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Walt McGraw

Activation Partner

The Naked Truth About Good Writing

Good writing, to paraphrase U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart very poorly, is like pornography: you’ll know it when you read it. There is no doubt that whether you see writing as high art, or crass commercialism, it is a powerful tool in your marketing arsenal. Writing cannot be escaped. But good writing can be elusive. So how do you ensure that your brand is putting its best foot forward instead of putting its foot in its mouth?


Marketing, at its core, is the business of convincing people. Nowhere is that dynamic more exposed than in the words a brand chooses to make its arguments. Brand success, as we have pointed out before, is not a short-term game. Brands must stand for something unique with the understanding that differentiation is the engine that drives a good part of why consumers will pay more for something. Good writing underscores that differentiation.


The words we choose define us. And in today’s marketing world, we’re employing more words more often than ever before. Long gone are the days of a brand being defined by a single jingle. Every tweet, every blog post, every web page, and every direct mail, is another chance to either reinforce your brand’s personality or dilute it.


When done well, on-brand writing will not only convince, it will convert. I’ll give you an example:


My wife and I recently ordered a pair of shoes for our teenager’s birthday. Allbirds wasn’t a brand that we were particularly familiar with, and what happened next would not normally have surprised us – were it not for the writing.


We’re all familiar with those generic welcome emails that blast into our inboxes from the Land of Bland and never get read. But this one, right on the heels of an online Allbirds order, actually caught my wife’s eye. “Welcome to the flock,” it exclaimed. And there was no generic, “try before you buy.” Instead, it was “romp around in our shoes – if you’re not in love, we’ll take them back no questions asked.” She was already sold on this fun “better shoes in a better way” brand before she had to test that no questions asked policy (they were for a teenager, remember). It was the next email that tickled her enough that she had to show it to me. “Flip It and Reverse It – Allbirds refund incoming!” Even if their refund policy is as pedestrian as the next guys, they’d made us part of the flock. We were sold.


Whether your brand is flamboyant or serious, tight-lipped or verbose, here are a few writing rules I like to keep in mind:


1. Keep it simple

Use open, accessible language. Aim for a conversational tone instead of a colloquial one unless that’s what your brand voice demands.


2. Give it purpose

Your goal is to convince. Keep in mind, good writing is grounded in data. Is your argument clear and compelling? Does it tell the full story?


3. Know thy audience

Anticipate your readers’ questions. Know what makes them tick. Keep them curious. Never forget that you are writing for them – not for yourself.


4. Make it pointy
All brands should have a point of view. Make sure your brand’s personality shines through. Make it distinctive.


5. Test it out

Have you met your goals? Read it out loud. Even better, read it out loud to someone else. Everything’s better in the edit.


Now, go forth and smash those keys with confidence.

Beware the Company You Keep: Choosing a Marketing Partner in the Age of Disruption

by David Camp

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