If there has ever been a more crucial time to take a step back and rethink or create your brand tone of voice, it’s now. After all, you can write the music, but with no voice there’s no one to sing your hit song.
When I set out to write this blog, I never intended to write about political woes and doom and gloom! But as William Wordsworth said "Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart" and there is a lot weighing on my heart right now that I feel the need to get out. I owe it to myself, my daughter and, above all, to my Dad, who, if he could express himself, would be rocked by the recent, shocking political mess that is the result of the big 'B' word on everyone's lips. So I'm just going to leave some thoughts right here on Brexit and then I'll get back on the road to finding something more upbeat to write about, god knows we need it!
I'm not going to pretend that I'm some kind of political or economic expert, to be fair I find a lot of politics plain dull and I spent all of The Big Short asking my husband endless questions about subprime mortgages and the FTSE. I'm still none the wiser! And whereas I know that Brexit could create no end of frightening global economic problems, there are two societal issues about Brexit that disturb me the most; the restriction of free movement and the boiling over of an ugly underbelly of racism and xenophobia. Yes, I don't currently live in the UK so why am I jumping on the bandwagon? Well the UK was a place I could see my family and I returning to sometime in the future. Plus, our daughter has British heritage and I want her to have the same opportunities I did. So the bandwagon is pretty inviting even if its mere presence is unnerving.
Firstly, freedom of movement. Despite being born in the UK, I was brought up in Ireland. I went back to live in London for 7 years after graduating from college and my family currently lives in the London suburbs. We've always felt at home in London, it being my mum's home town and having spent a lot of time there as children. My dad first fell in love with the city at the age of 10 when his family moved from rural Ballina in Ireland. It's where he made his career, met my mum and started his family, opportunities he wouldn't necessarily have had had the borders been more 'controlled'. Yes this was before the EU came into force, when the Irish and British could freely move over each others borders and settle down in each other's countries. But with Brexit there is absolutely no guarantee that Britain's response to immigration is to revert back to the way it once was before entering the EU. If anything, due to the pressure of the far right, there's a greater risk that the walls will be raised higher in an effort to prove they in fact can control their borders. This not only means fewer career opportunities, but also fewer opportunities for relationships and cultural development, not only for Europeans wishing to go to the UK, but also for British people who are in search of the same opportunities in Europe. As one writer in the FT put it: "...the younger generation has lost the right to live and work in 27 other countries. We will never know the full extent of the lost opportunities, friendships, marriages and experiences we will be denied."
Beyond opportunities for life improvement, for many immigration comes down to sheer survival. Well-meaning people, like my dad, but much worse off, many with young families, are fleeing war and horrific persecution. They are people that need help and shelter in countries like the UK. This vote tells those people, who are literally waiting on the borders, that Britain doesn't want them or want to help them. Even if the borders are miraculously controlled to let people who really need the help in, where are the plans to measure who should be granted residency and who doesn't fit the bill? Are they just going to decide based on personality? Or maybe qualifications? 'Oh here's a nice chap, seems a nice fellow, let's let him in!' or, on the other hand, 'Oh here's a guy who looks a bit grubby, no professional qualifications to boot. Yes his wife was raped and murdered by terrorists and he's determined to raise his three young children alone, but probably best not to let him in as he might be a drain on our system!' No matter how you look at it, more controls means even more needy, good-hearted, well-meaning people and their families being left to suffer. The reality doesn't bear thinking about.
Secondly, racism and xenophobia. These are extremely dangerous sentiments that, prior to this referendum, only seemed to raise their heads in isolated incidents. But now the tensions seem to be bursting at the seams. That is not to say that everyone who voted to leave the EU is an out and out racist or xenophobe. Many who voted, truly believe they are doing their best for their country and I respect that. But this was an extremely dangerous referendum because, regardless of voters intentions, its outcome has allowed the far right, who are inherently intolerant, to act on their hatred. What's worse, it's sent the message that it's OK to act way.
One of the places I called home in London was an area called Canada Water (or 'Cork' Waters to the Irish people I knew there!) in the south east of the city. An up and coming area in the docklands that was also was home to Londoners who had been there for generations. The only time I ever felt threatened there was when the local football team, Millwall, where playing in the area. Bars seemed to be full of white, angry men chanting sometimes racist, sometimes threatening slurs. Those were the times my Irish friends and I for once thought it best not to pop for a pint for fear of anyone hearing our accents! This occurrence was pretty irregular and it only happened in a small pocket of society. What Brexit has done is it's brought this type of character into the masses, it's spread that filthy attitude like wildfire and it's made it justified to treat non-British citizens with disrespect, hatred and even violence.
