3 Tips for Not-so-typical Advertising
by John Boitnott, Journalist and digital consultant |
You’ve seen those awkward ads. You know – the ones calling your attention to topics that can make most people feel uneasy:
“Bladder Mesh Alerts”
“Plan for Your Funeral Costs Today!”
“Eliminate Embarrassing Odor”
Maybe you even have an awkward product of your own.
The good news is that embarrassing, even borderline raunchy copy, about uncomfortable topics, can convert powerfully. But awkward copy isn’t something you can learn just anywhere. It takes thought as well as trial and error. Here are three tips that can help you present awkward material and still get people to buy what you’re selling.
To master the art of awkward copy, the first step is educating yourself. This means doing first-hand, in-depth research and finding, most importantly, how your target audience feels about the touchy topic connected to your product or pitch.
While it might sound basic, Wikipedia articles and WebMD pages are great for getting the cold, hard facts on the majority of awkward topics. But the information there won’t help you create emotion appeal and drive action through your copy.
To get that you will have to go to the source. Discuss the topic directly with members of your target market. If that’s not possible, you’re bound to find insight in online forums and the comment sections of blog posts on the topic.
Look for their pain points and difficulties along with the current solutions. Create a file of all the most loaded phrases that audience actually uses. The key to your copy will be the end benefit, not the immediate benefit, your solution provides.
Whenever I discuss this topic, I remember a funeral planning ad I saw once. It showed a series of loving families, with elderly men and women and their adult children. It said something along the lines of, “Do your kids a favor. Make funeral plans in advance.” It was clear that the person writing this copy knew the primary reason people would be considering their service is not to take control of their afterlife somehow, but to save the people they care about most from additional pain.
Like this ad, understanding the true goals of your audience will help to determine the angle and tone of your copy.
Building and maintaining trust as a company is the most important factor in retaining customers. When it comes to products and services for things people feel uncomfortable about, this is all the more true.
To build this trust, a company must provide the benefits promised. Do not write copy that exaggerates what the product or service offers.
You must also be consistent and reliable. It’s important to follow through with requests in a timely manner and consistently respond to your customers’ needs as they develop.
If you’re writing content for blogs and email marketing, this could be as simple as optimizing your content for mobile viewing or being prepared to send out content right when your customers need it. Getting a responsive theme or using a plugin likethe ones outlined here will take care of mobile users on your site. For emails, use tools that offer a variety of testable, mobile-friendly templates. GetResponse’s mobile email study discovered, “42 percent of subscribers delete emails that don’t display correctly on mobile phones.” Don’t be one of those emails.
Finally, your copy must relay the importance of security and your willingness to keep the customer’s data safe. Customers sharing confidential information need to trust that it won’t get shared or leaked. Just ask Ashley Madison how disastrous that can be.
Melinda Emerson puts it best in her Inc. post on writing sales-generating copy:
‘If you were trying to sell to someone in person, you wouldn’t talk stiffly and haltingly, so don’t do it on your website. Keep all those ten-dollar words to yourself.”
The most important thing to remember about writing copy for awkward topics is to be relatable. Tell stories to create a deeper connection with your readers and show them you understand. In the case of the funeral services ad copy, empathy — the ability to understand and connect with their feelings — is more important than sympathy.
What we do in the bathroom used to be a taboo topic until Charmin decided to use it as their primary social-media content source. Now, you probably can’t #tweetfromtheseat without thinking about the lovable bear family and their trusted toilet paper. They took an awkward topic and flipped it on its head with one simple concept: everybody does it, so we can all relate.
Buzzfeed is no stranger to awkward conversations either. In fact, nobody dominates this niche for millennials more with blog titles like “23 Body-Positive Tips That Aren’t Garbage” and “22 Things You Should Know About Your Butt.” Buzzfeed even has their own YouTube channel dedicated solely to straightforward, no-holds-barred videos addressing awkward topics young people deal with daily. They’re not always funny, but they’re a phenomenal source for modeling emotional and relatable language.
It’s an art – and a science.
Writing awkward copy is an art. It’s about creating a tongue-in-cheek masterpiece that appeals emotionally to the reader and connects directly with your target.
But the three tips above prove that awkward copy is also a science. There’s a method to its madness and you can follow the guidelines to succeed.