advertising

Languishing over language: how to improve your copywriting

In a fascinating interview with National Public Radio in America, UCLA professor Keith Chen spoke about how language can affect the way one thinks. Specifically he mentioned how different languages impact the way in which certain cultures view and save money.

In Mandarin for example, one does not say “tomorrow it will rain”, but rather “tomorrow it rain.” According to Professor Chen, this equalisation of the future and present impacts their worldview. In this way, Mandarin-speakers view saving money for the future in the same mindset with which they view having money in the present. This leads to an observable increase in their monetary savings.

Writing languate we got

In English we’re stuck with a ‘present progressive’, meaning that in order to speak about an event in the future we have to use an ‘obligatory form’. If that makes as little sense to you as it does to me, put it this way:

Today it is raining.
Yesterday it rained.
Tomorrow it…

There’s no future tense for rain. The only way to say it is: “tomorrow it will rain.”
The theory dictates that this characteristic of the English language means we’re predisposed not to put the future and the present on equal footing, but rather to view the future as a vague, incomprehensible eventuality sometime down the road. Thus, English -speakers tend to save less.

Language can literally shape the way we think.

Bad language past present future

The Internet can be an unforgiving place.

As a copywriter at Messages On Hold, my primary goal is to craft messages that shape callers’ thoughts about a company, product or idea. So how do we use language subtly yet effectively in our on hold messages? Allow me to show you.

Take for instance this sentence:
Did you know that when customers sign up with Tim’s Mowing they experience our great commitment to customer service by getting access to discounts on our full range of services!

The sentence is long-winded, bulky and the focus is on the seller, not the customer. If a caller is on hold hearing this message, not only will the sentence not sink in, but it doesn’t even leave the caller with an understanding of what Tim’s Mowing offers them!

Better writing through comedy buzzword
Let’s remove the excess details, drop the generic opening, turn the focus from the seller’s features to the buyer’s benefits and craft a clear message.

How’s this?
Sign up with Tim’s Mowing for all your professional landscaping and garden services  at discounted prices.

There’s no fancy language only a professional copywriter could come up with. There’s no brilliant eloquence to rival Shakespeare, Dickens or Austen. However, the sentence is succinct, unambiguous and focuses on how the listener/reader benefits.

We’ve ditched the words “can”, “commitment” and “when”. Those are all words that just fluff up and obscure what the client wants to hear. No one cares what you can do; they want to know what you will do.

The second example lays it all out effectively; you have landscaping requirements, they will provide a solution and this is how to engage with that service.

Eat your words, writing and choice of language
The specific language you use (or don’t use) will affect the way in which a caller might receive and absorb the information. In fact, at Messages On Hold we have a list of phrases we avoid at all costs.

Your messages need to orient the caller so they immediately understand what they stand to gain by engaging with your services. When it comes to improving your writing, it’s all about the specific language you use. Keep it simple, keep it focused and keep it targeted.

Tomorrow, we will write better.

How Will You Celebrate Leap Day?

Unlike your favourite real holidays, which happen annually, you only get the chance to celebrate February 29, or Leap Day, once every four years. That makes Leap Day actually less frequent than once in a blue moon (which happens roughly every three years).

Motorbike

How should one celebrate this day? By taking a leap, of course! By trying something new that you’ve been putting off for far too long. That’s as simple as making a booking for a dance class, or trying a new restaurant, or bungee jumping in a chicken suit (if you do this, please send us photos).

I know what you’re thinking: Leap Day isn’t a real holiday. Well, neither is Talk Like A Pirate Day, but as more people support and celebrate these left-field calendar dates, we can change the world. I still hold out hope for a Leap Day miracle.

Leap Day William

We also think it’s a good day to take a risk with your marketing.

The best advertisements of all time all have an element of risk. Have you ever thought that a scripted message looks different to what everyone else does, or is a bit ‘out there’? That probably means it’s more effective. People remember things that are different. It’s one reason why we recommend updating your messages – to keep it different! After all, how do you expect to secure your competitor’s clients if you market your business in exactly the same way they do?

