Understanding the difference between strategy and copy
A strategy is a seed, a copy is a fruit that grows out of it.
Behind every strategy, there are market research, competitive product analysis, and case studies, which form a basis for positioning, target customer insights, brand communication logic and other elements. They are the foundation for any good strategy, that guides campaigns, and brand’s other marketing activities.
How to recognize a good strategy? After a comprehensive analysis of company’s business environment and challenges, a good strategy points out key issues, refines core concepts, and indicates the direction for marketing campaigns, helping an enterprise to develop solutions for brand communication. Copy
Any good copy is based on the analysis of target audience and their needs, written according to the brand strategy. A copywriter brings to life brand strategy through creative thinking and words, and everything words-related from slogans, eye-catching titles, choosing of article topic to print copy, video copy, advertorials, social media posts is their responsibility.
Some Chinese companies recruit a “copy planner”, trying to combine two positions in one, which can reduce the salary costs to a great extent. Originally, however, these roles have differences.
To plan, you need to go through research, highlight key information, meticulously arrange every detail and finally carry through the campaign.
To write a copy, though, you need to understand the brief, get familiar with client’s needs and target audience, go through a lot of other case studies to provide a creative wording solution. Keep on reading, we’ll get into the practical details of that below. When local companies look for a copywriter, this is expected to be a person capable of creative thinking, and finding an employee that can also do strategic work will greatly reduce the company costs. (You may want to see the difference between strategists and copywriters’ salary gap, and differences in recruitment requirements on the market).
Writing a copy ‘filled with life’
“The thirst for knowledge, a tremendous curiosity about life, a wealth of experiences and not being afraid to work are the top credentials for being a good copywriter”
——“The Adweek Copywriting Handbook”, Joseph Sugarman
A good copywriter no doubt should have different life experiences, like a copywriting legend Neil French.
His short bio states: Neil French, born 1944, expelled from minor public school at 16, rent collector, account executive, bouncer, waiter, singer, matador — we’ll come back to that — pornographer, Judas Priest rock band manager, promoter, account executive again, and most famously of all, copywriter.
Over the course of his 40-years long career in advertising, he was the global creative director of WWP, the world’s largest communications group, and left countless legendary advertising works for future copywriters to study.
You still don’t know who he is?
He wrote Beck Beer famous ads, including “So you’re feeling a bit gloomy this morning? Read on. By lunchtime you can be suicidal”
“Oh～～～～～THAT’s him！” You cannot relive the life of a legendary person, or capture their way of thinking, but you can learn from them and Neil French teaches us to live, to experience, to feel more, and bring a personality to a copy, adding a bit of spice: candor, humor, insights, sharp language.
So we’d like to add talent and savviness to the list of characteristics of a good copywriter made by Joseph Sugarman.
Expertise and knowledge are accumulated
What to do if you don’t have rich life experiences yet? A lot of copywriters in China are very young, who didn’t actually have a chance to experience life’s ups and downs and don’t have a remarkable social life. If you are a young specialist like this, how should you approach copywriting?
Industry research, brand strategies analysis and iconic copywriting books are your best friends from now on.
Even if a copywriter is not involved in strategy, they still need to do a lot of research to have an understanding about the industry dynamics and trends, hot topics in social media and specifics of different promotional platforms. A copywriter also needs to understand and constantly upgrade knowledge on brand strategy and how to transform it to creative writing through new case studies and classic books, which may seem outdated, but general strategies and insights of masters don’t get old. Through observation, reading, and deep thinking, a copywriter can explore and grow as a specialist to compensate the lack of life experiences.
How to write? What to write about?
The purpose of an ad is to sell. So is the purpose of a copy. How to convince the audience to buy with words? There’s a lot of books, “a gold reserve of copywriting wisdom” explaining just that: “The copywriter’s handbook” by Robert W.Bly, “The Adweek copywriting handbook” by Joseph Sugarman, “Viral Copy” by Guan Jianming to name a few.
By three points of view we mean: view of life, worldview, and core values.
For example, “The world is so big, I want to go see it” is a worldview, that can be useful for writing tourism-related copy. The article “Do not complain about the lack of opportunity, see how high EQ people talk” highlights personal value, as in EQ qualities equal better opportunities for success, and success/wealth resonates well with peoples’ values. Another example: words like ‘cool’, ‘happy’, ‘young’, ‘bold’, ‘beautiful’, ‘high-end’ at first glance emphasize a certain lifestyle, but are actually charged with a certain response to these ideas. That’s why every book or course talking about copywriters’ skills emphasize “insight”, urging copywriters to look beyond the surface meaning of words, searching for a possibility to exploit a deeper connection/meaning.
Appealing to emotions is perhaps the most commonly used tool in advertisement.
If you have basic marketing knowledge, understanding “Five feelings, Six Senses” concept should not be a problem, you can skip ahead. For the rest: five feelings refer to respect, nobility, security, comfort, pleasure.
Where do you see it in advertisement? Ads for airline’s first class, premium custom VIP settings refer to the feeling of respect. Alibaba-backed app Ycloset is another example: through appealing to core values in their videos, the app resonates well with the feeling of respect and nobility of their target audience. Six senses are sight, smell, taste, touch, hearing, and perception. Take the common shampoo as an example: there is a number of selling points for this everyday use product, which advertisers have been pushing from different angles for years.
An old ad for Herbal Essence Shampoo, for instance, played with senses well: in the ad, the shampoo fragrance magically turns into a butterfly that flies to the red apple with ad wordings describing how an herbal essence is the source of fragrance.
Long before the shampoo changed its name to Herbal Essences, their ads already played the aroma angle well.Another example is KFC’s launch of new ice cream this summer: the entire campaign, from products to posters, copy and video is highly consistent, using color (visual sense) elements just right.
‘3-5-6’ rule explains to us how to write a copy. Here we answer the question “what to write about”. Think about what can move people and appeal to their emotions? You can take a look at highly successful WeChat accounts like MiMeng to learn techniques on how to polish your writing, that it goes viral. When you train your imagination and creative thinking regularly, finding an interesting topic or a new angle in the familiar one will become a natural skill.
How to take your copywriting to the next level
In addition to mastering basic concepts and learning from different experiences, there are several important points a good copywriter pays attention to:
Market research. To write a good copy, you need to know as much as possible about your client’s environment and what resonates with their target audience.
A copy’s purpose. Create your own clear writing system and follow your own process, paying attention to the smallest details to ensure the copy serves well the aim it’s supposed to achieve.
Constant learning. It’s simply the best way to improve. Don’t stop learning about the industry’s trends and changes, changes in the market environment; learn how to implement creativity and how to keep the creative juices flowing even if a project you work on is not as exciting as you’d wish.
Overall, stay curious, always keep learning and upgrade your copywriter’s skills beyond just writing.