Opinion is not an option – how to get the most out of your copywriters
You want website copy, straplines and CTAs that drive the best results. So, you hire the best copywriters. And they get to work on their first brief – some digital ad copy that you hope will break the internet. But the conversions don’t come flooding in. Which is unexpected; they were the best copywriters – the numbers literally don’t add up. My advice? Think back to the creative direction you gave them. Did it really give them every bit of information they needed to drive a change in your audience’s behaviour, through words? Or was it rooted in subjectivity and creativity, something along the lines of, ‘can you come up with a pun about cats and sales to match this lifestyle shot of a tabby that design picked out for the price promo?’
Even when the briefing process is more formal (a doc to fill in, a standard email template), without the right information, it can become a box-ticking exercise for the marketing exec, or an excuse for the copywriter to produce lazy work. I’ve definitely been there, and I’m not proud of it – I’ve had my fair share of ‘this is an awful idea, but it’s what the stakeholder wants and I’m just following orders’ moments.
Subjectivity: objectively bad for business
Creative direction that’s purely creative mostly results in witty wordplay. And as much as I love a good pun, witty wordplay alone is a vanity exercise. Sure, the copywriter can physically do it. And the Creative Director might love it because it’s a bit risqué – it made her laugh. But, unless the words have been engineered to trigger the exact psychological drivers that make that audience tick, it’ll probably only serve to make the customer laugh, too. And ‘85% ROTFLMAOs or above’ on the laughometer wasn’t one of that campaign’s KPIs. Neither were wasted money or deflated copywriters.
Facts make the fun bits better
What makes ‘good’ creative can only ever be subjective unless you have the audience insights to back up what you did and why. Meaning creative direction, along the lines of ‘make it catchy’ / ‘make it daring’ / ‘make it fun’, will never guarantee the results you want. What’s daring and fun to one person might be too extreme for another. And what if your audience is actually risk-averse, meaning daring copy – as shareable as it might be – won’t actually trigger a change in their behaviour? Well, along with slowing down your output (thanks to multiple lengthy feedback rounds), every piece of creative without solid facts behind it becomes a gamble that directly impacts your bottom line.
Research, not robots
The best creative direction – the kind that delivers results and doesn’t negatively impact your copywriters’ happiness – will always be rooted in audience insights and psychology. And having studied psychology at university before starting my career as a creative, I can say this with confidence. It’ll specify what psychological drivers are motivating the audience’s behaviour, and therefore what words are scientifically proven to get their attention. After all, the aim of this whole copywriting game is to craft words that trigger an audience to take action. BUT that doesn’t mean cutting out the creative bit – rest assured writers, you’re not being replaced by robots. Things like tone, word order and structure all rely on a skilled wordsmith, who can take the foundation of real audience awareness and build on it using their own creativity.
The benefits of a science-driven approach to creative
What can you expect if you combine science and creativity? All of this good stuff.
- Increased ROI – when using proven theories and results-based evidence to inform your copy and content, you’re almost guaranteed to get the right result
- Licence to experiment – scientifically-informed creative direction gives you a set of parameters within which to work, meaning you can experiment with your writing without the risk of missing the mark completely
- Clarity and confidence – ‘I think this will work better’ just doesn’t have the same clout as ‘the evidence says this will work better’
- Reduced risk – if you know what your audience responds to, you’ll also have a solid understanding of what turns them off. Say goodbye to PR nightmares
Producing objectively-informed creative, which gets results, is every copywriter’s dream. And with more time spent in the research and insights phase of your project – before you brief your copywriters – you can make it a reality that benefits your business, too. Everyone’s a winner.
By Hayley Fairclough