When a copywriting job comes in, the first thing we do is create a brief.
If you’ve worked agency before, you know that some briefs should really be called lengthies or novels or endless streams of written diarrhea that leave you more clueless than you were when you were actually clueless.
We respect the word brief. We’re known for that.
We keep it short to give the creative process room to breathe. We give our writers what they absolutely need to know and let them come up with the rest. And we hire writers that can.
Here’s what our brief looks like:
What are we doing?
Be specific. Mention the client, the type of work and the reason for doing it.
Example: We’re writing new web copy for Bobby’s Bits because their organic search rankings are poor.
What do we want people to do?
This is an action.
Example: Get a quote; Call in; Vote for the candidate; Start following us.
Who are we targeting?
Describe the target audience in as much detail as you have. Personify them if you can.
Example: Bill purchases tractors for his company. He’s been buying working vehicles for 20+ years. He knows what’s important and what’s not, and he can smell bullshit a mile away. Quality is more important to him than price. If he sees the long-term value is something premium, he’ll find the money for it. He’s married. He has grown children, none of whom work in the business.
How will we benefit our client?
This is a feeling.
Example: They’ll feel confident in their purchase; They’ll feel smart for saving so much money; They’ll feel more connected than they’ve ever felt; They’ll feel like they’re in the future; They’ll feel desirable; They’ll feel young again; They’ll feel invincible; They’ll feel heard.
What does our target think now?
One sentence to describe their mental/emotional relationship with the company, product or service.
Example: I’ve never heard of this; These guys do this really well, but nothing else; These guys do everything, but don’t do anything really well; These guys are a blast to work with.
What do we want our target to think?
One sentence to describe the mental/emotional relationship we want to create.
Example: I love this brand; I could see myself wearing/using that; These guys make me laugh every time; I’ll go to them first; They’re my new fallback.
Why should our target believe us?
These are proof points — reasons for people to think what we want them to think and do what we want them to do. List them all out, even the little ones.
Anything else we need to know; Any attachments and where to find them; Thought starters.
We were in Banff last week at The Gathering, a celebration of “cult brands.” Incredible speakers, considered content, a well-curated guest list and the occasional throw-down made it by far the best conference we’ve attended in years.
Our favourite speaker was JoAnn Sciarrino, Knight Chair, Digital Advertising and Marketing, at UNC Chapel Hill. She spoke about the difference between brand loyalty and brand attachment, arguing that creating attachment (I want to be near you) is more powerful than loyalty (I want to keep buying from you). Essentially, she made the case for telling over selling, which is what we tell our copywriting and editing clients all the time. When you make them love you for who you are instead of what you can do for them, you’re moving them from the selfish to the selfless. They see you as more than a supplier of something; you become a part of their identity.
As Professor Sciarrino spoke, we got to thinking about our Detroit Lions. Yes, they’re our Detroit Lions — we’re pleased to report that Gina has jumped on the bandwagon, despite a hard attempt from Matthew O’Neil, Sr. Director Brand & Media at the Dallas Cowboys who blew us away with his speech on delivering a customer experience. His best bit was about “The Second Song,” which he described this way:
“When a fan walks through the door, the music he hears will set the tone for the entire game. But as you’re planning the second song for him, remember that that same song will be someone else’s first, and the tone you set for her will be just as important.”
But back to the Lions. They’re so ingrained in the fabric of Dan’s being that his 40th birthday cake was Lions-themed. His Facebook profile pic is a Lions logo. He travels to Detroit at least once a year for games.
And they’re the worst team in the history of the NFL.
But that’s the point. For Dan, the Lions are a Cult brand. It’s not about winning and losing. It’s about being part of something bigger than yourself; something you can believe in; something that inspires you to seek out others who share your passion. This year’s honourees for Cult Brand of the year were Fender, Mountain Dew, Chapstick, Make A Wish, Levi’s, Canada Goose and Zappos. Zappos won, amazing considering how much older and established the other nominees are.
As incredible as the program was (and it really was, so kudos to Cult), the best part of it all had nothing to do with professional development:
It only took 30 months to write. Seriously. In all fairness, it’s 18,259 words — but in all fairness, that’s 1.198 words per hour. Shameful.
But the reality is that writing about yourself is hard. You’re too close to what you sell. You can’t separate what you’ve learned from what you instinctively know, which is tough because you have to stay firmly with the latter or you’ll lose your audience.
That’s why people hire us. We came close to hiring someone — but pushed through in the end. We’re glad we did — it’s some of our best work.
We hope you like the design too. Allie Payne did it for us. She dug deep to find the perfect image for each page. And she nailed it all. Our favourite is the gentleman on the editing page. We named him Maurice. He looks like a Maurice, no?
Fusion Studios Inc. did the development. They were very…um…patient with us. Kudos to you, Kevin. You’re the guv’nah!
We also started using Canva to make Instagram posts. Honestly, it’s a writer’s best friend. We can’t design our way out of a paper bag. Now we don’t have to.
Check out @rewordcommunications.
And please pass our new website around. Tell your friends. Tell your enemies. Tell your customers and suppliers. Tell your parents and grandparents. Show your dog (kinda curious to see what happens there). And tell anyone you know with any connection to the marketing department at Club Med. #DreamClient
If you’re one of those people who correct people’s spelling on social media, we kindly ask you to stop doing that. It’s annoying. It serves absolutely no purpose other than to embarrass. And honestly, if you have nothing better to do than correct someone else’s spelling, then you need to question your life choices.