There's the lovely welcoming leaflets in Cambridgeshire telling Polish immigrants to "Leave the EU, no more vermin here", which are being posted through peoples doors and, get this, distributed outside primary schools, primary schools of all places! Talk about inciting hate in children. There's the Italian who was violently assaulted for asking someone in a bar how they voted in the referendum. Oh and who could forget the charmers on the Manchester tram just this morning, shouting and throwing beer at a Manchester resident to 'get off the f**king tram' and 'go back to Africa'! These are just a handful of the widespread incidents that are making my European family and friends feel a little less welcome in the country they call home. They are incidents that are certainly not enticing me to make a home in the UK in the future.
Whatever you voted on Thursday and whatever you now believe following the result, there's a lot of uncertainty and fear in the air. Maybe we don't have to worry about the freedom of movement. Maybe our children and grandchildren will still have the opportunity to travel and work in Europe freely as my friends, family and I did. But this wave of foreign intolerance is a certainty that is already happening. If there's one thing that people can do now is to take a united stand against the scourge of xenophobia and racism. Showing respect for those that currently call the UK home would be a good start in keeping the status quo while the government get their sh*t together. I truly hope the pieces can be picked up and something good can come of this. For now, I'll leave you with some words of wisdom from Yeats (Don't worry I haven't turned into a big literature buff, I heard this on the radio and liked the sound of it!) "There are no strangers here, only friends you haven’t yet met". After all, remember every 'immigrant' is someone's dad, son, daughter or mum, just like you and I, who just need some help and support.
Something happening in the news this week has crystallized some troubling thoughts I've been having about US culture and society. Thoughts that have been bothering me for some time now. That something is the disturbing case of rapist Brock Turner and the outrageously lenient sentence he was dealt after raping and abusing an unconscious, defenseless young woman.
I usually get one of two reactions when I tell people what I do. The first is a blank look then 'oh like the product laws and stuff, I didn't know you were a lawyer', no that would be copyrighting my friend. The second is 'oh like in Mad Men', closer but not exactly the reality, even if I do quite like the idea of drinking a martini, cigarette dangling from my lips as I carve out a winning creative pitch on a napkin in a dimly lit bar! For the general public, these reactions are a good thing, it means us copywriters are doing something right. No company wants their marketing literature and promotions to look fabricated and forced. The goal of a marketing message is to resonate, inspire, attract and compel the right audience in the most natural way possible. But what always surprises me is how even those who manage a business or even work in marketing are either unfamiliar with copywriting or don't understand how fundamental good copywriting can be the ticket to success for all businesses.
Good copywriting is about so much more that filling in the gaps in your marketing literature. And a good copywriter can also do so much more than coming up with that great ad copy line. Savvy business people know that good writing is the key to meeting their overall marketing, and even business objectives. It's about having a consistent brand message that permeates their organization, inside and out. It's about communicating that brand message and selling that product or service in a way that sticks with the audience and reels them in to make the sale. Every company has a story to tell to entice their customers. Copywriters tell that story and adapt and amplify it so that it works across every piece of marketing literature, from an internal sales kit to an email promotion through to a full blown integrated marketing campaign. Because at the end of the day once you've hooked that customer, the rest is history.
To illustrate how important copywriting is to every business, let's take it back a notch. The 4 P's of Product, Price, Place and Promotion are traditionally used to build the marketing plan for every company. Any marketer who is worth their salt will have cut their teeth on this stuff. Many believe that copywriting would just fall under the promotions category. Of course it is super important to effectively communicate the brand and product message in all promotional collateral, but good writing in fact plays a part in everything a business communicates, both internally and externally. Let me show you how:
So you've come up with a great idea for a product or service and found a target market. Now, how are you going to tell the story of your product? How are you going to translate all those features into a unique value proposition for your customers. This could be right at the start of the food chain. Do you know how to establish and communicate the value proposition of your product in your business plan, in your presentations to potential investors and internal staff and, finally, to your end customer? A freelance copywriter can work closely with you to help with the correct positioning and messaging of your product from conception through to sale. All too often companies rely on the marketing or product teams to generate all of the written collateral for a product, but this may not be their forte. Hiring a copywriter will free up your staff to concentrate on what they've been hired to do - develop and market your product/service. By filling this gap you become more efficient and effective, putting you in the right direction towards achieving your business, not just your marketing, goals. Now I can't pull out confidential company documents, but I bet the messaging documents for these two otherwise standard products helped bring the marketing copy to life in these examples:
One simple grey coat from the J Peterman company. One web page that tell's this simple grey coat's story so well that I want to hear more!
