Is being creative all it takes to be a copywriter?
It helps, but it’s not all it takes!
We have touched on the subject both in previous articles on our blog and in the prior two articles of this three-part series. We will now focus more specifically on content creation—namely, content writing and copywriting—as this is one of the services we offer at our translation boutique.
Copywriting is the strategy of creating persuasive text, in a tactical way, to convince the target audience to carry out a specific action. Usually for advertising purposes, buying a product or service, registering for a paid subscription, etc.
It’s used in marketing, both in digital channels and offline in brick-and-mortar stores.
The product of copywriting is specifically called “copy,” but it’s not used in the more common sense of the word. It defines specific pieces of content written for marketing or advertising purposes, specifically designed to persuade a person or group of people.
Why “copy” and “copywriter”?
In the 19th century, Noah Webster, a lexicographer, writer, editor, and author of a spelling reform of the English language, defined the term “copy” as “something that can be reproduced, either in manuscript or print.”
Later, advertising genius John Emory Powers became a copywriter by writing persuasive text for printed ads that were noted for their easy, friendly language. Through these ads, Powers is now considered one of the first copywriters in history.
Powers’ style was totally different from what was practiced at the time precisely because by being simple, clear, objective, and accessible, it was understandable and appealing to the majority of people.
He also avoided exaggeration with sentences too focused on arousing emotions. He focused on explaining, always in a way that was simple to understand, how things worked.
Practical advice for writing an effective copy
These premises proposed in the 19th century by Powers remain to this day the main points to keep in mind when writing to elicit engagement and action from a target audience:
- Simple and accessible language
- Short titles, development in the body text
- Focus on the emotions you want to elicit
- But don’t exaggerate
It makes perfect sense: if we want our words to sell, we have to be very careful not to overdo it because exaggeration will easily cross the very fine line between eliciting a certain emotion and making the reader feel manipulated. This would have the exact opposite effect to what we intended.
Persona & target audience
As discussed in the second part of this series of articles, the audience of creative writing in general, and even literary writing, can be composed of a fairly generic and broad group of people.
In the past, campaigns were created massively for the general consumers, but today we know that it’s much more effective to segment markets by age group, gender, behavior, interests, education level, income, location, etc.
So, in copywriting, we write more targeted content. That is, we write for a specific audience to educate them about the product or service so that they make the decision to buy.
In this case, where our target is not so generic as before, the previous tips on finding inspiration and fighting creative block aren’t enough. We need to consider an array of techniques that will help us achieve the desired results.
Each segment is a specific target audience. In other words, the definition of “target audience” is a segment of people who share common characteristics.
For example, if we wanted to sell a small 2-seater city car, ideal for young people, our target audience could be defined as students between 18 and 22 years old, finishing high school or already starting college, of upper-middle to high social class, living with their parents.
When we talk about creating personas, we are referring to something very different. In simple words, these are fictionalized templates, but “based on true stories,” created to represent the different types of ideal customers for the brand or concept we want to sell in each segment or target audience.
Profiling in copywriting is a much more serious and deeper activity than what we discussed earlier for creative writing in general.
For example, a copy is not an advertisement per se, so it’s also not intended to try to sell the product or service in an overly direct way. Don’t underestimate the intelligence of the audience!
What you should do is use your creativity to show your persona that this product or brand is exactly what they are looking for and what they need in their current circumstances, but not exposing your true intentions too much.
To do this, it’s important to create a much more thorough profile with all the information we gather, either from the client who assigned us the copywriting job, or by means of research and interviews conducted within the segment in question—about people’s behavior, their background, needs, preferences, occupation, family life, fears, problems, etc.
This information will be used to create a fictitious profile that will be our starting point for creating content specifically targeted at these potential customers.
Example of a persona:
Kate is a 27-year-old nurse, single and living alone in a one-bedroom apartment in the suburbs. She works at a public hospital in the city, full time. She is a caregiver who loves to help others. She also does volunteer work in the medical field and provides home care for the elderly. She is very sociable and likes to go out at night with her friends. She values her family very much and tries to help her parents in everything she can. She is enrolled in the gym, but she can’t go every day or even every week. She likes to order out because she doesn’t have time to cook. She likes to watch movies on streaming platforms and play with her cat.
If you write for Kate, you will reach the hearts of all the people she represents.
By knowing the aspirations and concerns of this group, you can write in a way that is customized to their needs and demands, and also focused on solving the problems that ail them.
Imagine that your copy is selling pre-made meals. It’s good to know that Kate isn’t overly concerned with fitness issues and that she has very little time for cooking, and besides, she lives alone and orders out frequently.
Copywriting is just that, a text targeting a certain audience and focused on conversion. Conversion is trying to get the leads to buy a product or service, fill out a form, sign up for a newsletter, etc., converting them into customers.
What do mental triggers, numbers, and stories have in common?
Mental triggers, numbers, and stories are some of the useful techniques that you can put into practice creatively to improve your content.
Now that you know so much about the creative process and human creativity, put it to good use and apply a few sales psychology concepts to the content you write, without blatantly selling products.
Are you ready? Take note 📝
💡 Use numbers…
because there is nothing like demonstrating hard data by means of numbers and percentages to give out a sense of credibility.
Assuming you are still writing about pre-made meals for Nurse Kate, you might look for studies on the percentage of people who prefer to use such a pre-made product over cooking from scratch, or on how much time can be saved at the end of the week by not having to prepare all meals from scratch.
💡 Use mental triggers…
because they are very effective in driving people to action. Mental triggers are shortcuts that the brain creates to make some decisions automatic, thus saving energy that you can devote to making more important decisions. These shortcuts created by our brain on an unconscious level can be used to elicit emotions in readers that lead them to a certain action.
Examples of triggers:
- reciprocity: people usually treat others as they are treated. Put the idea of giving back into your copy. If you can have a positive impact on your target, they will most likely want to repay you with a positive action;
- social proof: use the idea that if certain people like it, others will want to try it too. We cannot underestimate people’s tendency to copy behaviors of influential people they admire, for example;
- affinity: create affinity by using ideas that are closer to your target’s reality, to generate relatability and empathy;
- authority: reliable references and sources, or expert opinions, increase your target’s respect for the product;
- scarcity: most people don’t want to miss an opportunity when they feel it’s about to run out. For example: “there are only x units left” or “promotion valid only for x days”;
- coherence: use arguments that are commonly accepted as truths by most people.
💡 Use stories…
because all people, in one way or another, love stories.
Storytelling is one of the most widely used and very effective copywriting techniques to increase engagement.
Stories are capable of awakening memories of situations that happened to us, empathy, relatability, and even compassion, or at least curiosity.
Creating a narrative within your copy is a very clever and creative way of making it more interesting or fun but, most importantly, much more HUMAN.
Don’t forget that you write for people. Whether you are writing for the public in general or writing for specific segments or personas, you are using your creativity to elicit human emotions.