Many companies struggle with marketing communication. From web banners to white papers, people spend a fortune on marketing messages, and much of it goes unread. Even worse, well-intentioned marketing can backfire like we’ve seen with the recent Dove and Nivea ad backlashes.
So how do you avoid these pitfalls while insuring the most compelling communication of your product and brand, especially when it involves dry topics?
Last week, I caught up with Thomas Barron and asked him how he does it. Based in San Francisco, Barron has a unique background as both a fiction writer and marketing content strategist for some of the biggest brands out there.
“Whether I’m writing a catch-phrase for a brand’s identity, or a video script for a celebrity endorsement, these five tricks never fail me,” he says. Here are Barron’s tips, in his own words:
1. Start with the business objective.
Every piece of content, every communication, every customer touchpoint needs an objective. Otherwise, why do it? List your objective on a Post-it next to your monitor as you write. If your objective isn’t clear, then ask yourself: What is the customer’s problem we’re trying to solve? Why has nothing else worked? What’s the solution? Why are we in the best position to deliver it?
2. Write it like a movie.
The best thing I ever did for work was write a screenplay. Even though Scorsese never called, I learned that the rigor and influence of what makes a great movie can plug directly into any communications piece. Setup, conflict, resolution. Tension building. Even a vignette read on an iPhone should feel like a movie–exciting and conclusive. For example, a few months ago, my team got an assignment from Visa to make the tech buzzword “IoT” (Internet of Things) more human and exciting. I took my own advice by creating a villain–a hacker taking control of the icemaker on a connected refrigerator. That decision allowed the piece to write itself and even the title: Shut the Fridge Door.
3. Read it aloud.
Because reading aloud is harder than reading in your head, you’ll find small spots where a reader might struggle. It could be as simple as changing a ‘may’ to a ‘might’, but your voice will really uncover any hiccups in the flow. Writing should be as close to speaking as possible. If you write words that you don’t speak, get rid of them.
4. Read it to your mother.
A victory for my mom is getting Netflix to work. She hates technology. If I write a piece about cyber security, and she gets it, I’m done.
5. Spend half of the time making it shorter.
The plot of a thriller travels like a bullet. So should every piece of content. Delete asides that don’t build tension or directly address the objective of your content. Cut everywhere. A long line of voiceover lands roughly at 10 words. Does your brand message move people like a movie? If not, you may need a remake.That’s how long this last sentence was. Our brains hate long sentences. They bore us. Cut, cut, cut.
Also, balance mid to long sentences with short ones. Our brains love this. A short sentence after a long one is like getting a treat. Simple as that.