your target audience: the how-to of resonating

KT blog post pic 3-29-13

it makes sense that you need to resonate with your target when creating advertising, but the real trick hinges on knowing how to do that.

how can you get into the mind of an 8-year old girl, football-watching male, a new mother, a scuba diver, or female sports car purchaser on cue if you’re not familiar with the typical mindset?

here are a few tips that involve immersion:

immerse yourself in the target’s language. if 15-year old skateboarders use the word “sick” as an adjective to describe something they like, and you’re trying to sell skateboards, this lingo is useful to know. visit the websites devoted to your target, read the books written for them, and learn their specific language. if your target is vegan, become an expert on the topic. it’s also fun to pass some time on urbandictionary.com to see how creatively words are bent for new variations.

immerse yourself in the target’s visual realm. if you’re selling something to a 12-year old girl, and a trend with 12-year old girls is fluorescent nail polish and brightly-colored skinny jeans, then your advertising will feel more authentic to them if it contains bright, fluorescent colors. each generation wants to forge its own signature style, so it helps to understand what that might be.

immerse yourself in the target’s culture. there are specific books, movies, snacks, TV and web shows, videos, and music that define each generation, and the younger the target, the bigger difference a few years can make. 13-year olds will have different tastes than 17-year olds, 19-year olds will have different tastes than 24-year olds, and so forth — so try to be as age-specific as possible if your target is under 35 years old. if you understand the cultural offerings that define a generation, then you’ll know what someone is embracing, rebelling against or indifferent to, which can help with your understanding.

a copywriter is so many things rolled into one industrious and curious person: researcher, character actor, investigative journalist, linguist, editor, platform inventor, fact checker, artist, promoter, and author of both fiction and non-fiction – which is what makes the challenge so thrilling.

do you have any strategies or tips for resonating? if so, send them along!

— kim taylor

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understanding copy in the digital era

digital is where it’s at and where it’s headed. in this new world, information bombards potential prospects from every turn, and to adapt, they’ve become selective in what earns their attention. as copywriters, it’s our job to keep up and engage a new, slightly more distracted audience.

for pointers on approaching the digital realm, The Copy Lab invited copywriter and brand strategist jean railla to share her insight on digital writing techniques.

working with computer

copy should be short, specific and straightforward
you have as few as three seconds to convince a user to keep reading. it’s imperative that a site is easy to navigate and quick to scan. to-the-point heads and subheads, bullets, pull quotes and graphics are all effective techniques for enhancing scannability. display key messaging in the upper left, where the eye goes first, and congregate important points from the top down.

engage your brand’s “influencers”
great success has been had when brands interact online with the people who love them. know your voice and stick with it to strengthen the connection to your audience. no detail is too small: don’t underestimate the power of personalizing your site’s feedback or error messages — they could provide even more opportunity for branded wordplay.

copywriter = tour guide
there is no beginning or end to the web, which means users can (and will) enter a site from other than its homepage. it’s up to the copywriter (you!) to provide direction and make it clear where or what readers should do next. CTAs should be short and clear: sign up today; request more information; download now.

consistency is a must-do
if you call it a cart instead of a shopping cart, make sure it appears that way everywhere. put together a vocab list and pull from it as you write — it will keep your copy on brand and help orient the user. avoid outdated “click here to…” directions and opt for action-oriented “learn more” with a link.

the digital landscape moves quickly…the most successful copywriters will keep pace. connect with other writers and creatives at The Copy Lab’s upcoming speed-date networking event on tuesday, april 16. reserve your spot now. it’s an event not to be missed.

