has been running a campaign called “Love,” one that brings together all the attributes that Subaru is known for — including safety and reliability. Instead of talking to customers by telling them all the bad things that will happen if they don’t drive a Subaru (e.g., getting stuck in the snow), the company began speaking in a more positive language — including bringing furry friends along on drives.

For many, the instinctive approach toward marketing is to tell an audience why they have to buy your product. Bad things will happen otherwise, and yours is the best in market. The others won’t help you reach your goal. The problem with that logic is that it doesn’t take into account the impact of brand image on product marketing. Sure, you might skid in the snow without a Subaru, but you need to think positively of the company as a whole if you’re going to be drawn to its products in the first place.

Related: How do I know that my product is market-ready?

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