Thursday 11 December 2014

Mindfulness and the art of copywriting

Despite what online ‘content mills’ and cut-price freelancers will tell you, speed isn't always an attractive trait in a copywriter. In this post, we savour the benefits of stepping back and contemplating.

When you think of Chinese billionaires, it’s probably Jack Ma who springs to mind. Liberal, charismatic and outrageously baby-faced, he’s the man-cherub behind Alibaba and the biggest US IPO in history.

However, it’s his contemporary, Guo Guangchang, who’s inspired this month’s post. Dubbed the Chinese Warren Buffet, Guo was recently interviewed by The Financial Times, where he revealed the role of tai chi and ‘mindfulness’ in his rise from rural poverty to international power and prestige:

“The aim of tai chi is not to strike first to gain dominance over an opponent but to wait and hit at the right moment. That is, to be the first to take action after feeling the change of momentum. No one holds a permanent speed advantage in business. Your advantage comes from your ability to feel the change faster and take decisive action faster.”

Slow and steady and all that
For copywriters and the brands they work for, Guo’s wisdom is a warning. Copywriting isn't about getting the words down on the page as quickly as possible. It’s about sensing opportunities and spotting the gap in messaging that competitors have overlooked yet will stimulate the audience to act.

Ancient scouse wisdom
Direct marketing wizard, Drayton Bird, has been preaching this ‘mindfulness’ message for decades. However, he just calls it ‘thorough preparation and research’. He also uses the example of selling a £13,500 round-the-world cruise to illustrate the importance of stepping back and considering the brief, your audience, what messages might turn them on and, importantly, what’s stopping them buying too.

When given this cruise brief, your gung-ho writer will undoubtedly launch into describing the ‘luxurious cabins’ and the ‘surprisingly diverse facilities’.  But what do mindful copywriters do? Faced with the same brief, they consider all the items and experiences the potential customer could buy with all that cash. And they understand that to sell as many cruises as possible, they need to truly understand the reasons why people set sail. Only by entering into the mind of the audience can they decide what will most persuade.
A copywriter, hard at it.

Are they looking for escapism? Life-changing experiences? Or is the lavish holiday a status thing? It takes a lot of organisation and calm to attain the free head-space to contemplate these things – but the result is a fresh perspective and that holy grail: persuasive copy.

So, the next time your copywriter asks for longer than the bare minimum to get something written, don’t baulk at them. Be thankful they’re doing their job properly. Give them time.

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