Old Spice

So if you’ve been playing it safe with your marketing, do one thing this Leap Day: ask us to write something wacky, wonderful and way out there. After all, there’s a Leap Day saying: if you want make a baby, playing it safe isn’t the best way to do it.

I’m on a horse.

The Top Five Christmas Campaigns for 2014

Every year around early November, the internet starts to come alive with the excitement for the upcoming ad bonanza that is Christmas time. So in spirit of Christmas, here are our top 5 Christmas campaigns for 2014!

5) Sainsbury’s – Christmas Is For Sharing, made in partnership with The Royal British Legion. [Warning – turn your speakers down]

Talk about pulling on the old heartstrings! The famous war story of The Christmas Truce has been brought to life in this ad which at publishing date has had over 14 million hits. Sainsbury’s took a big risk with this one.  War isn’t a topic to be taken lightly. However if we look past the fact that in essence, the supermarket is using war to advertise their company, what we have is a beautiful representation of the spirit of Christmas. (Sorry for the saccharine, but if we can’t at Christmas then when can we?) What makes the campaign more palatable is the fact its promoting a chocolate bar of which all profits will be donated to the Royal British Legion.  A brilliant message indeed.

4) Tesco’s Wigan Light Show

Once upon a time, retailers would release one wizz bang Christmas ad and that was enough. Not anymore. UK Retailer Tesco has released a fun, sweet Christmas ad campaign which at face value is fine. But it’s not the official ad that we love. In 2013, Tesco customer Claire Hannah tweeted that her local Tesco wasn’t displaying the iconic ‘Tesco hat’. Instead of a miserly, boring response tweet, Tesco threw plenty of energy (and plenty of dollars) at a response (seen here) this year that’s already getting them plenty of free publicity. Not only did they respond to the tweet, but they added to their Christmas message this year in a spectacular, explosive fashion. It looks like the proof is already in the pudding in terms of free exposure thanks to Christmas-themed content.

3) David Jones – The Things We Do For Love

Speaking of saccharine! We’re proud to announce that Aussie retailer David Jones has jumped on the Christmas bandwagon and offered up a classic Aussie Christmas problem in their sentimental Christmas ad! Here in the wide, brown land, we’re not famous for our inclusion of chimneys in our architecture. This ad plays delightfully on this notion and reminds us why we celebrate Christmas at all. Because it makes the people we love happy. While this ad’s not racing up the viral stakes yet, we’re expecting a Christmas miracle!

2) Aldi – Aussie Christmas

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iVaZ1hvXW0A#t=55

Australians enjoy a fairly unique Christmas. While the romance of a white Christmas isn’t lost on us – most of us spend December 25 sweltering in the heat wishing we’d let the whole ‘hot food’ thing go. Aldi has jumped on this idea and offered a delightful mash-up of the traditional white Christmas and the quintessential Aussie Christmas. While the advertising elements of this ad might be a little overt, we’re willing to forgive it just to watch those zany Europeans having a crack at the slip n’ slide on the snow! And keep an eye out for the budgie smugglers – we didn’t know they existed outside Australia!

1) John Lewis – Monty The Penguin

And finally, it wouldn’t be a modern Christmas without a visit from Monty The Penguin. John Lewis must be rubbing their hands together in the lead up to Christmas now, knowing they’re days away from an absurd amount of free publicity. Before it was even released, the Twittersphere was abuzz with excitement. And, as expected, this year’s Monty The Penguin ad notched up 12 million views in the first week it was released. John Lewis pre-empted the insane response to the ad with more content marketing than you can poke a stick at including  a website where you can explore Monty’s world, a storytelling app, Monty’s Den in each of their stores and Monty the Penguin adoption toys which raise money for the WWF. Oh and Monty the Penguin has over 35,000 followers on Twitter. Not bad for a penguin. John Lewis spent £1 million on the Monty the Penguin ads but when you look at the YouTube shares, the interactive content and phenomenal free publicity this little guy has earned the retailer, it’s a small price to pay.

