Imagine for a second that your customers are on a journey to engage with your brand. How are you going to get them there? Every successful journey has at its center a guide or map of some kind, and your copy, more than anything, is how you explain that journey to your audience.
There has been much written about the way visuals and copy—images and words—interact. It’s a partnership far older than marketing and branding. Images have an immediate and visceral impact on the viewer. They grab you hard and tell you exactly what to feel or think. Images are stimulating, even necessary, but in the end, their attraction is not enough to tell a brand’s story. Doing marketing in Orange County has taught us that to engage your audience, you have to mobilize them, and good copy does this better than anything else.
Where does written copy’s unique, persistent power come from? Copy is powerful precisely because the human mind is so powerful. Good writing awakens the experiences that the person has, gets their gears turning, and ideally applies those thoughts and experiences to your brand’s message.
Even the shortest, most basic written message has the potential to express a wealth of information. Take two different street names familiar to anyone doing marketing in Orange County : Tustin Ranch Road and Beverly Hills Boulevard. These two short messages can interact with the reader on a variety of levels.
First, the individual words have meanings. Ranch Road instantly calls up an image in the mind, maybe a rustic dirt road leading to a grove of fruit trees, or a pasture with livestock. When we think of Hills and Boulevards we’ll likely imagine the whitewashed mansions that might be in those hills or boulevards.
But more than this, these simple street names have a cultural significance that can be unlocked by the audience. Each person (sometimes subconsciously) thinks beyond the meanings of the individual words, and perceives what the words mean in the time and place that they live. Beverly Hills Boulevard will get a strong reaction from people who live in Southern California: they’ll think of the street’s history, elite movie stars, old Hollywood, and so on. The same exact words will have a different meaning (and likely less meaning) for a person who lives in New York or an old European capital, where the name might stand for vapid, excessive, “new money” Hollywood culture. By comparison, Tustin Ranch Road has much less of a cultural significance, and might mean absolutely nothing to someone reading it in a paper in London.
As we see, even the simplest of copy has the potential to interact with the audience in a variety of ways. The right copy, well targeted and properly executed, has the ability to tastefully help the person reading it to imagine the precise story you want to tell. You must remember that the ideal copy is a collaboration between your message and the feelings, thoughts, and experiences of your audience. The reader completes your message with their individual thoughts and emotions. They’ll be taking the journey, and that’s why it’s so important for your brand to provide the right kind of map.
To mix my metaphors, it’s kind of like bowling. The ideal copy is like a bowling alley with those big inflatable bumpers filling up the gutters. Your brand creates the direction your audience (the bowlers) will aim toward. Your copy directs the free thoughts of your readers, guiding as many of them as possible to engage with your brand and make a strike.