When it comes to branding, copywriting is one of the most undervalued tools in your proverbial toolbox. Your brand, after all, is only as effective as how you communicate it.
From your website to your social feeds to your marketing collateral and beyond, crisp, compelling copywriting is tone of the surest signs of a strong brand.
In what follows, we’ll take a look at exactly what we mean by copywriting, why it’s so important to effective branding, and how you can write better copy for the many touchpoints where customers experience your brand.
- What is Copywriting?
- Why is a Copywriting Important?
- Types of Copywriting
- How to Write Great Copy
- Copywriting Examples
- The Takeaway
What is Copywriting?
Copywriting is the process of writing “copy,” which is as any text that’s used for the purposes of business communications, including branding, marketing, advertising, sales, and education.
The terms “copywriting” and “copy” are often used interchangeably for the end product of the copywriting process.
As we’ll explore further below, copywriting shows up brand assets like websites, billboards, TV commercials, sales presentations, and more.
Why is a Copywriting Important?
We mentioned it in the intro, but it bears repeating: your brand is only as effective as how you communicate it. As Wikipedia notes, the purpose of copywriting is “to increase brand awareness and ultimately persuade a person or group to take a particular action.”
You may have world-class products or services, but if you can’t effectively and efficiently communicate why they’re superior, potential customers will never have a reason to buy from you.
This simple truth is only the foundation of the value of good copywriting. Let’s take a closer look at a few answers to the question, “Why is copywriting important?”
Effective copywriting enables you to:
Strengthen Your Brand Image
Your brand image is the how your brand is perceived in the minds of those who matter most. This includes both your customers and employees.
Sharply written, relatable copy is a surefire sign of a quality brand and a forward-looking business. These are the types of brands that customers want to associate themselves with—and that employees want to work for.
Build Meaningful Relationships with Your Audiences
Good copywriting humanizes your brand, bringing it to life in a relatable way. In doing so, effective copywriting becomes a familiar voice that audiences instantly recognize in a crowded market landscape.
This familiarity is the cornerstone of customer trust, which in turn is the foundation of brand loyalty. It’s hard to put a price on the types of long-term relationships good copywriting can build with your key target audiences.
Improve Your Conversion Rates and Sales
A good copywriter or copywriting agency knows how to generate copy that moves customers to act. From direct response marketing to banner ads to website calls-to-action, strong copywriting is one of the best ways to improve conversion rates and sales.
If you’ve ever been too curious not to click through a link to learn more about a product or service, you can thank effective copywriting for your impulsive behavior.
Increase Brand Visibility Across Channels
As you’ve surely realized by now, your brand exists across a multitude of channels these days. From your website and social feeds to online advertising and email marketing to television and radio ads, there’s no shortage of forums in which your audiences can experience your brand.
Good copywriting ensures that your brand stands up and gets noticed, regardless of where or how your customers experience it. It also ensures your brand experience is consistent and cohesive across touchpoints, laying the foundation for the brand recognition and customer loyalty mentioned above.
Differentiate Your Business from the Competition
Regardless of which industry you operate in, your brand these days exists alongside a growing number of competitors in an increasingly noisy market landscape, making competitive differentiation imperative.
Strong copywriting gives you the power to effectively articulate how your brand is different than the competition. It succinctly and persuasively communicates to audiences why they should buy from you and not the other guy.
Types of Copywriting
Copywriting, of course, is not a monolith. There are as many types of copywriting as there are ways to communicate your business.
Whether you need to articulate your purpose and positioning, advertise a hot product or service, or educate audiences on the proper use of a highly technical offering, there’s a type of copywriting for that.
As a branding agency, we know a thing or two about brand copywriting, including how valuable it is to business growth.
Also known as brand messaging, branding copy, brand copy, or simply brand writing, brand copywriting defines narrative framework of your brand.
Brand copywriters craft the story that your most important audiences recognize as uniquely your own. These audiences include both internal and external stakeholders.
Internal brand copywriting articulates fundamental brand tenets like your mission, vision, and values—what we call the brand compass. External branding copy includes things like your tagline, website messaging, and advertising.
The common thread throughout this messaging is consistency and cohesiveness. Brand copywriting should be born from purpose and instantly recognizable, regardless of channel or touchpoint.