– Sophie

Marketing Messages: What Kim Kardashian Can Teach You

Whether you loved it, hated it, or thought it was the latest character in Ryan Murphy’s and Brad Falchuk’s American Horror Story, you probably saw the photo of Kim Kardashian’s behind. There’s also a good chance you shared it, tweeted it, liked one of the hundreds of memes it produced and discussed it with friends. While a great lesson in Photoshop, Kim shows us that just one carefully selected image can be shared, posted and published over and over again across social media, websites, and even in good old fashioned press. In a nutshell, if you have the right image, it can be seen by millions.

Kim’s Paper Magazine shoot is also a great teaching tool when you’re deciding how to market your small business. Whenever you upload, post, or interact with customers on social media, or update your website or online shop, words are only half the battle. To be truly effective, you need marketing messages with images – good ones.

 Bolster your marketing messages with compelling images.

Websites

If you have an online shop, take note that 56% of consumers consider images of products to be more significant than any other information you may provide, including detailed descriptions, reviews and ratings. Forget ‘images coming soon’ notices and grainy iPhone photos, consumers want images that are both clear and professional. This is because a) they want to know what they’re getting before it arrives at their door, and b) only tangible images will produce that “yes, this is exactly what I want” feeling.

If you don’t have an online shop, and instead just have a contact number, email and a two year old “under construction site” notice, (you know who you are) you still need an image. Upload one of your store front, or with your staff members standing in the foreground. Why? Because 60% of consumers are more likely to consider or contact your business if an image appears in local search results. Consumers want to put a face to a name and want to know that the company they’re choosing to do business with is a) real, and b) legitimate.

On Social Media

90% of the information transmitted to our brains is visual, and visuals are processed in the brain 60,000 times faster than text. This means when a person is scrolling down their Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn feed they’re 90% more likely to stop for an image than for text, not because your tagline isn’t engaging, but because their brain picks up on the image rather than the text.

The statistics back it up. Images are liked twice as much as text updates on Facebook; articles with images on LinkedIn get 94% more total views; and using images on Twitter increases retweets by 150% and click-throughs by 18%.

Pinterest and Instagram

If your business isn’t currently on Pinterest or Instagram, here are two figures that should change your mind. Pinterest saw a 1047% growth in unique visitors in their first year, (unique visitors refers to a person who visits a website more than once within a specified period of time) and Instagram has 130 million users who like 1 billion photos per day.

Whether you’re a fashion, furniture or fencing business, get an account and start uploading. Images are so important for your marketing messages because they let consumers imagine. Customers can picture themselves in your dress, imagine how their pool will look with a stylish glass fence, or envision how your dining set will look in their home. Plus, Pinterest and Instagram let you connect and interact with current and potential customers on a fundamental level, and by constantly uploading and updating, consumers are constantly exposed to your brand. And as we know from the Effective Frequency Theory – a consumer has to be exposed to an ad at least three times before they take action – more exposure to your brand can never be a bad thing.

The Bottom Line

Next time you’re updating your business’ Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn account I want you to stop and think about Kim’s oiled up bottom, and imagine what kind of photos will stop your customers mid scroll. Stay away from poor stock photos or images that looks too set up, and get creative – images that show your human side will create stronger connections with customers.

– Steph

Marketing Messages – What Really Gets Customers Through The Door

Would you buy your wine from Dan Murphy’s because they take “pride” in “offering the lowest liquor price guarantee?” Your new plasma TV from Retravision Online because they “guarantee to beat any advertised competitor price?” When your nephew or niece’s birthday arrives, will you purchase your present from Toys R Us because they promise their “prices can’t be beat”, and that they’ll “match any advertised price?” These retailers wouldn’t lie to you… or would they?

According to the University of East Anglia, lowest-price guarantees can actually work against consumers, potentially pushing prices up and discouraging them from shopping around. So, in fact, lowest or best price guarantees are not good indicators that a store is cheaper than its competition. Why, then, do we keep returning to and buying from these businesses? Well it’s pretty simple – you’re a marketing message sucker.

