Tag: copywriting

When marketing goes dog-shaped…

| May 23, 2014 | 0 Comments

a white dogMore marketing, content and copywriting-related bits and bobs

I have a love-hate relationship with marketing. On one hand, because I spent two decades in direct marketing I know a great campaign is a delight to everyone in the target market who encounters it. On the other hand there’s also plenty of rubbish, mad behaviour and marketing weirdness out there.

Here’s an almost wholly negative look at today’s marketing world… apologies in advance – I’m usually an annoyingly positive person!

Google Glass marketing mega-fail

I’ve mentioned before how I signed up with Google, giving them my personal details so I’d get updates about Glass. Well, I never did hear a word out of them. And now Glass is in the shops.

The lack of marketing communication makes Google seem breathtakingly arrogant. Having said that, I will still be buying Glass, but with a sour taste in my mouth. When a brand you express a specific, direct, personal interest in doesn’t appear to give a flying f*** about you, pardon my French, it doesn’t feel good.

Blog comments frustration

Do I want to give a load of random apps free access to my social media accounts and let them do stuff on my behalf? No I do not. That’s why I rarely if ever make comments on blog posts, even when the information they contain is sheer brilliance.

It’s a marketing no-brainer. The more obstacles you put in the way of spontaneous engagement, the fewer people will bother. Isn’t it better to take the inevitable spam on the chin and do your housework than force readers to sign up for invasive apps like Disqus before letting them comment?

Innocent as charged? Your reputation is still muddied

When you’re prosecuted you’re either found guilty or not guilty. Whatever happened to ‘innocent’, the diametric opposite of guilty? Not guilty is a totally negative phrase, a mealy-mouthed non-acknowledgement of a person’s lack of culpability. If you didn’t do it, you’re innocent. It might be ‘just’ semantics but as a copywriter, I know it makes a big difference.

Why do TV advertisers infantilise the British public?

Why do such a high proportion of TV ads aimed at adults feature cartoons and animated characters? I am a grown up. Why on earth would I respond to confused.com’s mega-irritating, childish, jabbering nonsense, for example, or the all-singing, all-dancing ridiculousness created by the insurance broker Admiral? Or those mad adverts where people cook a meal only to find their home is suddenly invaded by hundreds of gyrating nutters? WTF?

Next time you’re watching telly, count how many ads in each break are clearly infantile. Why are so many brands so determined to infantilise their audience? Am I the only one who finds it sinister?

What does loyalty mean in a marketing context?

Customer loyalty is a strange concept. What does it mean to be ‘loyal’ to a product or brand? It’s obviously very different to the pure, clean, powerful, intuitive loyalty we feel for friends and family. It’s multi-faceted, consisting of all sorts of different emotional and practical elements including the quality of the product or service itself, how closely it meets your needs, how convenient it is, what it costs, customer service and support.

As such brand loyalty is easily damaged, whereby real loyalty to the people you love is much more resilient. You don’t leave your lover unless there’s a very good reason. But you’ll switch brands like lightning if you’re the least bit pissed off or inconvenienced. If our local Co-Op closed down there’s no way I’d travel miles to find the next-nearest Co-Op and carry on as normal. I’d shop at Tesco instead, because it’s closer to home.

In a world where punters turn against you at the slightest provocation, there’s no room for complacency.

Telly fun – Messing with advertisers’ heads

Advertisers love to mess with our heads. In our house we like to turn the tables. Here are two games to while away the tediously frequent three minutes of (mostly) nonsense we’re expected to put up with.

  1. Turn the sound off  half way through an advert’s core proposition and create your own ending. The current TV ad for Kindle Paper White, for instance, kicks off with the sentence “We asked book lovers to…”, which you can finish off any way you like. My favourite, from last night, is, “take acid.”
  2. Turn the sound down and read the small print. It’s an eye-opener, especially unregulated sectors like the cosmetics industry which blatantly, gleefully lies about the effectiveness of its products because there’s nobody to make it tell the truth. Once you start reading the small print, a surprisingly large proportion of TV and off-the-page ads suddenly become far less convincing.

Banksy on advertising

Last but not least, I love what Banksy says about advertising. If you treat punters with less than the expected amount of respect, forethought, intelligence and consideration, this is exactly how they will feel about your ads.

Here’s an image, hooked from Twitter. I’d love to credit the source of the piece but since I don’t know where it originated, I can’t. If you know, leave a comment and I’ll do the decent thing.

