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(NB, All work comes courtesy of our resident writer Michael, MFA Creative Writing. He is an experienced copywriter, English teacher, querying novelist, and published author of short stories. Check out his LinkedIn profile for recommendations and qualifications.)
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Copywriting | Content Writing
Writing is tough and words have impact. We find that simple ideas are more memorable and effective than complex spiel. David Ogilvy, father of modern advertising, and the world’s second most famous Scotsman after Macbeth, keenly observed that “Big ideas are usually simple ideas,” which speaks not only to copywriting but all forms of writing.
Ogilvy: “We prefer the discipline of knowledge to the anarchy of ignorance.”
Life is full of transactions, from buying a book to crossing the street, and all transactions reflect one of two things: want or need. Copywriting is like storytelling, only instead of making your audience think, it compels them to act.
Ask Yourself: What need does your product satisfy at the most intrinsic level? Why should they want to buy it?
- Will it enhance a customer’s happiness, wellbeing, or lifestyle?
- Will it streamline and/or improve their work?
- Or will it make a tedious everyday task a little easier?
The simplest answer is often the most revealing, and the manner in which you appeal to customers should reflect the honest simplicity of want and need, no matter whether you’re writing long or short copy. Advertising is inherently transactional and your consumers will expect something in return for their precious time.
Ogilvy: “You cannot bore people into buying your product; you can only interest them in buying it.”
Always remember the necessity of simplicity. Many copywriters and ad-people lean too much into the Avant-Garde in their work. Not only is this elitist and alienating (unless your target demographic is absurdly wealthy), but it betrays a crucial weakness — that they have never sold anything in their entire lives. This was true in 1963 when Ogilvy published his first book, Confessions of an Advertising Man, and it remains true today.
Ogilvy: “The consumer is not a moron […] Don’t insult [their] intelligence.”
First impressions count, and modern consumers are smarter than the average sheep. Pretentious jargon and pipedream aspirations will only turn them away. Appeal to consumers’ wants and needs through persuasive honesty: as Ogilvy said, “Tell the truth, but make the truth fascinating.” All customers want something, even if they don’t know what it is. Persuade them that your product will satisfy this elusive feeling of not having, then not only will they thank you for it but they’ll return and buy again.
Ogilvy: “We sell — or else.”
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