–meredith clinton bell

guest post: quickly learn the lingo of brandspeak

perk up your work with a word list

perk up your work with a word list

work on any account and you’ll quickly discover that every industry has a language all its own. on top of that, you’ll notice that every brand has its own special way of saying things, too.

when you’re writing for an account for a while, both brand and industry lingo become second nature. but when first starting a project, the words and phraseology of that trade may not be so obvious. and if you’re presented with a looming deadline, you’re going to need to learn the vernacular fast.

whenever i’ve been thrown into this situation, i’ve devised a little trick to get “word savvy” and build creative momentum. before ever writing a line of copy, i create a “words & phrases list.”

quite simply, i scour both the client’s and competitor’s websites and marketing materials, and jot down 50 to 100 industry-related words, phrases, and expressions for inspiration.
for instance, i recently started writing website copy for a brand of coffee. to avoid using the word “coffee” a gazillion times, my research provided me with alternatives such as blends, brews, roasts, beans, and grinds that i could sprinkle in.

and while i’m sure the coffee is “delicious,” it would be pretty boring if i kept describing it that generically. some alternative adjectives I came across for my list included aromatic, bold, balanced, complex, decadent, delicate, exotic, flavorful, full-bodied, handcrafted, indulgent, lush, premium, rich, satisfying, smooth, and seductive.

because coffee was not top of mind prior to starting this project, would these words have popped into my head without doing this research? probably some, but not all.
another good way to find helpful terminology is to Google industry-related news stories, and to choose the “related words” options at rhymezone.com and the OneLook.com dictionary.

putting the list into practice

during my first week, when assigned to write emails promoting a $5 sampler offer, i pulled out The List. With a menu of coffee-related words at my disposal, the process of generating strategically-sound headlines became that much easier. here’s the result:

SIP, SAVOR AND SAVE.
Try these blends for just $5 each.

GET BEANS FOR BEANS.
Find new favorites for just 5 bucks.

New Perk for New Customers:
BUY & TRY FOR JUST $5.

while wordplay like this may be frowned upon by some brands, others just love it. so know your client.

beyond words, are phrases. and if you’re working on an established brand, chances are, they have an established way of saying things. as writers, we should all strive to develop original and inventive copy. however, some clients are loathe to veer too far from their approved terminology, which they prefer to use again and again to “reinforce the brand.”
so, if in your brand word audit you see the same expressions used over and over again, you may want to throw them in here and there to put a smile on the client’s face. for this particular brand of coffee, pet phrases i massaged into the copy included:

– Distinctively rich, smooth taste that’s never bitter.
– Make your life rich and flavorful every day.
– Experience a uniquely luxurious coffee indulgence at home.

once you’ve compiled your word and phrase list, you then have a database of thought starters you can refer to whenever you need inspiration.

something to keep in mind: the word list may not be the best approach for highly conceptual projects, which initially, are less about words and more about big ideas. but when faced with fast turnaround for a brand or category that’s new to you, the word list could be just the thing to quickly get your creative juices flowing.

what writing tips and tricks work for you? share them here in the Copy Lab!

by mitch lemus, copywriterMitch

over the course of his copywriting career, mitch lemus (www.mitchlemus.com) has written about everything from automobiles to airlines, fast-food to fashion, and technology to travel at some of new york’s top agencies. accounts include Wendy’s Hamburgers (The Kaplan Thaler Group), Ford (Razorfish), and Citibank (Atmosphere BBDO). mitch has also worked directly with Barnes & Noble, American Express, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Capital One. when not getting people to buy, he hopes he can get them to laugh — reading his short stories, parodies and social satires on Pen & Pixel.

dispatches from ad school: meet elina of Miami Ad School

elina rudkovsky, our ad school blogger

introducing elina rudkovsky, our ‘dispatches from ad school’ blogger

i was first introduced to advertising at 19, after dating an art director who worked at GREY advertising. it wasn’t long after that, that i became enamored with an industry i knew almost nothing about except that everyone had a funky haircut, checked their blackberrys incessantly, and referred to themselves as “creative.” i always thought being “creative” meant that you didn’t hate the 45 minutes you spent in art class, or that you’ve been to every museum in new york city, by choice. looking back, i’m not sure what it was that i found appealing but i began to feverishly pursue advertising even after my relationship was over.