What banksy says about advertising


Great Marketing Stories for May 2014

| May 9, 2014 | 0 Comments

Oleg, Compare the Market's baby meercat characterThere’s nowt as queer as folk – Remarkable marketing stories

There’s all sorts of fascinating stuff going on in the amazing world of marketing right now. Here are my favourite marketing stories.

Brazil beats the world on online freedom

Brazil has awarded its internet its very own Bill of Rights in a move widely lauded by internet activists including the web’s inventor, Tim Berners-Lee.

On 23rd April the Brazilian president, Dilma Rousseff, signed a document called Marco Clvilda da Internet. The agreement sets out guidelines for freedom of expression, data privacy and web neutrality, making the internet a better place place for Brazil’s 100 million users. Well done, Brazil. Come on, Britain.

Royal London goes mental on telly – They’re so yesterday

Royal London is a venerable, trustworthy, happy-to-be-traditional mutual financial institution, AKA a friendly society. It was founded way back  in 1861 by two men with astonishingly large, rampant beards, Henry Ridge and Joseph Degge. It’s all very serious stuff. Which is the way it should be when you’re charged with looking after other people’s money.

But the TV ads they’re running at the moment tell the company’s story in a startlingly, wonderfully, uniquely silly way that, while it highlights their preference for doing things the good, old-fashioned way, brings the brand bang up to date.

In a world where it’s often depressingly easy to see client interference in ad scripts, transforming thrilling ideas into horribly dull and boring productions, it’s hugely refreshing. I salute VCCP, the creative agency who dreamed up the idea. And I salute the client even more fervently. Brave people.

Having worked in insurance direct marketing for many years, I know just how challenging it can be to push good ideas past compliance departments, technical folk and typical financial service fuddy-duddies. Thanks for the laughs, Royal London. You’re obviously a different animal from the norm. Next time I need a financial service, I shall come and find you.

If you haven’t seen them yet, here’s a link to Royal London’s new TV ads. They’re hilarious. Enjoy.

Keyterm research v keyword research – Are you a novice or a guru?

Apparently people who really know their SEO onions call it keyword research, while people who don’t know their search engine visibility ass from their elbow call it keyterm research.

Duh. It looks like the difference between my ass and elbow has been giving me grief for many years without my realising it. I use the idiots’ term. As a copywriter and content creator I find it more accurate and logical. After all, keywords can be single words, multiple-word terms or entire sentences,  and can include numbers and symbols as well as letters.

Compare the Market says “stuff our products” and focuses on the fun bit

Those clever Meercats. They’ve outdone themselves this time around with their latest ad featuring the cutest baby meercat on the planet, a little chap called Oleg. The ad is clearly designed to promote their new baby meercat toy. But hang on a minute…  Compare the Market is an insurance price comparison site. Not a toy store.

This is clever, clever stuff. While insurance is deadly dull, meercats are funny and cute. So why not pin your brand on the fun stuff and sideline its core purpose? The agency, VCCP again, and client have taken a huge risk and gone way off piste, but I reckon they’re probably pulling it off.

Unless anyone out there knows otherwise, I’d be willing to bet good money that people are flocking to the site to get hold of an Oleg toy. They can only get one by buying insurance, and that’s exactly what they’ll be doing.

Here’s a link to the latest meercat advert, just in case you haven’t seen it yet.

We’re all funny bunnies… and don’t forget it!

The very fact that we’re seduced into buying from a particular source because we can’t resist the fluffy toys they’ve created, even though they have bugger all to do with the products on sale, proves we’re funny bunnies.

It’s something marketers forget at their peril. If you’re ever tempted to see your customer and prospect base as rational, logical grown-ups who make sensible buying decisions based on common sense criteria, stop yourself and remember there’s nowt as queer as folk.

Six copywriting, marketing and marcomms-related snippets

| February 19, 2014 | 0 Comments

Star Trek - BorgIt’s high time I jotted down my latest bunch of random marketing, copywriting and marcomms-related snippets. Here goes.

Google content length rumours?

I heard a rumour the other day about Google giving advice on the length of posts, articles and web pages. Someone thought they’d heard that ‘content’ should be at least 600 words long these days, longer than the search engine giant had, allegedly, previously recommended. Hm. I’m sceptical, since the Big G isn’t usually in the habit of prescribing how long or otherwise content should be.

If anything less should be more, rather than wittering on unnecessarily just for the sake of adding more words. I write enough copy to do a proper job, no longer and no shorter. Anything else smacks of manipulation, a bad idea when content creators should be doing the decent thing and putting readers first.

