Let’s just pretend for a second you just asked me, “What’s the #1 problem you see in marketing copy?”
People who know me might expect me to say, “Jargon.” And while that is a major problem—and you’ll never convince me there’s ever a good reason to use the word “synergy”—that’s not the biggest issue facing copywriting today.
That award goes to brands that don’t seem to care about who they’re talking to. This problem takes shape in a few different ways.
You’re trying too hard.
I would dread going on a date with most brands today. I know. It’s a bit of a hackneyed metaphor, but it holds true. We’ve all witnessed (or experienced) the cringeworthy date who:
So much of marketing talks at customers rather than with them. They go on and on about themselves: how their product is “best in class” or they drive the fastest car or they have the biggest hard drive. They make very obvious attempts to pitch themselves as “the cool brand.” *coughPEPSIcough*
You’re not using the right words.
Okay, I lied. Let’s talk a bit about jargon here.
My #1 rule as a copywriter is: “Talk like a human.” That doesn’t necessarily mean talking in slang—but it can. There are brands who can write “y’all” in their copy, and there are brands who can’t. It all depends on who your brand is and who you’re talking to. But to do this successfully, you have to truly understand your brand and your customers. And that means listening to them. Really listening to them.
But this problem goes beyond simple jargon and dialect.
You have to put your product in terms that resonate with your audience. Apple didn’t win the MP3 player war because they had a better product. In many ways, the Zune was actually a better MP3 player: better storage, more intuitive UI.
But Microsoft launched Zune talking about how many GBs of storage their device had. Apple launched the iPod by saying, “1,000 songs in your pocket.”
See the difference?
It all comes down to this.
Stop trying to impress your customers so much. Be honest about your company and your product, because the customer will find out eventually.
You don’t have to be the best. You just have to be honest. The Little Caesar’s $5 Hot-n-Ready is a great example of a company who knew they didn’t make great pizza, but they were honest with their customers about what it was really worth. And people love it.
And speaking of pizza, I’ve never been more impressed by a brand than when Domino’s admitted their pizza was bad. Their rebounding sales and stock prices over the past few years show I wasn’t the only one.
So you want to write successful marketing content? Make an honest product, be a good person, and talk like a human. You’ll be amazed at how far that can get your brand these days.