Seeing is Convincing

Okay. Sometimes, I can be quite biased.

Just because I’m a copywriter, I tend to dismiss the other critical element of a great piece of marketing communication – the visual. Hey you can’t blame a writer who is defensive of his craft.

So why this sudden affinity towards visuals? Well you can’t refute facts, especially when they make a whole lotta sense. According to research by some geniuses, it is proven that:

People remember 80% of what THEY SEE
Compared to only 20% of what THEY READ

Pretty eye-opening stat, if you will. But it doesn’t take a genius to figure that one out. I would most likely remember the opening scenes of my favourite movie as opposed to the opening lines of my favourite book. Yes, we humans are intrinsically wired to prioritise visual information.

Eye is for the Brain
Roughly half of the human brain is devoted to processing visual info. That explains a lot about our half-brained politicians…

So that’s how people consume data, but here’s the more important stat part of the same research:

90% of the world’s data was created in the last 2 years.

Yes, the last 2 frigging years! And we all have access to virtually most of it thanks to accurate search platforms and social media.

So what does this mean for developing marketing communication content?

1. Target
Find out everything you need to know about your audience

2. Focus
Don’t ramble, keep it simple and concise; made easy when you know your target

3. Visual-ise
Take on an infographic mode wherever possible; icons, charts, graphs and illustrations

In essence, don’t add to the mindless drivel that’s growing exponentially every second. Say enough to evoke curiosity, compel action and you’re done.

The sad thing is, apparently only 28% of words in a webpage are actually read, which means 72% of this post just added to the mindless drivel.

True Lies

“I love advertising, because I love lying”.

It wasn’t me, I didn’t utter those words. I’m not as bold and brazen as veteran comedian Jerry Seinfeld; who when accepting an honorary Clio – one of the ad industry’s highest creative accolades – spoke with brutal honesty about advertising.

Though the acceptance speech was meant to be a satirical take on the industry, you could just feel the audience’s amused yet disturbed reaction. For me though, it was 4 minutes of ROFL… a must-watch if you haven’t already:

Yes, I admit it. In my 16 years as a copywriter, I’ve done my fair share of lying. They may not be outright lies, but by Mr. Seinfeld’s definition…

I have duped innocent people out of hard-earned earnings to buy useless, low-quality, misrepresented items and services.

Sounds terrible when you word it that way, doesn’t it? But in true advertising traditions, you could also say:

I convince innocent people with relevant, timely information so that they spend their hard-earned earnings wisely on products and services that deliver the best value.

Or maybe something slightly more client-friendly:

I help consumers make smart purchasing decisions with appealing, compelling and concise information that allows them to choose the products and services that best fit their lifestyle.

Essentially, all of the above versions say the same thing. It’s just the wordplay that took Mr. Seinfeld’s observations and spinned it to something more, well, acceptable.

Same message, different interpretations, multiple executions.

But then again, there’s no substitute for honest, emotionally-driven, insightful communications that consumers will appreciate and eventually trust. If you ask me, that should be the only way to execute an ad campaign instead of the usual mumbo jumbo.

Overpromise
Thou shalt not lie in wait for customers... mislead them!

And to Mr. Seinfeld, we addies aren’t all that bad. We mostly just misdirect and sometimes hide the truth as opposed to blatantly lying to people’s faces.

Unlike this ridiculous promo for a movie you did some years ago…

Loyalty is Overrated

When I receive communications from brands that begin with ‘Thank you for being a loyal customer bla bla bla…’, I feel like strangling the copywriter who wrote that opening.

But I am a fellow copywriter too, so perhaps just a smacking will suffice.

If I can’t find Coke, I’d probably drink Pepsi. No Pringles? Yeah okay, Mr. Potato will do. When Maxis sucked, I moved on to Digi.

Like most consumers, I’m hardly loyal. And I’ve repeatedly cheated on the brands that think I am their loyal customer. There is a significant difference between being loyal to a brand and being loyal to something that influences your life such as a loved one.

That difference is called emotion.