Often companies struggle to communicate the technical benefits of their product in a way that actually interests their non-technical audience. Take a look at how the Magic Wand TV remote tackled it with some great, engaging web copy:
Ok a copywriter isn't going to help you come up with the right price for a product, they'd be in the wrong career if they were experts at crunching numbers not words. But what about once you've established the right price for your product, how do you communicate the value of that price to your audience? If you've decided to set your price high, how are you going to convince your audience that it's worth the investment? What about if you've set your price fairly low, how are you going to convince your customers that it is still an effective or decent quality product or service? You will need to take a look at the tone of voice for your brand first and develop or adjust it to one that not only appeals to the market you are trying to attract, but also suits the price bracket of your product. A copywriter can help establish or adapt your tone of voice with the price of your product in mind. Of course Brand Tone of Voice is about more than the price and a whole new post can be written about that, but the price of your product or service is certainly a factor.
If your product is priced on the high end of it's segment, an effective tone of voice will communicate the brand in such a way that the customer is so convinced by the quality of the product that they'll pay a premium price for it. Take this example from Innocent smoothies in the UK. I've always loved their tone of voice and they continue to stay top of their game and fight off the competition with their friendly, simple and conversational tone of voice that is consistent in all of their marketing communications:
On the other hand when companies want to highlight their low cost value proposition, their brand tone of voice often veers towards a more direct and brash tone. Price is usually the focus of their message. Take a look at the large swathe of mattress companies that bombard us daily with their offers. They use price and special offers to stay ahead and hook that ever valuable customer. Take a visit to any of their web pages and you'll read their prices or discounts before anything else:
Whether your product or service is sold online or in a traditional brick and mortar, or both, a copywriter can help write for your chosen method of distribution. Writing printed collateral and writing online is very different, timing being the key ingredient. There's a reason the worldwide web earned it's name. Your audience literally has the world at it's finger tips. The time they have to read your message and for that message to stick and encourage them to take action is fleeting. Print communication is, of course, not without it's challenges, but both are very different beasts and need to be treated as such.
Maybe you're looking to shift from brick and mortar to online. A copywriter can adapt your traditional literature to appeal to the digital marketplace. A solid copywriter with a marketing background can even work with you on an online content strategy across all digital communications, including social media, that will shape your online business for you and double the odds of making that sale.
Some companies do a great job of communicating their message both on and offline, engaging and creating a loyal customer base. Dollar Shave Club and Poo Pourri are some of my personal favorites. Take Dollar Shave Club. The Razor, an every day commodity for most men, but for some reason decent quality blades are bloody expensive! Well enter Dollar Shave Club, an online mail order for razor blades affordable, real, with monthly delivery to your door..as they say themselves - no BS. Bye, bye the shiny, unrealistic Gillette man! Look how well simple and to the point their message is:
And look at how quirky and engaging their delivery boxes are...talk about a great customer experience:
Lastly, the no brainer. Promotions is clearly where copywriting stands out as the most important component of your marketing strategy. But it's still surprising how many companies forego copywriters and land this crucial role in the laps of their marketing team. You may have the best marketing people in the business and a strategy that is spot on, but how do you bring that to life and translate it into a message that entices the customer and compels them into action? Without good copywriting, it doesn't matter how great your strategy, product or idea is, chances are you'll stumble and waste valuable manpower and funds trying to make that sale.
Under Armour are currently doing a great job with their latest campaign 'Rule Yourself. I Will'. The campaign is emotional and kicks us into action with direct, kick ass copy, after all getting active is all about motivation:
If you don't already work with a copywriter, hiring one may be the missing ingredient in that recipe for success that you've been waiting to cook. Go one step further and hire a copywriter with marketing management expertise and you'll be elevating that recipe to Iron Chef standards!
I'm Siobhán Corley-Richards, freelance copywriter and marketer with over 13 years experience in global branding agencies and marketing teams. I hope you've found my words useful! For copywriting or marketing help drop me a line here or find out more about me and take a look at my portfolio at www.stickyglu.com.