1. What is the current target market and their demographic composition?
In order to create compelling copy, I need to know whose attention I’m trying to capture. I will not use the same rhetorical appeals to generate a response from a sixty-year-old woman as I would a 20-year-old man. Moreover, race and language play a huge role in the effectiveness of certain compositional strategies. Understanding my audience allows me to select the best possible appeals for starting a conversation with them.
2. What is the brand archetype?
Carl Jung’s theory of archetypes has become a cornerstone of brand development. Every archetype has different characteristics, benefits, drawbacks, and appeals. Identifying a brand archetype is essential for any brand, as your archetype will inform the most effective copy and design for your business.
For instance, Nike is a hero, helping you to improve the world by encouraging you to “Just do it.” Meanwhile, Coca-Cola is an innocent, providing you with a refreshing soft drink that helps you to enjoy life. No brand is better than the other, they all simply provide insights into how best market your brand. Helping to establish these identities is one of my favorite tasks within advertising.
3. What issue is this campaign addressing?
To generate effective CTAs, I need a comprehensive understanding of what this campaign and respective service seek to solve. For example, I have worked with a number of transit agencies to create campaigns for particular services and routes. In order to create the appropriate response, however, the messaging has to do more than suggest, “This bus gets you from Point A to Point B.” As a copywriter, I have to link your service to a direct benefit to the consumer. In the case of VIA, San Antonio’s public transportation service, I came up with the line, “More time for you.”
The problem with this campaign was that people don’t necessarily want to ride the bus if they don’t have to and the purpose of this campaign was to connect with those choice riders. As such, I situated VIA as a means that these choice riders could do more of what they want to do, because they could relax on the bus while also avoiding the high costs of gasoline, parking, and maintenance. Therefore, if I had not known the audience or the purpose of this campaign, I would not have been able to effectively make these appeals.
4. What does the client want to convey?
It is always helpful to know what the client believes to be the benefits of any particular service or product. Ultimately, it is my job to take this information and develop a compelling means of communicating this information to the target market. Survey information is critical and extremely helpful at this stage because while a client might identify certain aspects of a service as a benefit, the people who actually use the service could have a completely different opinion. Addressing this potential dissonance early on can ensure that I am employing the most successful strategy.
5. What media purchases is the client considering?
It is absolutely essential that I know what sort of media I will be writing to, as the dimensions of each media buy affect how much copy will be effective. However, I have extensive experience writing for print, digital, radio, and video and will have no problem composing within any of these given mediums.
Having gathered and considered all of this information, I then begin the composition process. This stage of creative development relies heavily on the client’s brand standards and the parameters set by the specific project.
1. Brain Dump
I start all creative development with a “brain dump.” A brain dump is a collection of all initial ideas for a project; this could include words that I believe fit well with a particular brand’s tone, it could be fully fledged headlines and taglines, related idioms, phrases, and aphorisms. Essentially, at this stage, I put all my initial associations and interests on paper in order to determine possible paths and appeals for campaigns. Sometimes, I will land on a headline I am confident in during this phase, but this stage is often just an important formative practice where I begin formulating tone and strategy.
Once I have identified some effective strategies and phrasing from my brain dump, I transition to the templating phase. Using the following template, I organize my concepts in terms of full campaigns, fleshed out with multiple headline and subhead options, manifestos, the philosophical/ideological strategy behind each concept, logic safeguards, and grammatical analysis. This comprehensive templating strategy allows clients to develop a similarly complete understanding of every proposed concept in order to determine which concept will work best for their brand:
There a variety of methods for creating compelling copy. However, my process encompasses a variety of techniques and considerations which ensure that everything from simple headlines on a billboard to entirely fleshed out body paragraphs on a webpage not only contain compelling CTAs and memorable syntax, but are also imbued with laser-focused brand tone that will increase brand recognition and generate increased ROI for any and every media purchase.
Before I ever begin writing, I take the time to consider and research the nature of any given project and the brand my writing is meant to serve. In order to inform my writing, I gather information by working with account executives, brand strategists, or directly with the client by proposing the following questions:
Manifestos are explanations behind the creative basis of any given campaign concept. While these paragraphs could be included in print ads or transitioned into radio or video scripts, this copy does not have to be outward facing. This allows the client to understand the intent of each campaign to determine if it is the right fit.
Headlines and subheads are the heroes of copywriting. Well expanded representations of this campaign copy exist in the form of manifestos, if a concept does not work boiled down to a simple headline and subhead, the campaign is likely to fail. I always provide multiple headline/subhead options for every campaign I propose. Of course, if a client likes a particular concept, I can always continue exploring and iterating different headline options.
It is extremely important to me that every campaign I pitch is the perfect combination of creativity and logic. I believe that this is how you create campaigns which generate expectation-exceeding ROIs and earn industry awards. As such, for every concept I pitch, I go through a process which identifies the logic behind a concept as inductive, deductive, or abductive. If I find the logic behind a concept to be abductive, I either trash the concept or reproach it from a different angle. I find deductive reasoning to be the most conducive to great ideas, but inductive reasoning is also entirely viable.
I also cite a philosophical and/or argumentative concept which I feel embodies the real power or value behind a concept. By determining this argumentative basis, I am able to convey why the appeals made in the campaign will be ultimately successful, as well as suggest how the campaign directly connects to the brand itself.
While design is not my area of expertise, I sometimes develop ideas for how a campaign can be represented graphically. However, good advertising is the combination of thoughtful copywriting and expertly executed design. I have found that the best graphic representations of concepts come from me working directly with art directors to formulate the best artistic expression.
The Reed-Kellog System is a means of graphically representing sentence structure. In using this system, I am not only able to check my own grammar and ensure my own writing is properly formed, but I can also show my clients how consumers will understand the headlines they are reading.
After presenting my templates and pitching my ideas to the client, I take their feedback and make edits as needed. Clients often choose concepts as I have presented them. However, I am always open to exploring concepts further, iterating different headlines, and developing entirely new concepts based on client feedback. After a concept from this template is chosen, I use all the content within the template to create on-brand radio and video scripts, prints ads, digital ads, websites, and more. Explore the sample template below to see how my methods form more compelling concepts and contact me at any time so I can begin developing concepts for your brand!