Mind of a Consumer
Brands can never ever evoke true loyalty, there's always room for cheating

Brands try really hard to make an emotional connection with their customers, but often fail miserably. There is just no way for a brand to replace what really matters; like family, friends, career and all other attributes that make up our personality.

So I feel annoyed at the capacity of brands to assume that I am loyal to an entity that is purely after my money. But the truth is:

I am not loyal, I have no choice.

I would end my relationship with you the moment someone offers me a better deal, and as long as I have nothing to lose by moving on.

Yes, the caveat is ‘if I have nothing to lose’. Which is why, mortgages have a ‘lock-in’ period that charges a hefty sum. Also the reason behind why telcos have contracts that impose a penalty upon termination.

And then they have the cheek to call me loyal!

If brand communications were truthful, then that letter would say ‘thank you for not going to our competitor, we really need your money to pay our inflated corporate salaries bla bla bla…’

How to use copywriting fundamentals to court a woman

If you’re a guy that’s currently trying to woo the love of your life, then you would know that your attempts are ridden with challenges.

In addition to convincing your potential suitor that you’re not a serial rapist, you must also appeal to her heart, mind and soul. Easier said than done, especially when women have the uncanny ability to sense jerks and see through fakery.

Women get hit on more times than we guys can even imagine; so more often than not their initial reaction is to seem disinterested or be wary. Much like how we consumers think that every piece of promotional message – be it in ads, sales calls or e-mails – are too good to be true.

So before she switches off for good, here are a few tips based on copywriting essentials that could help you close the deal, or at least improve your chances:

Love Typewriter
The art of copywriting can captivate more than just consumers...

1. Open with a Bang
Before you get the wrong impression, let me set this straight. In copywriting, the first words the consumer reads or hears are critical. Better yet, if you are able to weave in a benefit at first contact, such as a headline that answers the question “what’s in it for me?” In the case of courting, don’t just ask her out, instead find out what she enjoys and propose an outing with specifics. Example: do you want to join me for a sunset picnic this weekend?

2. Be Persuasive
But not pushy. There are certain words we copywriters use to subtly influence consumers in their decision making process. I’ve written about these power words in a previous post that you may want to check out. In the same vein, courting is also about using subtle influences to compel a desired outcome. Not only in words, but gestures, confidence and mannerisms… just take it easy or you risk looking pushy.

3. Highlight What’s Worthy
Nobody reads, and this is especially true today where people just scan through text in search of only the interesting bits. That’s why copywriting these days involve heavy use of subheads, crossheads and bullet points to highlight the more compelling points. In the same way, you’ve got to appreciate her attention and get to the interesting bits of the conversation quickly. No two hours stories about your grandma, please.

4. Maintain Authenticity
Believe it or not, we copywriters tend to be as genuine as possible when crafting our prose. We may misdirect but never mislead or overpromise, because we hate it ourselves when promises fall flat. So while courting, stay true to yourself and most importantly be believable; women are as likely as consumers to smell the rat.

5. Focus on the Relationship
Ideally, copywriting is the art of making a sale.  But before consumers can part with their money they must know, like and trust you. It is a long-term process that emphasizes on building relationships than just making a sale. So before a woman parts with her heart, mind and soul, you must endeavour to work on the relationship and build trust. It takes time, but the rewards will be worth it.

And in case you’re wondering, this doesn’t apply for courting guys, we’re easy… aren’t we?

Fluff is Out

Copywriting is the business of misleading people to buy things they don’t need with the money they don’t have.

Well it’s not that we copywriters tell outright lies to convince people. Sometimes it’s just about too much fluff.

While most of my clients these days understand that effective communication involves a clear, concise message with a touch of personal warmth, I do get enquiries to work on the old ‘catchy-punchy-juicy’ stuff.

FluffMarsh
If it ain't marshmallow, go easy on the fluff

I tend to steer clear from these kinds of requests because, well, the fluff isn’t all that convincing. We’re dealing with young, smart consumers whom are becoming increasingly averse to marketing speak and vague catchphrases.

We’ve all seen those websites, brochures, corporate profiles or even mail drops that are full of meaningless superlatives, mindless ramblings and generic ‘industry’ word play. That’s either a sign of a novice copywriter or a client unwilling to adapt to evolving consumer mindset.

