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Mind your language

Good copywriting is the cornerstone of a successful advertising or branding campaign, says Ashgrove’s Terry van Rhyn

I am often asked about the process I follow when developing a brand position or creating an advertising campaign. In both cases, I will always start by making sure I understand the strategic positioning of the brand, its primary message or proposition, and the business objectives.

This allows me to determine how best to align these business objectives with a compelling and authentic message the customer/clients will believe and to which they will respond. Only then do we start the creative process.

My approach is to always start with constructing the key message. Get that right and I find the design look and feel of a campaign or brand styling will follow naturally.

But crafting a captivating brand message is more than just stringing a bunch of power words together. It’s about understanding the psychology behind consumer behaviour and perceptions.

In today’s fragmented marketplace, where consumers are bombarded with a barrage of advertising messages every second of their waking day, it’s crucial for brand owners to establish a brand proposition that not only grabs attention but also resonates with their target audience on a deeper level. This is how you influence purchasing decisions and attract clients.

By adhering to key principles such as knowing your audience, consistency, emotional appeal, highlighting your USP, and prioritising authenticity, brands can break through the clutter in the marketplace and establish a distinct identity that sets them apart from competitors.

The strategic use of headlines, taglines, and romance copy allow brands to capture attention, evoke emotions, and develop stronger connections with consumers, ultimately driving brand loyalty and long-term success.

At a basic level, when you unpack the purpose of a headline, it is primarily a lure to capture attention and entice consumers to learn more about your brand. It should be concise, impactful, and relevant to your target audience’s interests or pain points. A compelling headline sets the tone for the rest of the advertisement or campaign and draws the reader in, and it should work in concert with the visual theme.

Taglines – the key words that accompany a logo – encapsulate the essence of your brand in a memorable phrase. These should be catchy, memorable, and reflective of your brand’s values or USP.

In practice, they anchor a brand’s positioning in the marketplace and a well-crafted tagline can serve as a powerful mnemonic device, reinforcing brand recall and association long after the advertisement is seen or heard. However, the key to taglines is that they are clearly relevant and I’ve often said I would rather a brand didn’t have one if it’s not perfect.

‘Romance copy’ is what we call the summary or introductory narrative woven throughout your advertisement or promotional material. It should tell a story and elicit an emotional response from consumers.

This is where you are able to reinforce the benefits of your product or service in a compelling and persuasive manner. Romance copy should speak directly to the desires and aspirations of your target audience, painting a vivid picture of how your brand can enhance their lives.

Having worked so hard to find the right words, it’s tempting for brands to stick with them and, of course, you do need time to build up associations in the minds of your target audience. However, it’s important also not to let your message stagnate but to continuously innovate and adapt to meet the evolving needs of consumers.

Whether it’s through product enhancements, technological advancements, or creative marketing strategies, strive to stay fresh and ahead of the curve by leading, not following.

This doesn’t always mean you need a wholesale change of words: it can simply be a refresh or a further development of your initial positioning.

Above all, be true to your brand values and mission. Truthfulness and honesty will always resonate with consumers and set you apart from those who claim to be all things to all people.

As I so often say, marketers are ultimately storytellers and it is by using authentic storytelling that you create a deeper and more memorable connection with your audience.

In my experience, once you’ve found the right words, the design and visual creative of a promotional or brand campaign develops quite naturally and it’s exciting to see this come to life and the interplay generated between the two.

Again, this works best when there is depth to the message, so use words wisely and take your customers on a journey that goes far beyond a snappy but ultimately empty catchphrase.