Are You Inadvertently Writing for the Wrong Audience?by J.W. Abraham on 09/15/19
It was my very first project as a copywriter.
Yeah, it was quite a while ago. Yet, I remember it so well. It is burned in my memory, if you will.
That's because that project taught me a valuable lesson. A lesson that has helped guide my copywriting ever since.
It's an important lesson that every copywriter, designer, marketer and business owner should remember in creating any advertising piece.
It is a lesson that is easy to forget.
You may think how that could be if it is so important.
Read on and hear my story.
Pressure to Create a Blockbuster
Being my first job, you can imagine that I was pretty anxious.
I was so excited to finally get this opportunity and I didn't want to blow it right out of the gate.
You see, it was an opportunity that may not easily come again. Not with my background anyway.
That's because I didn't come from journalism or marketing or advertising. I came from business and sales.
But for a long time I was fascinated by advertising and copywriting. So I studied on my own, and when I saw this job opening, I boldly applied for it. I presented my own made-up samples at the interview.
And, what do you know, they hired me.
What's more, I was little intimidated by my fellow advertising colleagues.
The job was at an in-house advertising department of a public safety distribution company. It was a fairly sizeable group of experienced professional designers and writers. They even had won advertising awards.
But, I knew I was in my element. Still, I felt I needed to show everyone there that I had what it took to be a successful copywriter.
So I wanted that first project to be a blockbuster.
Thought I Nailed the Headline
So, when I was assigned my very first product description for a sales catalog you can bet I worked extra hard on it.
My first opportunity to show my stuff was the layout stage.
This is the first checkpoint stage where the design of the page and the headlines were presented to management for review. To make sure the ad was going in the right direction.
Anyway, you can bet I wanted to make good first impression by writing a good headline. At the very least, I didn't want to embarrass myself in front of all of these experienced marketers.
So, I wrote oodles of headlines to make sure I came with one that would be a winner. And to this day, I still do write a lot of headlines if I have time.
Finally, I came up with what I thought was a really good one. In fact, I thought I had nailed it.
It had a creative twist that complemented the proposed photo.
But, before the layout meeting I received some feedback from a fellow copywriter.
As a newbie copywriter I was assigned to one of the senior copywriters who was tasked with bringing me along and showing me the ropes. So, I showed her my product promotion with my headline.
I was nervous to say the least about what she would say. It was my first moment of truth, if you will.
She soon returned my draft with her comments. Or I should say comment.
Her comment was short and simple. Just two words.
Yet, it has stuck with me to this day.
And it taught me a valuable lesson for future copywriting.
Her comment was simply "Too catchy".
It meant it was unnecessarily creative.
At first, I was a little deflated. I guess I expected to see something like "Wow!"or "Great" or "Clever".
But, I was also perplexed. Isn't it supposed to be creative? Isn't that what copywriting and advertising is all about? Our department was even often called the "Creative Department".
Soon though I came to my copywriting senses.
She was right in her comment.
You see, the product description did not need to be creative.
It was description for a new product. An expensive product that made use of new technology. And, just highlighting the straightforward benefit of this technology provided should have been enough.
And, I even knew this being a rookie copywriter.
So, why then did I try to be so creative?
The answer is that I was writing for the wrong audience.
I wrote my headline more to impress my fellow copywriters and designers along with the managers.
Instead, I should have kept my focus on the customer.
It's Easy to Lose Focus
Now, even though I was a new copywriter, it isn't a problem just for newbies.
Losing focus of the intended audience is a problem for veteran copywriters, designers, creative directors, marketing directors and business owners.
I think there are two big reasons for this.
The Want of Praise
Everyone seems to want praise. For me on my first job I wanted the praise of my colleagues and direct managers. But it's always nice to acknowledged by your peers. Even as a veteran copywriter. It's nice to win those advertising awards. Yet, advertising that wins awards my not necessarily translate into the most effective advertising in terms of getting more customers.
The Lure of Creativity
Advertising, copywriting and designing are thought of as creative professions. So it is natural to think that they need to always produce wild creative or laugh-out-loud pieces. But, sometimes the most effective creativity can be subtle and simple. Also, the first task of these professions is that of effective communication. Creativity is just one tool to reach and communicate with your audience. So don't get caught up in being creative for creative sake.
So for all of your advertising keep these in mind.
If you find yourself thinking of that shiny statue you could get for an advertising award or find yourself patting yourself on the back a little too much for how creative your idea is…stop.
Stop and think whether your marketing piece is still primarily focused on the customer.