Whereas brand copywriting is a more-or-less fixed narrative that only changes after a rebrand or brand refresh, marketing copywriting is the everchanging—albeit cohesive and consistent—messaging that communicates your brand to audiences in unique ways across a multitude of touchpoints.
Those touchpoints include social media channels, websites, email marketing, and more, each of which requires a unique brand of marketing copywriting.
Social media copywriting, for example, calls for a uniquely familiar voice, one that can entice users in a very limited amount of real estate, using creative flourishes like emojis and unconventional punctuation.
Digital marketing copywriting, by comparison, includes all-important SEO copywriting, which leverages keyword-rich blog posts and other online content to improve search engine rankings and boost brand visibility.
And email copywriting demands the unique ability to craft tantalizing headlines, strategic preview sentences, and compelling calls-to-action.
No matter which form it takes, the goal of marketing copywriting is to deliver a unique message to a specific audience, with the hopes of triggering a curiosity to learn more.
Advertising copywriting these days spans as many touchpoints as marketing copywriting does—and then some. It includes everything from online banner ads to magazine ads to TV and radio ads.
Writing advertising copy (or ad copy), then, requires the skill to understand which audiences are most likely to engage with which channels, and how.
When it comes to online banner ads and print ads, the key to effective advertising copywriting is brevity. More so than any other touchpoints, these ads demand razor-sharp copy that grabs audiences’ attention in an instant, communicating brand benefits and/or differentiators in uniquely memorable ways.
TV and radio ads, on the other hand, are distinct in their need for advertising copywriting in the form of scripts that articulate a brand’s offerings in tightly crafted narratives.
A unique challenge for the advertising copywriter is that audiences these days are keenly aware of advertising (more so than marketing) and have learned to tune it out as nothing more than noise in the modern media landscape.
This means ad copy has to be particularly clever or enticing to make an impact on increasingly savvy—and cynical—modern consumers.
After marketing and advertising copywriting has attracted audiences to your business, it’s the job of sales copywriting to convert them into customers.
Sales copywriting takes the form of sales presentations, leave-behinds, proposals, and more.
The main goal of sales collateral like these are to support your sales staff, giving them the tools they need to more easily close deals.
Sales copywriting is similar to marketing copywriting in that its purpose is to persuasively convey key brand benefits and differentiators.
Because sales audiences have usually already been enticed by marketing copywriting, however, sales copywriting is often more straightforward in its tone of voice, clearly articulating the specific reasons the brand would add value to the sales audience in question.
The rise of highly technical offerings like cloud computing, AI, and medical devices has seen an increased need for the technical copywriting needed to explain their benefits and operation.
Technical copywriting attempts to make highly technical offerings like these understandable to audiences with varying degrees of expertise in the respective area.
On one end of the spectrum are expert users, who understand all of the complex terminology that is germane to the industry or discipline.
On the other end are lay audiences, who need to understand these complex ideas in order to decide whether or not the offering is right for them.
Technical copywriting requires that the copywriter have a comprehensive understanding of the technology in question, so they can write to audiences at whichever point on the spectrum is appropriate for the channel in question.
Technical copywriters have a unique capacity to parse the details of spec sheets and subject matter expert interviews in order to create assets like website copy, whitepapers, and sales sheets that explain the benefits of the offering in digestible and compelling ways.
How to Write Great Copy
Writing good copy can seem like an easy enough undertaking. How hard can it be to string together some sentences that effectively communicate your brand messaging in a relatable, consistent voice?
And then you sit down to do it. Right up there with naming, copywriting is one of the most underestimated disciplines when it comes to difficulty.
The good news is that with a handful of tips, it can be a little less difficult—if not exactly easy—to craft persuasive copy for a number of different touchpoints.
Know Who Your Target Audience Is
The most important tip for any type of copywriting is to start by knowing whom you’re speaking to.
Are you targeting executive-level decision-makers or junior-level designers? How familiar is your audience with the topic you’re writing about? What types of reference points are appropriate for their demographic.
The answers to these questions will inform everything from the tone of voice you invoke to the sophistication of the language you use.
Understand Your Topic
This one seems obvious enough, but you’d be surprised how often this step is skipped (or improvised). The fact is, you can’t write intelligibly about a topic if you don’t understand it yourself.
When it comes to copywriting, you’re often writing about a product, service, or other offering. Acquiring an adequate level of understanding on the subject should include both online research and subject matter expert interviews, whenever possible.