Consumers just want you to tell it as it is so they can then decide whether to do business with you. Besides, none of us want to nor have the time to make sense of  textual mumbo jumbo.

If you still want to take the fluffy route, beware of these pitfalls:

Can you deliver as promised?
Fluff raises consumer expectations, and they expect you to deliver as fluffed. Can you?

Bye-bye repeat business
Once fluffed, twice shy. When all that fluff falls flat, the customer goes to your competitor.

Risk of attracting negativity
We live in a very social world. One disgruntled customer can start a negative crusade against your business.

Even if telling it as it is goes against convention, your product or service can still shine through and appeal to your intended target audience. A case in point is a company in Wisconsin, USA that tells the absolute truth, even it may result in some consumers not buying their product.

ZeroFLuff

Ahhh… I wish I wrote that.

Little Things…

You know, advertising isn’t always about big budgets, kick-ass creatives and mind-boggling strategies.

Sometimes, all it takes a little bit of genuine effort to keep customers happy.

Have you heard about an American restaurant chain called Red Robin? Neither have I, until I read about how they created loads of positive media attention for just USD$11.50 (about RM34.70).

Noticing a heavily pregnant customer at his restaurant, the manager of Red Robin, North Carolina did this:

redrobinreceipt
USD$11.50 discount with a very personal message

Yes, this was just an employee making a positive gesture, something that is severely lacking in Malaysian restaurants that for sure.

But the customer was so appreciative of the gesture that she decided to tell the world. That little piece of receipt went social and then viral, and ultimately made national headlines in the US.

You might think could have happened at any restaurant chain in America. Not really. Red Robin’s employees practice a culture called ‘Unbridled Act’, which encourages positive behavior.

Smiles Ahead
Smiles Ahead! Keep them smiling to get them talking...

And apparently, this wasn’t the first discount given at random to customers. They’ve been doing it for a while, it just so happens that this particular gesture made the news, probably because of the oh-so-sweet personal message.

Intentional or not, it worked. And worked in a way that even a big budget 30-sec TVC or a print ad with a catchy headline will never emulate.

Sometimes, it’s just about the little things. You know?

Ease Up on the Mumbo Jumbo

Sometimes, this whole advertising-marketing-branding thing can be a bit overwhelming. It just gets too needlessly complex, and hopelessly off the mark.

For the average consumer, advertising and all its associated activities are often intrusive, irrelevant and unwelcomed.

BlahBlah Billboard
For all the time we spend perfecting our work, this is probably what the average consumer sees

We marketers often forget to keep things simple and tend to treat consumers as idiots, as very eloquently explained in the following letter by a fictitious consumer:

Dear Marketers,

I’m much smarter than your marketing gives me credit for. I don’t like to be sold…I don’t care about your advertising, your free samples, your promotions, your special offers. I don’t like to be told what’s cool, new, improved, last-longer, smells better, tastes better, or is less filling…I don’t care about your brand, it doesn’t matter to me. I avoid your interruptions to my busy day whenever and wherever I can…I don’t have time to pay attention to your sales pitch…You are white noise to me and I have tuned you out. If you want to be a part of my life, here’s what you’ll need to do:

– Be honest with me
– Keep your promises
– Treat me with respect
– Provide me with more use value than you take from me in cash value
– Teach me better ways to grow and expand my life experience
– Help make my day-to-day easier, lighter, more relaxed and enjoyable
– Help me to experience greater connection to what’s important to me

Do these things for me and you will win my trust and devotion. Then I will gladly welcome you into my life, and share the value of our relationship with others who are important to me.

Sincerely,

A. Consumer

Thanks to Brand Strategy Insider for the letter, and I sincerely hope we all can endeavor to treat consumers with the respect they deserve.


Target Target Target

Would you speak to a client like how you speak to your spouse? Or would you try to find a drinking buddy at an AA meeting?

It used to be ‘Location Location Location’. Not anymore. Even if you are located in the world’s busiest street, you’re screwed if you don’t know who you are selling to.

