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.

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email copy that equals stellar sales

need help connecting the dots between your email copy and its sales results? sophie donelson, editorial director of C. Wonder and Monika Chiang, presented pertinent tips on how to make your subject lines, headlines and subheads rock the analytic charts. here are a few quick tidbits from our charming guest speaker if you weren’t able to join us:

tap the inverted pyramid technique.the inverted pyramid
break out your notes from journalism class and use this article-writing tactic to prioritize your message. the premise is simple: the most important info goes at the top, followed by significant details, followed by the least newsworthy stuff.

grammar rules: bend (or break!) them.
emails should be evocative and stir feelings. do whatever you have to do to make them that way. have a field day playing with fragments, hyphens and weird punctuation as long as your message stays clear.

subject lines: don’t get in the way of what’s tried and true.

new arrivals
sale!
introducing [insert new product]

you might balk at these subject lines because they seem so… blah. but sometimes what seems boring is actually just a straightforward way to get results — according to sophie, the three lines above are almost fail-proof when it comes to scoring good open rates. want some extra oomph? sophie swears by an ellipsis to add intrigue and up your opens.

stay out of spam: avoid these words.
don’t use the words “free,” “help,” “reminder” or “percent off” (the symbol % is okay though) in the subject line and you’ll help keep the email from the junk folder.

think of the subject line as a promise.
then ensure your content fulfills that promise once the email is opened. sophie offered a tip she read at copyblogger.com, a writing resource she recommends: the best subject lines tell what’s inside, the worst sell what’s inside.

hop online to cwonder.com and monikachiang.com and sign up for their mailing list to check out some of these tips in action.

we’ll see you next month (tuesday, march 12th to be exact) when brand strategist jean railla discusses the digital frontier and the space where brands and culture collide. reserve now to save your spot!

–kelley granger