On average, five times as many people read the headline as read the small print. We as consumers don’t bother reading that: “In some cases there are prices which Retravision Online cannot match,” “The competitor store must be within 10 kilometres of Dan Murphy’s,” or that the Toys ‘R Us guarantee “Excludes competitor’s category or storewide discounts, conditional sales, package deals, discontinued lines, loyalty or third party offers, fire or liquidation sales, clearance/warehouse outlets.”

Marketing messages should excite customers with what you can do for them.

Our eyes and wallets are dazzled by lowest price guaranteed slogans. So what does this mean for the average business owner? You need to think about what you are selling to your customers. Retravision, Dan Murphy’s, and Toys ‘R Us aren’t telling consumers they’ve been in production for however many years, who they’re owned by, where they source their materials from, or where they hope their business will take them. Why? Because people just don’t care.

Most consumers have one thing they care about more than anything else. You need to work out what it is and sell it to them – whether it’s getting the product to them quicker, being cheaper than your competitors, or by ensuring that the quality is the best on the market. So, if your business has been running since 1969, don’t give them a history lesson from that year – it’s useless and frankly, it’s boring! Instead, mention that with over 40 years of experience under your belt they won’t be paying for you to learn on the job.

If your production takes place locally with locally sourced products, don’t just focus on the fact that this supports the community. Tell your customers because it’s right next door, it’s fresher and faster! In the event there is a problem, you’ll be able to solve it a hell of lot quicker because you have the part right on your shelf – they don’t have to wait weeks for shipping. And, in years to come when a part needs replacing – you’ll be able to do it for them – they won’t have to scour eBay for a part that hasn’t been manufactured in years.

To ensure your business can compete– you need marketing messages that excite customers with what you can do for them. Instead of dropping your pants on prices that might see a short term spike in sales, opt for something that will provide you with long term growth. Find the most compelling features of your business, and sell them.

– Steph

Marketing Messages – Some Harsh Truths

If you’re not selling as much as you used to or sales have petered out, your marketing messages are no good. I know, it’s hard to hear – and it’s supposed to be. This is a wake-up call.

Sure, we could blame it on the market or customers being more frugal with their hard earned dollars. But the truth is you can sell in any climate to anyone if your marketing messages are on-point.

What I mean by on-point is this: are they focused on your target market? Is your audience receiving these messages regularly and through a variety of mediums? And finally is the content of your marketing messages high quality and relevant? If you can’t tick all three, then you may as well be shouting your marketing messages down a well with your fingers in your ears.

Are your Marketing Messages focused?

In 2013, Dove launched their ‘Real Beauty Sketches’ campaign to prove to women that they are more beautiful than they think. Knowing that only 4% of women worldwide consider themselves beautiful, Dove used this to create a powerful message that resonated with their audience. This message is an extension of Dove’s Real Beauty campaign, and the video became one of the most shared videos of all time.

Are your Marketing Messages consistent?

When Motorola launched their ultra customisable Moto X smartphone, their message was simple: this is a smartphone that can be customised to match your personality. The customisation was the key and that’s what they pushed through outdoor initiatives like bus shelters and storefronts that changed colour to match the clothing of the viewer. They even created an interactive print ad that allowed readers to change the colour of the phone on the page using polycarbonate paper and LED light pipes.

Are your Marketing Messages of high quality?

You don’t need a million dollar budget to create highly relevant, high quality content. Kit Cosmetics keep note of customer purchases and email them around the time those purchases are likely to run out. For example, if you purchase a 50g tub of face moisturiser, they know it has a three month lifespan and will email you similar products in three months time. Simple, yet highly effective.

It’s no longer enough for you to spend an hour banging out a sales email on a Monday morning, firing it out on a Tuesday and expecting results on the Wednesday. You need to convince your audience what you’re promoting is worth their time, attention and most importantly of all, their money. Here’s the kicker: all that takes time.

On average, a person will need at least seven exposures to a business’ marketing messages before taking action. The more your target audience is exposed to your message, the more they will recognise it. It’s this recognition which builds familiarity, which in turn builds trust. Once they trust you, they will be open to being sold to.

