Using creative copywriting resources to
maximise online marketing opportunities
Have you ever wanted to halt ‘change’ in its tracks? If you’re in any way involved in marketing – as a copywriter, designer, account handler or marketing executive in a client-side organisation – the reality of today’s never-ending change will need no introduction.
Online marketing is a powerful force driven by the conventions of Capitalism overlaid by the imperatives of online powerhouses such as search engines and social media giants. The acceleration of change is super-charged by the need to know more – the better to get ahead of the competition.
This is a hunger that feeds off itself. The techniques available to satisfy those everyday pangs grow ever-more time consuming and competitive. Marketing has come to be fed by technology, in many cases to the exclusion of people and their preferences as customers.
What is the solution to holding back the choking embrace of this information overload? How does an organisation, large or small, rise to the challenge of at once cutting a swathe in its own sector whilst at the same time fighting off the unwelcome distractions that the online world throws across everyone’s path?
To state that copywriting skills could provide the answer may seem to be stretching a point. And yet, when you consider for a moment that most of the information on the web has in fact been created by copywriters, it may not seem so ridiculous after all.
The Origin of This Marketing Species
If you’re blinded by the light of rapid change; and if you’re suffering from a failure to understand what is happening in your marketplace… you’re not alone!
Are you secretly afraid you cannot assimilate change quickly and thoroughly enough so that it translates into profit-yielding action?
The underlying feeling that change is too rapid to digest is arguably one of the biggest threats to business development in the modern era.
It could also be argued that change does no favours for a world economy that is bobbing in uncharted waters with little hope of finding the reassurance of familiar marketing landscapes.
Historically, companies were able to respond gradually to changes in marketing practice. Challenges to the status quo could be accommodated in a civilised, bite-sized way. New kids on the block such as TV advertising were welcomed as catalysts for change in a comparatively static marketing environment. TV advertising acquired and developed its own set of rules regarding what ‘worked’ and what was the most cost-effective.
Enter… The Flintstones!
Prior to the online age, press ads – national or local – had a massive potential audience. Newspaper-reading dominated the UK’s cultural landscape. It was where most people looked for informed appraisals on issues of the day. Yet the power (i.e. readership) of printed newspapers continues to decline in favour of online publications, 24-7 TV and online news.
Direct response advertising has given way to e-commerce. Traditional High Street retailing has declined in favour of out-of-town stores. Shopping trips are often preceded with online sessions to make comparisons in price, features and value. Off-the-page advertising in the pre-Internet era offered no such comparisons, so making a sale often depended on great copywriting, an attractive offer and a price that grabbed readers by the eyeballs.
In the business-to-business sphere, the UK trade press was king. There was a journal to cover almost every walk of business life. Many of those publications have since made the switch to ‘online’, but many others have disappeared, along with their outdated (or commercially out-gunned products and services!). In their place, we have many equally obscure online publications reporting on highly technical, often IT-led, companies.
To Inform – Or To Persuade?
The advent of online marketing and copywriting has seen the application and modification of many offline copywriting techniques. In many cases, however, the definition of what represents success is different.
Online marketing is a more informational medium. Yes, it’s important to ‘close the sale’, but ‘online’ often plays an opinion-forming role in a multi-channel environment. To try to close the sale right away is, in many ways, anathema to the online selling process, especially where social media are concerned.
Obviously, online copywriting reflects this. It also throws a greater emphasis on creating a finely-tuned and well-argued piece of text. Fluent and credible sales arguments – without the raised voices of offline selling – call for copywriting skills of the highest order if the greatest returns on investment (ROI) are to be realised.
Online marketing is an open book which, on the face of it, has no secret agendas. It’s a generous, egalitarian medium, giving of itself to all who need information about how to do something – and where to go to find it.
The Framework of Content Marketing
This has all been given extra credence through the need to feed Google’s appetite for ‘content’ – or ‘information’ by any other name. In many ways, the current trend towards Content Marketing has made sense of the seemingly endless changes in online marketing and SEO by providing a valuable strategic framework that everyone can understand.
And whereas knowledge was formerly regarded as a source of commercial power, it now seems that ‘sharing’ is the latter-day equivalent (to build the power of ‘trustworthiness’).
To disseminate information is to sprinkle star-dust on your followers – aka ‘potential customers’. For traditional marketers, dinosaurs from the pre-Twitter era, this is all just a bit too counter-intuitive for comfort.
For many, divulging marketing ‘secrets’ on the public stage of social media is a high price to pay for SEO success. Showing off how your original strategic thinking has helped achieve a certain level of success may resonate with your awestruck following, but what of your competitors who will always be poised to ‘make hay’ while you’re busy basking in the sun of online exposure?
It may be that the new conventional wisdom infers that ‘thou shalt go forth – and risk coming fifth’ with spontaneous and generous outpourings of marketing intelligence. The problem here is that you can never re-bottle your own genie – especially the one on which you’d pinned your hopes of generating much-needed momentum.
How far original marketing ideas should be under lock and key is a debating point for the future. For how long will ideas remain ‘original’ – and is there anything new under the sun?
Change Through Original Ideas
The mechanics of online marketing can only hope to be evolutionary versions of what’s gone before. Solid techniques, however, can be transformed by the application of original creative ideas – mixing what’s always worked with a freshness that could and should, potentially, take your breath away.
To see copywriting as an agent of change may be difficult for today’s multi-channel marketers to understand. Being able to make the distinction between the power of original creative ideas and simply lining-up words to fill a space is key to the argument.
Proponents of visual thinking – as peddled by creative teams within the best traditional ad agencies – were historically big beasts in the marketing jungle. Today, there’s no reason why the power of creative concepts cannot be applied in the online sphere to better satisfy the cravings for the ultimate User Experience (UX).
Every website page, for example, has the potential to be an amazing visual feast with the persuasive power of all the best press ads. Speed of loading notwithstanding, the power of modern computers – and that includes mobiles too – has removed all impediments to achieving amazing creative and photographic treatments.
Where usability and UX are unaffected by even the most indulgent of creative treatments, creative concepts in the traditional offline sense should be encouraged to make a comeback at every opportunity.
Progress from Innovation and Creativity
The point to remember is that the instruments of endless technological change and innovation are just that: they are mere tools that we should use to support equally creative and dynamic thinking.
Yes, it’s true that search engines have given everyman access to the world’s knowledge bank; it’s also true that social media has been a transformative force; and that mobile technology is impacting on how everyone accesses online services.
Nonetheless… without independent creative thinking, how can we realise the full potential and power of all this technology that lies before us? Fortunately, resourcefulness is part of the human condition.
Like Capitalism itself, the scope for exploiting just some of the innovations in our midst will ensure at least partial success. Where no-one has discovered a profitable way to exploit the technology – no matter how good it is – it will go the way of all flesh. And that’s the reality of endless change.
About the author:
Mike Beeson is a highly experienced UK journalist, copywriter and PR consultant. Mike’s company, Buzzwords Limited, was established over 20 years ago and is located near the city of Manchester.