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November 20, 2012Nobody gives a toss about your brand

Are all brands self-obsessed narcissists? And are all agencies merely sycophantic flatterers telling them what they want to hear? Fact is most people care more about the product. So where does that leave your brand?

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July 10, 2012Brand evangelism is dead

Rookie copywriters often make the mistake of praising the brand, when really it's the customer who's the star. Creating an effective tone of voice for a brand isn't about emphasising the brand's values, it's about portraying them in ways people empathise with.

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October 22, 2011Stop thinking about straplines. Start thinking about throughlines.

A subtle, persuasive through line will enable your customers to think they’re making choices for themselves, rather than being told what to think. Here's how to get it right.

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March 13, 2011Branding your digital agency: How to stand out from the crowd

A client came to me recently and asked me how they could make their digital agency stand out from the crowd. I looked over their elevator pitch. It contained the following sentences:

  • “We help people connect to the brands they love.”
  • “We look at the world differently.”
  • “We’re driven to help people genuinely connect.”

Sound familiar? That’s probably because you’ve seen these phrases everywhere already. So how do you stand out?

The answer’s simple: if your message is the same as everyone else’s, be different. If your message is too generic, be more specific.

It’s unlikely two people ever see …

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February 21, 2011If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

I never cease to be amazed by the stupidity of very smart people: unfortunately, hard experience has taught me that business sense and marketing sense very rarely mix.

Of course really smart businessmen hire marketing professionals — because they realise they’re good at making money, not at selling things.

They don’t think hey, I can manage a million dollar business so I can write a strapline, they think — hey, I’m smart enough to manage a million dollar business, which means I can afford to pay a professional to write my strapline.

KFC, in the UK at least, is changing

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October 28, 2010How to avoid marketing cliché in branding

Can we talk about cliché for a moment, people? I’m not talking about clichés like “easy as pie” or, to borrow from Mad Men again, “the cure for the common…” because in actual fact, so long as these clichés aren’t overused, or displayed too prominently, cliché actually serves a purpose by reinforcing perceptions quickly and easily using an instantly recognized standard.

In other words, “easy as pie” can get your message across to your customer a lot more effectively than “our product is so much simpler to use than your competitors and we think you’ll love it” …

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September 6, 2010Does an advert have to be good to be effective?

What makes an effective ad campaign — and can these principles be applied to social media?

It’s impossible to avoid being bombarded with advertising in London. As a copywriter working in London, it’s even harder to not stop and take notice. Like a surgeon holding his knife like a scalpel and listlessly cutting into his Sunday roast, it’s hard for a copywriter to avoid dissecting other people’s work.

I see thousands of posters every morning. Sometimes the copy is good, sometimes it’s very bad. Sometimes it’s short and sometimes it’s long. Sometimes, I’m only looking at an idea, three words, …

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September 1, 2010Does Long Copy Work?

How effective is long copy?

The London Long Copy challenge is underway. For those of you who haven’t seen the ads yet, it’s a competition for copywriters and creatives based in London to design London Underground posters led by copy of between 50-200 words. Which isn’t much for a sales brochure, but it’s a hell of a lot for a great big print ad.

Who reads sales brochures anyway?

There are two schools of thought in copywriting. One: you get a little information in quickly. It’s better than trying to get it all in and not being memorable at all. …

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August 13, 2010Is cheap a dirty word?

I was recently lucky enough to have a conversation with an entrepreneur who runs a hotel booking website. I talked to him about my own personal experience booking expensive hotels in central London (hey, you do it a lot when you’re single) and I told him that I wanted the best possible quality at the lowest possible price. That’s the type of consumer I am. So it’ll come to you as no surprise that I googled “cheap 5 star hotels”. But why? Have you ever seen a single 5* hotel that advertises the fact that it’s cheap?

The fact is,

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April 23, 2010What makes a good strapline?

Straplines, headlines, taglines, slogans. Call them what you will, they’re what make the advertising world go round. It’s rare to find a good headline writer. That’s because headlines are hard to write. Anyone can fill a page with four hundred words, but how many people can catch an audience’s attention and sum up the product they’re selling in four or so words?

It’s more important to sound natural than to be clever.

F Scott Fitzgerald famously started out in advertising and came up with the slogan “we keep you clean in Muscatine” for an Iowa based laundry service. While he …

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