Five copywriting questions asked at Fashion Digital Los Angeles 2016, and the answers.
Since shopping is our favorite thing to talk about, it’s always a pleasure to get together in a room full of people who understand the ritual from the inside out. We do this several times a year at Fashion Digital, where leaders in the world of fashion, beauty and lifestyle eCommerce and digital marketing convene to exchange ideas about the lightning-paced industry we run.
At the conference’s Los Angeles installment earlier this month, C. Black Content founder Cristina Black presented a workshop on the process of creating a distinctive digital brand voice. Creatives and marketers from companies like Skechersand Revolve/Forward were in attendance, along with copywriters from social media agencies, beauty brands and even a high-end wig shop (target demographic: Samantha Jones).
Here are the major questions that came up, and a summarized version of Cristina’s response to each dilemma.
I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT MY BRAND VOICE IS. WHERE DO I START?
Much like a writer or an actor, backstory is very important in creating a brand voice. Don't skip this step and just start writing copy. Take the time to get to know your brand voice as a character. Here's a fun, effective exercise where you pretend your brand is a person going to a party, and you imagine who they are, what they'd say and how they'd say it.
SHOULD THE CHARACTER BEHIND MY BRAND VOICE BE SIMILAR TO ITS AUDIENCE?
The dynamic between brand voice and customer identity depends on the brand and how its audience prefers to be seduced. For instance, customers turn to luxury brands to be inspired by an aspirational lifestyle, so those brands tend to have elevated, aloof voices.
By contrast, customers want to see themselves in direct-to-consumer brands. They want to feel like the people running the company are in tune with their daily concerns, and have experienced similar frustrations and satisfactions. Asking yourself what your customers want from you will help you determine the ideal level of disparity for your brand.
I'M MANAGING A TEAM OF COPYWRITERS. HOW DO I GET THEM TO THINK MORE CREATIVELY?
Ask them not to think of it as copywriting, and more as talking that goes on a web site (or an app, or whatever the case may be). Forbid them to default to copywriter speak, unless it's for best-practice reasons. Give them a list of clichés to avoid.
Let your writers know they won't be criticized for suggesting something stupid, but that they should expect to try several approaches before hitting on something clever. Tell them not to give you the first thing that comes to their mind—because it is almost always an obvious pun. Ask for the second or third idea. Even if you end up going back to the first, options can inform the revisions.
HOW DO YOU RECONCILE SEO COPYWRITING WITH ELEGANT, USER-FRIENDLY CONTENT?
Always consider user experience first. Google is a lot more intelligent than it used to be, so robotic, keyword-stuffed content does not aid search ranking in 2016, and in fact may hurt it. SEO copywriting is largely achieved by creating clear, relevant, sharable content that enhances the user experience. It takes time and resources to establish that kind of presence on the Internet, so it's best to approach the process authentically. For more on this topic, read: All you need to know about SEO content, you learned in grade school.
MY BRAND MADE A COPY BLUNDER. NOW WHAT?
Look forward, not back. Unless you've said something seriously offensive and damaging to your brand's image, just focus on doing better in the future. Digital is a constant work in progress—almost everything will be forgotten 48 hours after it's published. And anyway, damage control is a publicist's job, not a copywriter's. Although if you concepted a campaign that incites a boycott, you may not have a job to do anymore, in which case this would be a non-issue.