In-depth online research is a great start, but there’s no substitute for interviewing subject matter experts when it comes to understanding a product or service from the inside out.
Find the Right Voice
Closely related to our first tip, finding the right voice is critical for effective copywriting. A consistent, identifiable brand voice has the power to humanize your copywriting, making it more relatable and digestible.
When your message is relatable and reads as if a living, breathing human wrote it, it’s more likely to be heard by your target audience.
The voice you choose should map to your brand personality, as well as the unique parameters of your target audience.
Whether through social media, advertising, or marketing, it’s not the brands with the loudest voice that get the most customers. It’s the brands whose voices are unique, intriguing, and compelling. And it’s the copywriting behind them that makes all the difference.
Create a Connection with Your Audience
Once you’ve established whom your writing is speaking to, and the voice in which you will speak to them, your next goal as a copywriter is to create a connection with your audience.
Easier said than done, sure, but there are a few tricks of the trade to make this all-important connection more likely. The most important is to empathize with the needs and pains of your audience.
Ask yourself, what are the pain points my audience is facing when it comes to the topic I’m writing about? What keeps them up at night? What goals are they trying to achieve in the interest of alleviating these pain points.
By identifying the unique needs and pain points of your audience, you can more easily offer solutions that resonate with their goals and desires. That’s how connections are built through good copywriting.
Tell a Story
From the earliest days of simple cave paintings to the complex, multi-pronged arcs of today’s best TV shows, humans have used storytelling to more effectively communicate the message they’re looking to convey.
This long heritage of storytelling means that our brains are hardwired to more easily process information that takes the form of a narrative.
So, what are the defining elements of a story? Stories have a definitive beginning and end with some element of conflict that is resolved in between. They also feature protagonists that the audience can identify with on a meaningful level.
When it comes to copywriting, the protagonist is often the audience themselves. Using the pain points we identified in the previous step enables you to craft a compelling story with your audience in the leading role.
First, you describe a painful problem that your audience identifies with on a visceral level. Then, you resolve that problem with your product or solution in the role of the hero. Audiences are left envisioning a world in which they can (to complete the metaphor) live happily ever after.
Sell the Experience
Building on what we’ve learned so far, good copywriting frames the solution to an audience’s problem in clearly defined benefits, ideally by vividly describing the experience the audience can expect to have with the product or service in question.
To clearly articulate a product or service’s benefits, of course, first you have to define them. Ask yourself, what are the unique ways this solution will benefit the lives of my audience? Compile a list of benefits to work with in your copywriting, and think through ways each can be incorporated into your copywriting.
Your goal is to vividly describe what the experience would be like if the audience were to solve their unique problem with the product or service you’re writing about. Get the audience to imagine themselves saying “Ahhh, sweet relief.” Metaphorically, of course.
Keep It Simple
This one may seem counterintuitive at this point, but even after considering its audience, their needs, the narrative, and benefits, the best copywriting doesn’t overcomplicate things.
The simple truth is, outside of unique cases like a white paper or in-depth blog posts (like this one), people don’t want to read more than they need to. Good copywriting is concise and to-the-point, without unnecessary complexities.
By keeping the structure and length of your copywriting simple, you’ll be forced to focus on the most important information, ensuring audiences walk away with the message you intend.
Skip the Jargon
Every industry has its own set of jargon. And while those in the know will understand jargony copywriting (some are so inured to it, they may not even notice it!), there’s nothing worse than copywriting that is dripping with insider language that has long since lost its impact.
What do we mean by industry jargon? In the tech world, it’s terms like “disruption,” “open the kimono,” “blue sky,” and “boil the ocean.”
While these ideas may have been novel ways to convey nuanced concepts at one point, they’ve since become eye-rolling clichés that only serve to undermine whatever message they’re intended to convey.
Beyond clichés, industry jargon can also take the form of overly sophisticated language or an acronym for every idea under the sun. In general, it’s best to avoid terminology like this, especially in more conversational marketing and advertising copywriting.
Leverage Social Proof
One of the best ways to make marketing and advertising copywriting more persuasive is through the use of social proof. Social proof includes quotes, testimonials, and references to awards and accomplishments that help bolster brand credibility and build brand equity.