I’ve had a good look for the news but can’t find anything. Unless we hear different, it’s safe to assume that Google has recommended no such thing.

Google Glass database marketing fail

I want Google Glass. Six months ago I signed up for email updates about it. I keep reading thrilling stuff about how scientists and geeks worldwide are playing with Glass code to create remarkable new applications, but I haven’t heard a peep out of Google. No emails, no newsletters, no news, no teasers or tasters… nowt.

I rarely hand over my contact details but when I do, I actually expect to be contacted. Poor show, Google. You could be building anticipation through your presumably vast opted-in database of hot prospects. But instead you leave us dangling. Come on Google, blow my mind.

Bling, bling… meet the projector necklace

If you find the idea of Google Glass a bit too close to the Borg for comfort, how about accessing smartphone content through a necklace or brooch? Such gadgets could one day revolutionise the way we consume data by projecting stuff like emails, tweets and text alerts onto nearby surfaces, to be opened using hand gestures. Along with smartwatches, they represent yet another reason why Google Glass marketers need to get their skates on before another revolutionary gadget grabs the new technology crown.

‘Cheap software’ used by whistleblowers?

The NSA says Edward Snowden used ‘cheap’ software to access and scrape data from its websites. In their words, “We do not believe this was an individual sitting at a machine and downloading this much material in sequence”. Presumably the software, being cheap, should also have been easy to detect? Whoops.

Can you ‘speak to’ that?

Ouch. When I first heard someone on TV say , “I can speak to that”, it hurt. It’s awful hearing your language so badly mangled. A short time later it started popping up everywhere as Americans gleefully spread the habit. That was six months ago. Now, although it’s butt ugly and downright wrong, it’s fast becoming common parlance. And it’s starting to sound OK. So yes, I can speak to that, although until it goes totally mainstream in Britain I would never include it in content.

Permissive plague

Here’s another one that’s escaped into the wild. If I see one more sign advertising a Permissive Footpath, I shall fall to the ground and start foaming at the mouth.  Because footpaths are permissive by nature, all you need to say is Footpath. If there’s no footpath, you don’t need a sign. If it’s private you just put up a sign saying Private Footpath or No Entry. Simple.

Remarkable lyrics… but a big copywriting fail!

| September 24, 2013 | 0 Comments

Billie HolidayYou love words, you’ve got to love lyrics. And 1930s to ’50s jazz lyrics float my boat more than most.

Here are some of the best, from You Go To My Head, penned by the mighty Haven Gillespie and J. Fred Coots back in 1938.

It’s awesome stuff, and a brilliant example of plain language used to its most powerful effect.  Have a read of this. And listen to the Billie Holiday version of the tune on YouTube if you fancy a treat. It’s the best of the bunch.

You go to my head

You go to my head
And you linger like a haunting refrain
And I find you spinning ’round in my brain
Like the bubbles in a glass of champagne

You go to my head
Like a sip of sparkling Burgundy brew
And I find the very mention of you
Like the kicker in a julep or two

The thrill of the thought
That you might give a thought to my plea
Cast a spell over me
Still I say to myself get a hold of yourself
Can’t you see that it never can be

You go to my head
With a smile that makes my temperature rise
Like a summer with a thousand Julys
You intoxicate my soul with your eyes
Though I’m certain that this heart of mine
Hasn’t a ghost of a chance in this crazy romance
You go to my head

Whoops… copywriting fail! 

Many thanks to Sing365 for the lyrics.

I’ve nofollowed the Sing365 link. How come? Because I spotted some scary copy on the site, which I don’t want to link to just in case Google decides to take a dislike to it and devalues the site, which could in turn affect my own rankings. To make it clear I didn’t write it, I’ve marked it up as a <blockquote>.

Mentioning the key term ‘lyrics’ six times in the following paragraph is poor SEO practice. It’s badly written too, and I suspect it has been spun.

Sorry folks. Your site is brilliant. But this is nasty:

These lyrics reveal with what sophistication and insight into the human condition that lyrics used to be written as opposed to the lyrics of today which are a race to the bottom covering the most basest of human emotion. These lyrics challenge our understanding of ourselves whereas todays lyrics reinforce simple cliches of pseudo celebrity fantasies that we take on as identity. These deep lyrics over chords which exude mood not found in todays repetitive robotic chord progressions make this a superb example of what song writing can be.

