Simplicity Is Strategic

As a brand strategist, it can can be hard to explain the value excellent brand copywriting provides to businesses. When writing is clear and simple, most people just read it without a second thought and move on. Most would hardly consider that to be an impressive accomplishment, and because it reads so simply, it’s easy to assume that the process of writing it was simple, too.

It’s not like literary writing, in which every word is a paintbrush creating a beautiful picture in your mind. It’s not like a fiction novel, which sucks you into a gripping, movie-like experience. It’s not like poetry, which hums through your mind like a song. However, effective brand copywriting makes your audience feel compelled to do something. Unlike more artistic forms of writing, this feeling is a product of tactful clarity. They feel motivated or inspired to purchase or sign up or contact you because the benefits of doing so are so extremely clear, and the next step they have to take is so incredibly simple. “Lose 10 pounds in 2 weeks with the Ab Master 2000! Click here to order!” It may just be a generic sentence with plain language, however there is so much more strategy behind simple, effective copy than meets the eye.

I recently completed a small project that was a concise paragraph to go on a small product label. I discussed everything ahead of time with my client, both over email and again over the phone, going into depth about the way his product worked and the benefits of using it. I spent time considering every element of the product, it’s history and its uniqueness, prioritizing these pieces from most compelling to least. I was able to distill a page of information into one short paragraph that conveyed the value of this product, told the story of its origin, and fit nicely on the label.

When I delivered the project, he expressed no criticism for the work, but replied that he was only going to pay me about 2/3rds of my invoice amount because it was “less content than expected.” Upon seeing the short paragraph he asked for, he thought that those few sentences didn’t warrant paying me in full. You can imagine my frustration, considering he was happy with the content I wrote, I completed it under his budget, and I delivered it within 2 days of his inquiry. However, I tried to channel my frustration into educating him on the process, and show him how fewer words actually require more effort. In the end, I was paid in full, and he said he’d love to work together again in the future.

All of this inspired me to think more deeply about how to communicate the value of my own work and the work of other copywriters. The thing about excellent copywriting is that it often doesn’t make a dramatic spectacle of itself. Ineffective copywriting, however, will stop you in your tracks.

If you read a set of assembly instructions that are simple and straightforward, you’d move through them, complete the project, and pat yourself on the back for a job well done. Although you may think to yourself, “that was easy”, chances are you won’t write home about the well-worded, easy to follow instructions. However, if you read instructions that are vague and confusing, over-explaining how to screw in a screw while under-explaining the more complicated steps, you’ll likely wind up in a fit of frustration. Even if there were entertaining puns and eloquent language scattered throughout the instruction manual, you’ll probably be returning that useless pile of pieces and calling your mom to vent about the confusing instructions.

In order to write a good set of assembly instructions, you need to understand every relevant piece first and how they relate to one another. You need to know how many of each size screw and nut and bolt come with each package and label the tops, bottoms, left and right sides before you can explain how everything fits together. There can’t be simple, effective explanations without thorough understanding. This is much the same with copywriting — whether you want new website content, a new bio, or a 3-word tagline, your copywriter needs to understand all the context first, and then strategize what to say, how to say it, and in what order. 
Aside from a catchy tagline and relatable brand message that draws you in, you likely won’t pay detailed attention to great copywriting. Most people won’t pause their online shopping or research to commend the tactful positioning or admire the elegant word-craft. They’ll simply flow through the website with ease and convenience, each step of the way laid out seamlessly before them, without having to give it a second thought until the only thing left to do is click “purchase”. The benefit of excellent copywriting is the feeling it leaves your audience with and the action it compels them to take. They should feel trusting and relieved, like your business exists as a favor, solving a problem for them. Your copy should be simple, articulate, clear, and compelling. 
This is the importance of having great copywriting. While it may not seem as critical as having a beautiful, eye-catching logo or bold photography on your website, your copy is a key piece to success. It takes a two-dimensional sales pitch and gives it a personality and a relatable voice. It gives your clients a sense that you fundamentally understand them what they need, and are here to serve them.

There’s a lot of strategy behind simplicity. There’s intention in every word.