The price of words - what is the value of copy?
Marketing copywriters craft copy that compels the reader to act. And that is priceless.
These days that action could mean clicking 'Add to cart' before supplying a voucher code. While some years ago the equivalent was visiting a store with a coupon from the newspaper.
Either way, marketing copywriters select the words and create the phrases which help the world's biggest companies become household names.
Marketing copywriters don't charge by the word (and if you buy services from one who charges in this way, please remember that 'you get what you pay for').
Marketing copywriters strive to gain a sound understanding of their client and of their target audience. Advertising copywriters, by contrast, are great at selling, but there is more to this art than promotional hyperbole.
Here are a few examples from history to remind us of the value of well-chosen words...
Diamonds are forever
Shortly after the end of the Second World War, De Beers decided it wanted to sell more diamonds. At a time when people were pulling together to rebuild battered nations and surviving on rations, precious stones were something most people did not want and most definitely did not need.
Frances Gerety was working at the Philadelphia agency, NW Ayer and Son, at the time. The story goes that, after a long day at work, and having finished a few ads, Gerety had forgotten to create a signature line. Exhausted, she exclaimed: “Dear God, send me a line”, scribbled something down and got into bed. When she awoke the next day, she read what she had written, considered it OK and presented it in a meeting, where it was received without much enthusiasm.
In 1999, two weeks before Gerety died at the age of 83, Advertising Age named ‘A diamond is forever’ the slogan of the century. The slogan had an eternal emotional value that appealed to both men and women. For a man to spend two months’ salary on an engagement ring for his fiancée was nothing compared to eternity. For the beloved woman, the diamond symbolised everlasting love.
This powerful slogan transformed our relationship with the product. It worked in 1948 and is still in use today.
It does exactly what it says on the tin
This phrase entered our consciousness in the UK during the mid-1990s. Nine words which made sales of Ronseal Quick Drying Woodstain shoot up the scale and transformed the company into a brand leader.
Ronseal soon became a byword for any product name which describes its attributes reliably. The phrase has widely come to mean a product, service or policy that is open, honest and delivers on its promise.
Simple words that, when used to describe a brand, endow it with a priceless reputation. A perfect example of less is more.
What everybody ought to know
This was the headline of a 6,540-word ad placed in the New York Times. ‘What everybody ought to know’ described the complexities of the stock and bond business in plain language.
The full-page newspaper ad was to transform stockholding in US companies, unearthing over three million prospective new clients for copy owner – the investment company, Merrill Lynch – and creating lasting fame for the author and promotional genius, Louis Engel. A simple headline that meant over six thousand words were read by millions.
Words in the digital age
These printed marketing slogans are classics but the modus operandi, while not obsolete, is certainly dated. Today's marketing slogans are found by search engines and lead people to make purchases online. For businesses, it is essential to know the keywords to weave into your website content so that your messages reach your customer.
What are words worth to your organisation?