Lessons We Can Learn from Big Brand Copywriting
Published: July 12, 2017
Author: Victoria Greene
Words don’t get the credit they deserve sometimes. As brands attempt to woo their customers with heavily filtered photographs, infographics, videos and emojis, old-fashioned copy gets pushed aside. We’re always told to ‘show not tell’, and sometimes this advice gets taken too literally. Because however fancy your graphics are, and however well-shot your brand video is, strong content is still what holds everything together and ensures that the overriding message is spot-on. Content marketing is a big deal, and big brands have more than most to spend on it. While not everyone gets it right, here are five famous brands that do.
Apple: Master Minimalism
With its web copy, Apple has mastered the art of writing for scanners. This is a crucial point to remember, as most web copy is not read, but merely skimmed or glanced at.
Look at the minimalism of this homepage. Apple’s web copy comprises giant headlines with short, snappy subheadings or short paragraphs of around 30 words max. There’s hardly anything to read here – it’s all about the visuals – but what is there packs a punch. Apple arouses interest with bold, forward-thinking statements, such as “A giant step for iPhone” and “Anything you can do,
you can do better”.
Apple doesn’t waste its visitors’ time with unnecessary waffle. It will go into more detail where needed by giving you the option to learn more about different features. This is where Apple really has it right, because as well as positioning its content for scanners, it also writes for readers by linking you to further reading and continuing to use short paragraphs and sentences. Copywriting for conversion in the digital age is all about making a connection, and to do so means overcoming any barriers that users might have when consuming your content, such as a short attention span.
This brief and inspiring form of writing is used by a lot of businesses, particularly those in tech, who tend to be more progressive. Shopify, the ecommerce store builder, follows a very similar pattern as you can see below, with a bold heading and subheading, and short, skimmable paragraphs – all linking out to further reading.
Innocent Drinks: Reach Customers on Their Level
Innocent Drinks’ content is consistently quirky and a wonderful reflection of its playful brand voice. Through wit and storytelling, Innocent makes a connection with its audience by being on their level. A lot of what makes its branding successful is its tone of voice, which is chatty, irreverent, and uncomplicated. Everything from its website to its social feeds and packaging is written in the same innocently amusing manner – always keeping the consistency that is so crucial to building a coherent brand.
But it’s not just the tone – it’s also the content itself. Social media has become a huge platform for Innocent Drinks, and it’s where it carries out most of its communications with customers. Visit its Facebook page, and you can even use the Messenger function to speak to customer service.
Innocent is consistent in encouraging a two-way interaction. It also actively gets its customers involved in its campaigns – as with the latest, the Big Knit:
“Fancy knitting some little hats and helping us raise money for Age UK? It’s fun, it’s easy and it’s for a great cause. Every time we sell a little bottle wearing a hat, we donate 25p to Age UK to help keep older people warm and well over winter.”
The whole concept, explained in less than 50 words. Not to mention plenty of visual inspiration in the form of a gallery, hat patterns and photos of their star knitters. Already known to give 10% of their profits to charity, these philanthropic content marketing campaigns go far towards promoting a positive brand image and getting customers actively involved. Bonus: smoothie bottles wearing woolly hats will really stand out on the shelves.
Coke: Topical Storytelling
Coke is a company that knows a thing or two about content marketing, that’s for sure. It invests a ton in maintaining its public image, and is always producing content that is fresh and engaging, much of it shared through social media channels. For Coke, it’s all about creativity and storytelling.
Coca-Cola has more than 105 million followers on Facebook, and 3.3 million followers on Twitter. It approaches its content marketing according to the classic 70/20/10 marketing rule, and has all sorts of online tools for customers, including the Work It Out Calculator and Caffeine Counter. Coke stays up to date with everything that’s trending: most recently #NationalSelfieDay, #FirstDayofSummer and #FathersDay. There is always an angle.
Coke’s use of language is designed to be inspiring and speak to a wider lifestyle, not just fizzy drinks. “Refreshing the world, one story at a time”, “How we’re helping you enjoy less sugar”, and “See how Coca-Cola is delivering on its commitments” all give the overwhelming impression that the company is doing its best to embrace health issues and corporate responsibility. And of course, Coke also knows the power of making things personal, as demonstrated by its use of the ‘Share a coke with’ labels and the above ‘Dad’ and ‘Mom’ labels.
Chubbies: Writing for Your Niche
“Sky’s Out, Thighs Out” is the popular slogan of this men’s shorts retailer, who also claim that:
“We believe in the right your quads have to a life of freedom and sunshine.”
Chubbies’ content is very much written by bros, for bros. The kind of bros who wear red, white and blue dungarees with a US flag-flying bald eagle on the front pocket. For fun. Its product names are geared towards this market just as much as its body copy, with shorts named things like ‘The Boys are Back’, ‘The Majestics’ and ‘The Float Your Boats’. The cultural references are many – and Chubbies can get away with it, because it knows that this is what its very specific target market will relate to.
The tone is spot-on, from its mailing list sign-up (Your Inbox Deserves Better. Inquire Below) to its product descriptions (Glorious sweat shorts specially designed for not breaking a sweat). It wouldn’t work for everyone, but it works for them.
So here we have four big brands who have really nailed their copywriting and content marketing approach by keeping things simple, speaking to customers on their level, getting creative with storytelling, and appealing to niche culture. How can you incorporate these lessons into your own brand copywriting? If your website is sinking under the weight of long, meandering paragraphs that don’t inspire action, excitement or recognition, then you’re doing something wrong. Likewise, if all you have to share on your social feeds are product listings, then again, something’s gone awry. It’s time to make like the big boys and get outta your own way by being more creative, and importantly, more selective.