Audiences like to know that the brands they’re considering are trusted by other consumers and organizations. A direct quote from a satisfied customer can carry a lot more weight than even the best sentence touting the benefits of the brand.
As far as awards and recognition go, there’s a reason nearly every car commercial contains a reference to a JD Power & Associates award. Touting recognition by a respected institution endows the car manufacturer with the built-in authority of its association with institution.
Test Your Copywriting
Finally, if you’re serious about perfecting your copywriting, there’s no substitute for testing it out on a subset of your target audience.
Message testing is the process of testing and audience’s reaction to a select piece of copywriting. Wondering whether a focus on Benefit A will resonate more with audiences than a focus on Benefit B? Why not ask them?
Message testing often takes the form of a simple online survey gauging customer sentiment around various copywriting ideas. The data such testing yields is an invaluable look into how customers really feel about the way you talk about your products or services.
Insights from message testing can be used to select from various copywriting options, and/or fine-tune copywriting to more precisely address customer needs.
To find examples of effective copywriting, one need look no further than the world’s top brands. As we’ve mentioned, one of the surest signs of a world-class brand is clear, compelling copywriting.
Let’s take a look at some copywriting examples from both the B2B and B2C sectors to see how these industries leading brands bring their message to life.
ClickUp is a great example of copywriting that’s fun and intriguing, without overdoing it.
From its Lord-of-the-Rings-inspired homepage headline to its bold claim that users can “save one day every week, guaranteed,” ClickUp’s copy zeroes in on the unique pain points of project managers and teams everywhere, and offered them a solution that feels friendly yet powerful.
This is also an example of copywriting that knows which tone of voice is appropriate for which channel. Where it can be found managing the signing of the Declaration of Independence and firing top competitors in its clever ad copy, ClickUp is plainspoken and direct on its website, clearly explaining the benefits and features behind its eminently welcoming tool.
First Round Capital
When your website homepage includes zero images, you better hope your copywriting is engaging. First Round is able to pull off this unconventional approach with simple, direct messaging that gets right to its audience’s needs.
Throughout the brand’s online experience, First Round’s copy identifies the most likely questions its audiences have, and addresses them in a highly personal, empathetic tone of voice that creates clarity and instills confidence.
First Round’s copy also stands out in its effectiveness at differentiating itself from its competitors. It accurately describes the things that virtually every other VC brand talks about (partnering with remarkable founders, believing in the power of technology, etc) before articulating how First Round is different (a personalized approach backed by the social proof of actual partner sentiment.)
When MailChimp grew beyond just email marketing, they had a decision to make: change their name and get rid of years of accumulated brand equity, or keep the name and do some copywriting jiujitsu to use it to their advantage?
The result was a campaign with copy like “Bad at future-proof names. Good at more than mail.” And “Make a name for yourself. Then outgrow it.”
By doubling down on the limitations of their name, MailChimp’s copywriters got to laugh at themselves along with their audience—as well as drive home the point that they were no longer just mail.
MailChimp’s copywriting has had similar success in subsequent ad campaigns. Online, they cultivate a helpful, encouraging brand voice that just wants to help small business owners get the most out of their creations.
Dollar Shave Club
When the brand first launched, Dollar Shave Club used copywriting to change the game when it came to buying overpriced razors. They gave their audience a new option: high-quality razors at a fraction of the price. And they used copywriting to tell the story.
“Buying Razors Sucks,” said the brand. This brash, quasi-offensive language was exactly what the brand’s target audience had been thinking for a long time.
With a casual tone that identified a unique pain point and offered an easy solution, Dollar Shave Club’s copywriters were able to win over an entire generation of men (and eventually a few women as well).
Similar to MailChimp, instead of pulling punches, Dollar Shave Club’s copywriting turns the personality up to ten, and in doing so creates a highly relatable brand that customers can laugh with and, in doing so, feel more comfortable buying from.
From your core messaging to your content initiatives, the quality of your copywriting is integral to how your brand is perceived.
Do you want that perception to be a fragmented, sub-par experience, or do you want it to be a cohesive, compelling account, the quality of which is matched only by your products and services? Quality copywriting makes all the difference.
When it comes to actually doing the writing, there is some copywriting that can be handled in-house. If you’re serious about developing a superior brand experience, however, the vast majority of your copywriting should be done by a professional, like a branding agency, marketing agency, ad agency, or copywriting agency.