Multiple exposures to marketing messages – quality marketing messages – aren’t just a pleasantry, they’re a necessity. A lone, well-worded email simply won’t cut it. Your audience needs to see your marketing messages everywhere. In bite sized pieces of information on social media, in downloadable PDFs that offer them value & insight, in banner ads, radio ads, from their neighbour’s mouth – everywhere.

Your target audience isn’t trying to make your life difficult – they are expecting you to work hard for their loyalty. If you can create great, value-adding content that regularly appears in, and is relevant to, their situation you will have them. Remember, you have to give to get.

Now take a few minute, make yourself a cup of coffee and ask yourself: what marketing messages are you sending out? Are they consistent? Are they of high quality or value? And finally, are they appearing everywhere they could be?

– Lachy

Unique Selling Point – Can’t Find One? Make One.

Conceiving a unique selling point in the 21st century is tough, especially in a field as mind-numbingly generic as the bottled water market. It’s a lucrative one – after all, we have to drink two litres of the stuff daily to perform at our peak. And that’s exactly what French company Vittel kept in mind when generating a unique selling point for their H2O.

Vittel commissioned advertising gurus Ogilvy & Mather to come up with something that would have them head and shoulders above the pack. They might have been expecting a great campaign, which is O & M’s bread and butter. What Vittel got was a remarkably simple unique selling point that no one else had.

Vittel created their own unique selling point

Vittel and Ogilvy & Mather found that only 20% of the French population reached that oh so elusive two litre mark. The solution? Make drinking the right amount of water easier and more enjoyable. Ogilvy & Mather designed a bottle cap that when screwed on tight, sets a one hour timer. Once 60 minutes is up, a flag pops out of the cap, reminding the consumer to, well, consume!

Vittel could have settled for an ad campaign that promoted the pristine location of their water source or the divine minerals in their H2O. But that would’ve been positioning their water as something more… watery than the rest. By giving consumers something they never knew they wanted – a water bottle with an alarm – Vittel have something far more powerful.

In reality, this is a fantastic execution of advertising 101 – inventing a need for the consumer. We see it thousands of times a day. “You need the latest processor in your smartphone”, “you need a foundation with more coverage”, “you need a bike with four more gears”… But Ogilvy & Mather didn’t really invent a need – they simply made consumers aware of a fact relating to their health, and provided a solution right there on their client’s product. If a Vittel consumer were to purchase another product, they would miss the alarm cap.

Sure – any water will fill up your tank, but as far as prospective buyers are concerned, only Vittel’s will actively help you get there. That’s a killer unique selling point!

– Magnus

Going The Extra Mile (or 23.5 Miles!)

There are customers that come into a store, buy a product, and leave… no questions asked. Then there are those kooky characters who make some of the most bizarre requests you’re likely to hear. But sometimes, the most amazing thing about a customer request isn’t the request itself, but a company’s response.

“GOING THE EXTRA MILE… LITERALLY”

Take this business consultant in the United States, who before departing on the last leg of a particularly tiresome series of work trips, tweeted at his favourite steakhouse “Hey @Morton’s – can you meet me at Newark airport with a porterhouse when I land in two hours? K, thanks. :-)” Whether he was being serious or not is beside the point.

Going The Extra Mile

The point is that Morton’s turned this tweet into a PR extravaganza. When the tired businessman reached the arrivals terminal, imagine his face when a tuxedoed Morton’s waiter greeted him with a 24-ounce Porterhouse, shrimp, potatoes, bread, napkins and silverware. This extraordinary response to a mere social media post demonstrates a few things about Morton’s, and paints a picture of a business that thrives on going the extra mile, or speaking literally, the extra 23.5 miles!

“THE SITUATION STARTED TRENDING WITHIN HOURS”

A team member was monitoring social media – that’s a given. Up the chain, superiors were willing to approve the idea, then a cook had to make the food and time it for the traveller’s arrival, someone needed to track down flight information to ensure the waiter was at the right location, and the food had to be driven, you guessed it, 23.5 miles. Needless to say, the situation started trending within hours, giving Morton’s a huge amount of exposure for relatively little expenditure.

