When I landed my first ad agency job, it was all about print. We were a team of three, and our main client was a big healthcare company. We were on the phone every day placing ads in newspapers and magazines while writing copy for flyers and brochures. Some of you may read this and ask:
How well did that work?
What's a newspaper?
It's true. Not only was is that some old school marketing, but the content was almost always company-centric. It was all about how great it was to work for them.
Times have changed. Now the messaging has to be audience-centric, and you have to reach them in multiple ways. However, a lot of companies haven't learned that yet.
Print may be old school, but a lot of companies still ask people to read a lot. While blogs, print collateral and other copy-driven content are still relevant, you can't put all of your eggs into the text basket.
In this video, I explain:
Watch now to learn more.
Other references in this video:
Watching and Listening Are the New Reading
Donald Miller: Weighing Your Audience Down
In 2011, I picked up my first video scriptwriting job. The client was a multi-service software company whose website featured a lot of text. Several paragraphs filled pages with explanations, descriptions and examples tied to the functionality of their products. Then, they realized something:
People were not going to read all of this text.
So, they wanted to turn some of those textwalls into short videos. They knew most people would rather watch or listen to the explanations. Even in 2011, there was a lot of truth to that.
In 2020, we've learned a lot more about customer behavior in a consumer-driven marketplace. It's not enough to have a written explanation anymore; you have to consider other factors. For example:
It was all just too much for copywriting to bear. Now, it's dead.
Taking copy and bringing it to life
Considering the high volume of written content and limited attention spans, it's not enough to write copy. Now it has to quickly hook people, keep them engaged and generate the right response. This is especially true if you're in an incredibly competitive space.
Healthcare is a perfect example. I've written and produced content in the healthcare space for 15 years. I don't need to tell you it's a competitive space. If you're searching for a specific type of medical provider, you're likely going to get bombarded by one word - CARE.
Make it personal and less "salesy"
I cannot express enough how much I love hearing a client say they want content that is more personal and less salesy. If it's a marketing director, it means they haven't lost their consumer mindset. Sometimes, marketers can be so sales-focused that the consumer believes the content is designed to only benefit the seller. We're all consumers, and if marketers remember that while writing copy, they'll probably predict the likely response to their content.
Re-thinking copywriting isn't beneficial just because your content won't read like a TV commercial script. It can connect to your audience in a way that feels more like person-to-person commutation.
Recently, I edited and re-wrote content for a client who needed their online degree program copy to feel more human and less copy-and-paste. Specifically, these were chatbot responses to common questions. After looking at the copy, it was clear that changes were needed.
When I say gigantic changes, I'm not necessarily talking about the amount of words used in the copy. That can also mean a major change in expression. Sometimes that's needed. Other times, it can cause more problems.
For example, when ad agencies attempt to infuse life into into copywriting, it's not uncommon for them to produce a clever set of words with some pop. If that's what you get, remember to look at it from a consumer point-of-view. As Donald Miller points out - Marketing that is too cute or clever is a waste of money.
Concise, clear and credible
You can have clever copy all over your website, but if the message isn't clear to the user, it might as well read, "We mambo dogface in the banana patch." (Steve Martin reference)
As I said, it is comforting to meet people who want to adjust to the death of old copywriting habits. However, I am absolutely stunned at the number of companies who are not keeping an eye on copy that represents them as an organization. Specifically, I'm talking about blogs, web copy, press releases, print materials and sales pieces that are:
So, when I say copywriting is dead, it's more about how old school copywriting strategies have died. However, that's true of several "old school" marketing strategies. The truth is, many marketers still cling to old strategies, some are struggling to adapt and others have made the transition.
So, maybe it's better to say copywriting entered a cocoon, and some people have turned it into a butterfly.