the truth is, i think i may have always been a “creative” despite my dislike for the MET (sorry, everyone). i am a writer, always have been. however, coming from a moderately conservative family, i was reluctant to deviate from the norm to become one, professionally. what was i going to write about? did i want to publish a book? was i ready to take on the role of starving artist? i wasn’t sure, but i did know that writing was a passion of mine that i couldn’t just give up on. for years i found comfort in the rips of an old leather couch harbored inside a neighborhood coffee shop, where i spent weekends curled up with my laptop, allowing my imagination to take me on adventures that only the power of the written word could.

i decided on the copywriting program at Miami Ad School after i realized that getting a job in advertising is like trying to have a child without a partner: sure there are ways around it, but ultimately you need a mate and in this case, a portfolio and an art director to bring it to life. starting Miami Ad was similar to starting kindergarten. everything was new, writing no longer seemed innate (wait till you get to Photoshop, it’s like learning how to walk again), and there’s a strong chance you might cry, maybe even on your first day. i’m serious.

during one of my first weeks at Miami Ad, a peer of mine said “we are all in this together” as we stood on a snowy stoop outside the building that is 10 jay st, waiting for our partner to show up to a group meeting. on a saturday! however, what she said was something that has always stuck with me. it has become my comforting go-to thought whenever chaos ensued, and chaos ensues a lot.

i could sit here and bore you with the technicalities that come with ad school and spew out words like “shop” (fancy ad word for agency), “spots” (fancy ad word for commercials/radio announcements), “pixels” (still don’t really know what this means), addy’s (advertising award), but it won’t really capture the essence of what this experience is all about. that’s what ad school is, in a nutshell, an experience. here’s the thing: you will work really hard and as result you will fall in love with your work and just as quickly you will begin to hate your work. you will get over it and move on. you will feel pressure. you will learn about rejection. you will become okay with rejection (or as ok as you can get) because criticism will motivate you to do better. you will get competitive. you will not become an asshole, and if you do become an asshole, do everyone else a favor and pick another career choice because nobody will want to work with you. you will become overwhelmed, and if you’re anything like me, an ” emotional neurotic wreck but funny and composed when necessary” (direct quote from one of my past instructors) you will cry, in the stairwell. but you will not be alone, and in that lies the silver lining. there will always be someone with you on that same stairwell, whether an instructor or a peer, reassuring you that can do it. whatever the “it” may be. i consider myself exceptionally lucky to have found a group of people that are (although in direct competition with me) incredibly supportive, making life seemingly unimaginable without them.

if there’s anything that i hope you take away from this post, it is that ad school is not just an environment where you go to work on your book, but rather a place where you will learn of the greater picture. from concepts, to brands, and yourself as a person, your mind will shift perspective and grow. for me, it’s been a challenging albeit a life-altering experience thus far that i know will be hard to say goodbye to come next december, and i hope it is the same for you.

by elina rudkovsky

about the author: When Elina isn’t writing for or about advertising, she is with her therapist talking about it. Check her out at ElinaRudkovsky.com

guest post: nail polish and power tools

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“are mermaids real?”

“i’m not really a waitress.”

no one creates deep-seated want based on name alone like the makers of nail polish.
those are actual names, and yes i’m the sucker who bought that shimmery purple and that garnet red, convinced into purchase by clever names. ok, it didn’t hurt that they were cheap too, but if they had simply been called purple and red, I might have thought twice.

why? what is it about a great name that worms its way into the lizard brain and drives desire? in the case of frivolous stuff like nail polish, it’s the abstract concept; like Infiniti first sold the idea of a car, products like this sell the idea of the color.

the right name makes you smile, conjures images of personal meaning, maybe makes you laugh til you pee a little. imagine if nail polish were sold the way power tools are: “OPI red: 8 grams polyethylene sparkles per ounce, spreads easily.” yawn.

speaking as a woman who’s handy with jigsaws, nail guns and drills, i know i’d be loathe to purchase any power tool marketed like nail polish. Dewalt would lose respect overnight if they created a women-only power tool campaign.

who are you? an opalescent-tailed mermaid? a reliable carpenter installing that hot tub I want in my bathroom? don’t condescend, tell me a story. engage me to dream about what I could do with your brand. speak to me in the voice that makes sense for you.

michele gilman

a creator of copy + visuals for Trader Joe’s, michele also has years of improv comedy experience and brings a signature quirkiness to her blog at www.whatisabrand.wordpress.com. she’s currently working on a Mediabistro advertising certificate, and helming Designvoice, Inc. (when not enjoying her 7-year-old daughter). follow her on twitter at @mamagills.