Next time a customer asks you something strange, don’t fall back on policies or common sense. See if you can take advantage, surprise someone and see where it takes you. Never be afraid of going the extra mile!

– Magnus

Exceeding Expectations

Outside of my hours at Messages On Hold, I have a little creative side project that occupies my time and I recently ordered some promotional materials for it from a popular print house.

Now, this print house is no louse when it comes to customer service. They have successfully implemented an online ordering system that allows you to upload your own designs and place orders safe in the knowledge that things like overrun bleed lines won’t ruin the batch. You used to have to drive down to the store, talk to a printer representative and even pay a file handling fee. Now it’s done from the comfort of your own home. They also offer predesigned promotional material that you can customise and it’s all competitively priced.  After placing your order, you’re offered significant discounts if you buy something else within half an hour. Very clever. These guys are on the ball… mostly.

My order was for 30 pages of promotional stickers. A week later I had received 2 packs of 10, so I called to inform them of the mistake. The customer service representative was efficient and competent. I explained the situation and she concluded on the spot that there must’ve been an error and that she would send through the remainder of the order.

Do this. Not literally. But also literally.

Do this. Not literally. But also literally.

This company has empowered their customer reps to make these kinds of decisions without looking to a superior. Big tick, Kym Illman would approve. They’re also banking on the fact that they did actually stuff up and I wasn’t just trying to scam them out of another 10 pages. The cost of being scammed was significantly less than the cost of possibly insulting a paying customer. The call wrapped up and I received an email saying the package would be express delivered.

Good job, right? Almost. I was a frustrated customer, they admitted fault and now I’m back to where I started with a little lost time and some mild frustration. Will I go back to them? Maybe… sure they fixed the mistake as soon as they found out about it, but maybe one of their many competitors won’t stuff up the first time. I have nothing to lose by trying someone else.

Instead, imagine if the conversation ended like this:

“Please accept our apologies for the missing pages. We’ll quickly get those 10 pages out to you.  We would also like to send you a further 10 pages for any inconvenience that may have been caused.”

I suspect those extra 10 pages would’ve cost them very little to print and they would’ve likely gained a delighted lifelong customer whose expectations had been clearly exceeded.

When faced with a disgruntled customer, realise you’re being presented with an opportunity. It’s a rare case of someone actively engaging with your business with an explicit expectation. Take that expectation by the horns and run with it. You’ll find delighted customers are great for business.

– Jakub

Time For a Proofread

Here in the Message On Hold Copywriting Department, we write a lot of scripts.  We proof them personally before we submit them to be proofed by the other copywriters. Needless to say, we’re forever looking for errors in our copy.  There are a few cardinal sins… using stale phrases like ‘one-stop shop’ and ‘needs & requirements’ or mistaking ‘you’re’ for ‘your’. Proofing is where these sorts of subtle errors get picked up.

Should a mistake slip between our fine-toothed comb for one of our clients to pick up, we find a fair bit of egg on our face. If they don’t, the gentlemen in studio will, making it virtually impossible for a written typo to be recorded that, in turn, makes our clients sound foolish.

This is not a luxury you get with all marketing efforts, especially ones you do yourself. You can now make and host your own website, print out your own pamphlets and upload your own videos to the web (as mentioned in this story). If no one is looking over the copy you’re putting out there, you run the risk of public embarrassment. If you want to bottom out your credibility as fast as possible, just chuck in an obvious typo and watch your brand equity evaporate.

Typos are never fine.

Typos are never fine.

I recently found a website that contained the word ‘personalised’ in the company name yet in the ‘About Us’ section they had referred to themselves as ‘personzlied’.  ‘Personz lied’ to whoever thinks this is an acceptable public display of your brand. The easiest typos to miss are the skipped words (e.g. ‘the’, ‘that’, ‘a’). Unless you want to sound like you were raised by apes, get someone else to read over your copy… more often than not you’ll be surprised by what they find.

Take this opportunity to proof-read your website and ad material, if you catch any typos… you can thank us later.

– Jakub