Random marketing-related stories and sound bites

| September 16, 2013 | 0 Comments

logo for Brighton SEOIt’s time for another round-up of random marketing and copywriting-related bits and bobs…

Brighton SEO take-aways

Thanks to the dynamic Kelvin from Site Visibility and everyone else involved with this autumn’s Brighton SEO conference, a blinder of an event. A far cry from the first one, held upstairs in the Quadrant pub and attended by about fifteen of us. Ah, the olden days.

If you missed the conference’s shit hot digital marketing gurus, with their wisdom-drenched insights into an uncertain yet thrilling future, bung it in your diary for next spring. It’s so worth it. And it’s free.

The April 2013 event concentrated on the future in an SEO landscape that had changed beyond belief in the previous 12 months. This time around the dust had settled. Here are my top 3 take-aways.

  1. Does your content ‘deserve’ backlinks? if you want to generate backlinks you need to create content that ‘deserves’ them. You shouldn’t even have to ask for links. A little like Field of Dreams, if your stuff is good enough, ‘they will come’
  2. Black hats can still win. Bought, exchanged and otherwise unnaturally acquired links still work, and can win great SERPs positions. But they’re more risky than ever. If you want to build a proper brand, something people trust, it’s best to play nice instead of having to change your url every time you get burned and lose valuable brand equity
  3. Social – if you’re not in it, you can’t win it. But just being in it isn’t enough. You need to measure the effectiveness – or not – of your social channels in the same way as you measure cost per response, cost per conversion, creative versus creative, ROI and so on for any other medium, online or offline

Cold callers get a taste of their own medicine 

As a human being, I hate telesales calls. As an ex-marketer I once project managed large scale inbound campaigns tied into direct response TV ads, which was such fun. We made a fortune. I also arranged outbound campaigns, a lot less enjoyable for the operators, marketers and punters. They also worked a treat. But, cold or warm, outbound B2C teleselling is rarely good karma. It’s invasive, time consuming and irritating. Which is why I love this little story.

Leeds man Lee Beaumont was being plagued by cold calls. So he set up his own 0871 number at a cost of twelve quid. Everyone who tried to sell him something ended up paying for the privilege, and he has made more than £300 profit so far. Nice.

Facebook addicts given electric shock treatment

Hooked on Facebook? Help is at hand in the shape of Pavlov Poke, a system that gives addicts a short, sharp electric shock through their keyboard once they exceed a pre-set time limit on the network.

It won’t kill you. But apparently it hurts enough to act as a deterrent. If that doesn’t curb your social excesses, you can use the system to recruit a crowd worker on Mechanical Turk, who will phone up and yell at you every time you weaken.

Spooky time travel in the tube

New scientist magazine, my favourite weekly geek read, reports a sign in London’s tube network offering ‘real time travel updates’. They wonder where the missing hyphen should go. Should it be:

  1. real-time travel updates
  2. or real time-travel updates

I vote for number two. It sounds much more exciting.

No issues with the Big Issue 

Brighton is full of Big Issue sellers. I buy a copy every week. With at least one book permanently on the go and New Scientist to digest, I rarely get round to reading The Issue. But whenever I do I’m impressed all over again with the quality of the journalism, the warm tone and refreshingly human outlook. A splendid read and, for anyone who wants to absorb the fine art of elegant, plain English communications, excellent reference material.

A simple copywriting tip for the perfect article structure

If you’re struggling to structure an article and you’ve been to sixth form college or uni, the answer is at your fingertips. Structure your article in exactly the same way you’d create an essay and you’re more or less there.

TK Maxx logic fail

Observant (aka pernickerty)  bargain hunters are lost in space trying to decode TK Maxx’s latest price promise: always up to 60% less. How does that work, then?!

Crazy mis-types

My new keyboard means mis-types are mostly a thing of the past. I kind of miss them. But here are five that slipped through.

  • house pants (plants)
  • pertnership (partnership)
  • sosmelly pirates (Somali)
  • communters (commuters)
  • open and shit case (open and shut!)

Absolutely enormous

This one has bugger all to do with marketing or copywriting. But it’s such a remarkable thing I can’t resist including it. Apparently the very clever Jonathan Bamber and colleagues at the University of Bristol have discovered a huge canyon under the ice smothering Greenland… and it’s bigger than the Grand Canyon.

The feature measures an astounding 750km,compared to the US offering’s comparatively farty 446km. And it plunges as deep as 800m.

Now that’s what I call large.

Better still, it’s entirely possible there’s something equally huge, another hidden mega-landscape, under the Antarctic’s southern ice cap, with hints of an unfeasibly massive mountain range.