One thing about copywriters – they always have an eye for a great line and a great placement (as well as a cringe-worthy line and grammar faux pas). It’s a bit like an architect who notices both sleek lines and slightly crooked window frames.
You can’t help but notice the good and the bad when you’re out. London copywriter Vikki Ross brilliant summed this up as being on a “copy safari”. Here are some recent examples from my copy safari-ing around Birmingham – and what you can learn from them. They show that effective copywriting is about more than having a clever line.
Consider your customers’ behaviour and thought processes
Mad Men-era copywriting great Claude Hopkins famously summed this up as the need to “Enter the product conversation already going on in your prospect’s mind.”
This is a simple yet brilliant example of Claude Hopkins in action.
I picked it up in a barber shop in west Birmingham.
It’s the PS that does it – “P.S. Don’t throw me away because you may need me one day”
The PS is a brilliant (and still very effective) technique from direct marketing. And this one 100% taps into the reader’s thinking. You may not need him now, but you never know when you might…and it’s the sort of service you end up scrounging around to find when that need arises.
Take away friction from the buying process
I saw this one on the back of a bus stopped at Five Ways. Not only does the line flow beautifully, but it’s strategically crafted to eliminate objections. Buying a mattress is a big deal. They’re expensive and they actually make a big difference to your life (sometimes you feel like you’d pay £1 million for a good night’s sleep). Usually, you go to a bed shop and try out several mattresses until you find the right one.
Eve is an online mattress company, so you can’t try before you buy in the traditional way. So they have a money-back guarantee, and it lasts 100 days. You can sleep on the mattress for nearly a third of a year before you make a final decision. And the play on words makes it memorable.
Tap into your customers’ pain points
There’s that moment when you’re asked for the 3rd and 5th character from your security word and you feel your heart skip a beat. Because you have no idea which of the 11 different security words you’ve used is the one you need at that moment. And banks are the worst offenders in this regard as they (rightly) seek to protect us from fraud and identity theft.
This billboard, which I spotted in Harborne, taps into that exasperation. The headline – “We don’t need to know your dog’s maiden name” – self-deprecatingly acknowledges the ridiculousness of certain security questions. It leads with the pain point before seguing into the exact service they’re promoting. And it shows that even strict corporate brand guidelines like Barclays’ don’t restrict you from making an emotional connection through copy.
Speak your customers’ language
(Sorry about the poor photo quality!)
National Express West Midlands have been rolling out lots of changes to bus routes. In many areas, these aren’t just cosmetic changes – they’re having a big impact on how people navigate the city. I took this photo at a bus stop serving Dudley and Sandwell and thought it did a pretty good job of being clear and comprehensible about the issue.
It focuses on the 2 National Express West Midlands buses using that particular stop, so it focuses on the specific information people standing in that spot need – that the numbers are changing but the routes aren’t.
The call to action paragraph at the bottom uses phrases like: “pop into one of the travel shops” and find out “everything you need to know.” These are phrased the way people speak, which means National Express sounds human rather a faceless corporation. And that’s an important choice to make when you’re making changes that affect individual lives.
Remember your small copy elements
Copywriting isn’t just for adverts. It’s important for websites, brochures, social media posts, letters and emails. Every time words are used to inform, persuade or elicit an action, you’re relying on copy. This example from Five Guys in Grand Central shows the importance of remembering the small copy touches.
Five Guys is an international chain with global brand guidelines. This sign from inside the restaurant makes you think they’re a friendly local restaurant. It’s a little touch, but it changes your perception, because suddenly they feel more authentic (even though Yorkshire isn’t exactly round the corner from Birmingham). The section with the location and farm name was a whiteboard, which subtly communicates that they work with a range of British farmers.
Have you seen any great copy around Birmingham?