As you browse online content, read ads, and listen to TV and radio commercials, you’ll see or hear lots of worthless words - advertising phrases and clichés that add no value, provide no clarity and, sometimes, don’t even make sense.
It’s fluff that steals the audience’s time and weakens the brand’s message.
Those worthless words are there for at least one of three reasons:
1) An inexperienced copywriter
2) The company’s lack of vision for their advertising, and/or
Your audience’s perception of your brand is too important to squander any opportunities to promote it. So, if you write or contribute ideas to your company’s advertising content, keep these basic ideas in mind.
Your audience’s time is valuable. When you waste it, they’ll be less likely to give it to you in the future. Say as much as you can in as few words as possible.
Use advertising content to guide your audience. People want help with making good buying decisions. Ideally, your ad copy will show them a logical, legitimate path from their need or problem to your solution.
Give your audience something in return for their attention. It might be useful facts or a serious question to ponder. Or maybe it’s just a good laugh. The bottom line: leave them glad they invested their time in your message.
Examples of Content to Avoid
I once heard a used car dealer wrap up his on-camera pitch by saying, “We accept cash.” Are there businesses that refuse cash? In other words, that line isn’t necessary. The following phrases aren’t either.
“We’re conveniently located.” Convenience is relative. A store that’s convenient for one audience member may be completely out of the way for others.
The takeaway: Don’t make blanket statements.
“Your call is important to us.” That’s a set-up to a now-common joke. The punchline: “If my call is so important, pick up the damn phone.”
The takeaway: Delete clichés and other “expected” phrases that only serve as filler. Replace them with information your audience can apply.
“Summer’s here, so it’s time to…” I promise that everyone who reads or hears your copy knows which season it is, or that Christmas is near, or that it’s back-to-school time.
The takeaway: Don’t waste time stating the obvious. It can be insulting to your audience and it draws focus away from your main points.
“We’re dedicated to your satisfaction.” At best, baseless platitudes do nothing to separate you from other brands that rely on the same tactic. At worst, you’ll be perceived as a company that exaggerates or even lies.
The takeaway: Unless you can prove your dedication or somehow guarantee you offer the best service, avoid those types of lofty claims.
Those are just a few examples of specific phrases that weaken advertising copy, but there are others. So, be diligent in your copy editing, filtering your content through these questions:
- Is this copy honest and accurate?
- Which words can I delete without watering down the message?
- Does this copy address a need my potential customers have or is it all self-serving?
- Is this writing clear enough to convey the unique value our company provides?
It takes time and effort to write and re-write impactful advertising copy that’s also a pleasure to read or hear, but the trust and interest that quality content creates is worth the work; it will serve as the foundation of a powerful voice for your brand.
Terry Lesniewicz has been creating memorable images and effective work for brands since the early 1970s.
And as the creative leader of d2i - our brand, design and advertising agency - Terry is still makin’ it happen today, as both an impactful designer and a mentor to the next generation.
On April 19th, 2017, Terry and a few other area designers were featured in an informal retrospective called The Poster Show. Check out the images of Terry's work below.
We’re very proud of the influence that Terry has had on advertising and design, and we’re very excited that he shares his talent, perspective and vast experience with our team and clients every day.
"It's been a pleasure working with the up-and-coming designers here at d2i, including Greg Stawicki. He was instrumental in the work for the Mad Ave Collective poster" (middle row left below).
Usually, advertising takes.
Pre-roll videos, radio and TV spots, print ads: they all interrupt or delay what people want to see or hear. So, by their very nature, those types of advertising take.
They take the audience's time. They take their attention. They can even take the momentum and enjoyment out of the entertainment experience.
But what if advertising were used to give?
Here’s an example.
About 97% of people are not in the market for a new vehicle at any given time. And because Americans own their cars for an average of 6.5 years, most drivers won't be looking for new wheels anytime soon.
Yet, radio and TV commercial breaks are filled with car dealer spots, sometimes back-to-back. And so often, the “take-oriented” message in those commercials is about price or specific vehicles - information that will no longer apply when the majority of the audience is actively shopping for a new car.
So, what if a car dealer were to use his advertising to provide unbiased advice on purchasing a new vehicle?
Or tips on how to keep your current vehicle running its best?
Or the six steps to maintaining your car’s paint job?
Or a few facts that would help you choose the right engine oil?
Or suggestions for cool weekend road trips?
Or specific examples of how buying an American-made model benefits you and your community?
Or stories of how the dealership has gone above and beyond to care for their customers over the years?
Oh, and, by the way, “please think of us when you need a new car.”
What if that car dealer used his air time and ad space to focus on you, rather than himself and his products? To give you valuable information? To prove to you over and over again that his company is worthy of your trust? To build - in a way - a relationship with you?
Not only would you come away from that advertising a smarter consumer, you might develop a fondness for the company responsible for it.
As a marketer, you can't change the interruptive nature of certain channels, but you can change your content - from self-focused to audience-focused; from taking to giving, with the goal of creating a valuable, long-term role in the lives of your audience.
Yes, that shop window in the photo is real.
It’s hard to imagine a more unfortunate name for a business these days. Nazi Death Camp Bar and Grill might top it. The Lee Harvey Oswald Daycare Center comes close.
Removing the word Isis from your company name might be an easy call for most, but it’s not always as obvious as to when you should re-name or re-brand a product or company.
While there’s certainly more to a brand than a name and logo, both are key determinants of how a company is perceived.
Terry Lesniewicz is the Chief Branding Officer for Design2Influence (d2i), our advertising and design agency that specializes in re-branding. In a recent interview he talked about logo changes specifically.
“When a logo is a heritage logo, like Coca-Cola’s for example, it needs very little modification. Maybe a clean-up now and then,” Terry said. “Heritage brands, like Hershey’s, don’t change their packaging, while a newer candy or energy bar may change their look quite frequently.”
“But the tech industry, for instance, hasn’t been around long enough to have that heritage, so they’re not beholden to the past. Plus, the tech world views ‘new and fresh’ as good.”
“These days, brands are simplifying their logos. Freshness is always a positive. And a logo change can suggest that you have new products or a new focus,” Terry said. “So, if you have a great reputation and are widely known, consider freshening your logo. But, in the same breath, I’ll say that you have to protect an older logo and the value that it represents."
“Changing a name or logo can be a tough decision,” Terry admits. “There’s history there and equity and even an emotional attachment to consider. So, before we do any design work, we walk our clients through that process of deciding if it’s time for a change or re-fresh.”
For years, we’ve not only promoted the idea of using marketing channels to distribute valuable information your audience can apply, we’ve done it ourselves – in our Marketing Articles, our Marketing Minute Videos, and right here on our blog.
Maybe that’s why we love these online ads for the University of Phoenix so much.
1) They’re Relevant - With the national unemployment rate at 7.9% (in October 2012), there aren’t many messages these days that are more relatable or timely.
2) They Reinforce UP’s Message Without a Hard Sell - Successfully preparing people for careers is a category the University of Phoenix wants to own. And while the only reference to UP is a logo at the very end of each video, the connection between the school and its mission comes across loud and clear - precisely because of the short amount of time the videos spend on “them” and how much time is committed to helping you, the job seeker.
3) They’re Easily Shared - Most of us know someone who needs a job or wants a better job. Simply by sending a link to the University of Phoenix YouTube channel we can share this valuable information with a friend or loved one.
4) They’re Easy to Digest - The copy gets to the point. No fluff. Just a handy takeaway. Combined with the simple (but fun) stick-figure animation, the videos are a pleasure to watch.