CL snapshot: sophie donelson

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a flash interview with sophie donelson

editorial director, C. Wonder & Monika Chiang

three words that sum up your job:

deadline is today. (or, collaborative, challenging and super-fun.)

C. Wonder's first New York Times ad, 09/12

C. Wonder’s first New York Times ad, 09/12

the highlight of your career (so far!):

despite spending almost a decade as an editor and journalist for national magazines, the return policy on the C. Wonder receipt is probably my widest published and most-read “work” and therefore a highlight. but opening the C. Wonder store last fall and seeing my work simultaneously splashed across The New York Times, taxis, tv and billboards was a crazy and memorable high.

the best advice you’ve ever been given:

don’t kiss up, kiss down. (i.e. it’s your intern, not your boss that’ll give you a big break one day.)

if you weren’t a creative, you’d be:

happier. just kidding. probably a zumba instructor or a d-list cable show tv host. <– not kidding.

when i say i write a lot for c. wonder, i mean i really do write it! this is me on opening day of our soho flagship.

when i say i write a lot for C. Wonder, i mean i really do write it! this is me on opening day of our soho flagship.

copy or campaigns you admire:

i’m always delighted by the inventive copy penned by Kiosk, the soho (and online) shop. they tell funny, honest stories and never let fancy language hinder the message. it’s a remarkably effective sales technique. and Journelle. it’s hard to spin lingerie in a fresh way almost every day and they do it with elegance and verve. and i like the way Land of Nod and Boden include thoughtful messages on collateral like e-com packaging.

best two reasons to attend your Copy Lab event:

1. high probability you or your employer (and probably both) will make money off some of the ideas i’ll share. 2. you’ll probably laugh a bit. i’m prone to using inappropriate language and telling off-the-record stories. sign up now    more details

enliven a mailbox!

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advertising and catalogs have migrated to digital, and direct mail has waned, yet it can still serve a unique purpose and present creative challenges. useful for micro-targeting key groups (neighborhood residents, surfers, horse owners), it’s most effective when it arrives with a sweet offer you simply can’t refuse, or a gift, or something that will elicit a smile. all three would be ideal.

an example would be a lingerie boutique on the lower east side mailing an announcement for a grand opening to women in the area. the mailer could be shaped like a garter, made of plantable seeded paper, feature an offer of 25% off of a purchase, and include a silk stocking for one leg – the other has to be picked up in the boutique (in the correct size, if necessary).  that’s so much more engaging than a digital experience.

here are some angles to save direct mail from the trash bin, or to keep it interesting for you as its mastermind:

–  an unusual shape or presentation, or a shape that shifts into another shape such as a pop-up box.

–  a coupon or ultra-tempting offer (free glass of wine with dinner)

–  include a promotional item that will be of use; examples: a fridge magnet, breath mints or color wheels

–  the mailer pulls double-duty as something else — an origami animal shape or paper wallet

–  recipients love games and challenges such as cracking codes, filling in blanks, crossword puzzles, holding copy up to a mirror to read it, pinwheels and other unorthodox presentations

–  recycle-able paper, preferably seeded – scented paper is interesting too

–  if you can tell a story with your mailer, all the better – people love stories and being entertained. If you’re going to intrude upon someone’s mailbox and time, be prepared to make up for it with something very amusing.

enjoy these crazy brilliant direct mail examples: http://tinyurl.com/7hzss93

and tell us which piece of direct mail stands out as best in your memory (to keep our inspiration flowing).

by kim taylor