Even if you are selling online, a network where you can tap into millions of potential customers, knowing exactly who you want to sell to is imperative.

Target Practice
Please aim before you shoot, your message has a shorter reach than you think.

You don’t shoot without taking aim. You don’t engage without studying your opponent. You can’t – no matter how many times people say it – sell ice to an Eskimo.

Targeting is the first order of business in any marketing communications plan.  But sadly, it is grossly overlooked with ancient mass advertising techniques still employed in today’s niche-filled world.

The act of mass advertising is a concept of reaching the maximum number of people, and then hoping for a miracle. It’s like a fisherman who casts his net in waters filled with piranhas only to end up with a huge net to mend.

We all live in our own world these days. Each with our own interests, dislikes, philosophies and preferences.

Even your best friend – who you enjoy many mutual interests with – is a different person. Just compare your Facebook timeline with that of your best friend, you’ll be surprised how you became best friends in the first place.

Targeting sets the tone, especially with copy. It also provides insights and context while ensuring your sales message has a higher chance of being well-received.

What’s more? Targeted advertising campaigns are often a whole lot cheaper, easily managed and often very measurable.

Sell to all, or sell to the select few who could be waiting with their wallets open? So please aim before you shoot.

So We’re Bashing Up Customers Now?

If you can’t serve your customers, bash them up. A method practiced by a certain KFC employee; allegedly of course.

But you can’t refute the video evidence. Even if he was provoked, this is still no reason for an employee of a global fast food chain to get all Bruce Lee with anyone; let alone a customer.

But strangely, I wasn’t all too surprised.

That’s because I’ve been noticing the lowering standards of customer service in Malaysia for many years now. I’ve also written about my own experiences and the possible reasons behind such dismal customer service.

The KFC tagline these days is “So Good”. I guess they are not only referring to the chicken (again, allegedly), but also to the whacking that one would get from disgruntled employees.

But that’s the problem isn’t it. The brand spends millions to say something and the employees – who are probably working long, unforgiving hours for pittance – say another. There is hardly any synergy between what you see and what you get from Malaysian businesses these days.

KFC is Smackin Good
He was, after all, a Colonel... don't be charmed by that smile!

And the worst part, no one is bothered.

Like the many customer service mishaps of the past, this video will be forgotten and conveniently dismissed as a one-time-only incident beyond the company’s control.

But I would really like to see is Ronald McDonald kick someone’s ass though… that would be awesomely funny!

One, Two, Many Coupons

They’re everywhere these days; those ridiculously low-priced coupon deals for everything from sumptuous 3-course meals to ‘spa treatments’ in dodgy parts of Kepong.

Value-for-money seems to be the favoured business model for many businesses nowadays. But how long before offering products and services on-the-cheap eventually becomes bad for business?

Discounts Galore
Coupon deals are great for consumers; but not so for businesses...

Yes, we all like bargains. But if the bargain does not live up to the intended expectations, most of us would rather pay slightly more the next time – be it for better quality or improved service.

Even if you are satisfied with a particular coupon deal; would you return to the same outlet and pay ‘regular’ price for the same thing? Which – if I may remind you – can be up to 70% more?

Highly unlikely.

If you’re a business, and thinking of jumping onto the coupon deals bandwagon to attract customers, consider these:

  1. Is it worth cheapening your brand or business by offering high discounts just to attract one-time-only customers?
  2. You might get a high influx of customers in a short period of time. Can you or your staff handle a flood of customers and serve them properly?
  3. You don’t usually make a profit, especially if you offer a high discount. Sometimes you won’t even break even. Seems like a pointless exercise.
  4. Don’t expect prolonged advertising mileage by offering coupon deals. The people who use coupons are bargain-hunters who forget you as soon as you go back to normal price.
  5. The non-bargain hunter customers (the ones that you really want as customers) will see you as desperate for business. Not the kind of image you want to portray.

So instead of ‘selling out’ your business to coupon deal sites, why not invest in promotions that are easy to create and implement. You get the kind of customers you want, and get to sell at the price you want.

You know who to talk to 😉