Now, this isn’t to say you can’t make fun of them behind their backs. If someone doesn’t know you’re/your/yore, they deserve a feature in your next BuzzFeed-style shaming compilation. The comment section on Fox News is particularly rich with this kind of stuff.
But don’t publically correct them.
Let our collective judgement of them as people be enough. They won’t know you’re laughing at them. And they don’t have to know. They wouldn’t believe it anyway. And you won’t look like a pretentious d-bag — because who wants that?
As of this writing, Re:word has three heirs apparent, all under the age of four. Naturally, we’re preparing them to take over as soon as possible so we can retire to the yacht. That means exposing them to fantastic writing and fantastic authors. Like Nick Bland, an Australian children’s writer whose work focuses on Bear and his friends Zebra, Lion, Moose, Flea, Boris the Buffalo and others.
What makes Nick’s writing so good is that it’s fun to read. And it’s not just the stories themselves. It’s the attention he pays to cadence: the beat of the words — and he doesn’t miss one.
A lot of children’s authors will force a rhyme into place like this:
This is John and this is Jane
And yesterday they got on a plane.
The yesterday is off beat. That should be a two-syllable, front-heavy word like ¾ well, like “heavy”: HEA-vy.
Most parents excuse this kind of laziness. We’re not most parents. And neither, it seems, is Nick Bland.
“This is Bear and this is Flea
But flea’s a little hard to see.”
“In the Jingle Jangle Jungle
on the edge of Slimy Bog,
Bear was picking berries
from a very wobbly log.”
“To draw kids to reading, you have to make them feel good when they read,” says Jodi Goldstein, a reading specialist in Toronto. “Our brains are naturally comforted to patterns. It’s why we sing nursery rhymes. And it’s why you’re so jarred by a lyric that doesn’t rhyme or a line that throws off the beat.”
Jodi loves Nick’s work from a few different perspectives. “He mixes up the syllabic structure from story to story, and even from page to page within a story — but he never loses the beat. That’s not easy in its own right. He’s also skilled enough to fit his ideas into the structures he creates, and still make them palatable to kids.” She says she can easily pull out story morals from Nicks’ work, and they’re very repeatable:
“So Bear and Boris Buffalo went back to Froggy’s Cave,
agreed that bears and buffaloes are equally as brave.”
As a bonus, Bland’s books are beautifully illustrated, very colourful and look great on a shelf. Look for his books online or at all the best kids’ bookstores. Here’s his entire catalogue as of this writing.
It can be a greeting (Yo, guy!), an expression of excitement (Yo, that’s dope!), a shortening of “your” for effect (Yo mama), a request for a moment to formulate your thoughts (like these dudes do) and, of course, one half of the most frustrating toys ever invented. Seriously, do you know someone who can rock the cradle? We don’t.
But because we spend a lot (a la-hawt) of time on the Internet, we found what’s probably our favourite “yo” in the world, and it’s in Ulyanovsk, Russia, a city about halfway between Moscow and the Kazakhstani border.
The letter yo.
Yo (written as “ë”) is the 7th letter of the Cyrillic alphabet. As a piece of information, this isn’t terribly exciting. But what made us smile was finding out that there’s a monument to the letter in Ulyanovsk, home of Nikolai Karamzin who wrote the first complete history of Russia and was responsible for the creation of this letter in the late 18th century.
This got us thinking about what letters in our alphabet deserve a monument. Here are our top 5:
Y — Sometimes a vowel. Sometimes not. That’s some hardcore super power right there.
C — Sure, there’s the K and S properties of the letter, which is interesting. But C’s the combo king of our alphabet. “Cr,” “Cl,” “-ck,” “–ch.” If you get a C playing scrabble, start looking for combos. Yo’ options open right up.
K — Military people probably thought they were so smart when they came up with “ten-four,” a two-syllable sound that says, “I hear what you’re saying and I acknowledge what you’re saying.” Then K went ahead and did it in one syllable.
X — It can be 100 percent right (as in X marks the spot) or 100 percent wrong (as in an X next to an incorrect answer on an exam). Put three of them together and they can be 100% right and wrong at the same time.
Volkswagen comes close. So does Nike. MasterCard hit a few out of the park. But from where we sit, nobody does it better than The Economist.
If you’ve never heard of The Economist, it’s a British current events magazine of the highest quality. It’s so eloquently written, so well-researched, so thorough in its reporting and so thoughtful in the stances it takes.
But it’s not for everyone because it assumes an educated reader. It doesn’t dumb anything down and it doesn’t pander.
And you get that from every Economist ad you see.
No rebranding necessary. Ever.
Think of a brand, any brand, and you can probably think of its iterations. Not so with The Economist. From day one, they’ve never changed their look, tone or promise. And they never shied away from pulling people in by pushing others away. Their thinking: if you don’t get it, we don’t want you.
It’s a dangerous game to be sure — acquisition by ostracization — but they have two things going for them: firstly, their magazine delivers on its promise every issue; and secondly, their ads are just so damn compelling.
As copywriters, we salivate every time we hear of a new Economist ad, and they never disappoint.
In fact, the only disappointing part of the entire experience is after we read them the first time because the first time’s always the best.
We could go on and on, or we could just show you our top 10 favourite Economist ads.