Perfection is an illusion, or some might even say it’s a delusion.
It’s okay to strive for perfection. The problem is it isn’t very practical. We humans are flawed in many ways, and these flaws permeate in pretty much everything we do.
In the business of advertising, which includes copywriting, the need to get everything perfect is almost like a disease.
In fact it is a disease. It’s called analysis paralysis.
Strategies are rehashed, every piece of copy reworked and designs needlessly redone many times over. Often even before the ad, website or campaign sees the light of day.
Don’t get me wrong, most of these revisions are necessary. It’s part of producing good, if not great work. But overanalyzing things, using assumptions or past performance just hinders the act of producing great work.
Sometimes, when all else fails, and when you are not too sure if something is going to work; the best thing to do is to put it out there.
Let the intended audience do the analyzing for you. After all, that piece of communication is for them. Then gather the audience’s behaviour and tweak accordingly.
No, focus groups are not going to do you much of a favour. Research has shown focus group participants to be favourable towards a brand or product because they are paid for their thoughts. Nobody wants to bite the hand that feeds them.
So get whatever you’re working on done, put it out there and see what happens. If it bombs, try again. If it seems to be working, make it better.
Done is better than perfect.
Apparently, they have that phrase pasted at a corridor in Facebook’s headquarters in Palo Alto. You may remember, Facebook was very crude when it first started, but now is in the leading edge of social technology.
If Mark waited to get everything perfect, we’d be still stuck with Friendster or worse, actually meeting people face to face.
And then there is Sexy, Flowery and Lightly.
No, I don’t write in any of the above ways. Not anymore at least. But I do write Clearly, Personally and Concisely.
Look, I don’t write literature, poems or novels. I am a copywriter, who is tasked to communicate a message in the simplest form possible, in the least words possible and in the most appealing manner possible.
And that’s the way it should be.
Okay, maybe I’m generalizing here a little. There are instances when catchy or punchy copy may be required to get the point across. Let’s say your product is a sugary snack, targeted to 6 to 12-year olds; being catchy is probably a good idea.
The problem starts when ‘catchy’ becomes a prerequisite for copywriting in everything, with total disregard for the product, target market and context of the communication.
For instance, an energy company can choose to be catchy for a festive greeting ad. But if the latest Petronas Deepavali TV commercial is anything to by, it doesn’t always end well.
Or what if a non-profit organization wants to send out a clever, witty birthday greeting to all its donors? Well, go right ahead I suppose. But if you want to be clever and expect people to open up their wallets, then maybe a re-think is in order.
So I stay safe by being Clear, Personal and Concise – and ensuring there’s a strong call-to-action – to meet my client’s communication objectives.
My style may not work for everything under the sun, but I think its close.
This month marks my 14th year as a copywriter. And I still get asked this question – “what do you actually do?”.
My answer usually goes something like this:
“Well I write stuff, marketing stuff. Like print ads, websites, brochures, proposals, scripts and so on”.
Yes, that is what I do, well, almost. Over the last few years, I’ve realised something. The stuff I write is only the end result of a process that is intricate and complicated.
The act of writing is only a means to an end. The written word is my deliverable, yet the insights, analysis, research, ideas, concepts, creative inputs and opinions are my products.
To put it simply; a lot have to go on – in my head and in my actions – before I write the first line of copy. My job cannot be quantified by time, or even by how much I write. There are many combinations of variables that influence that final piece of copy I deliver.
For the most part, the pre-copy-work comes naturally to me. Due to the fact that I’ve been doing this for yonks, and because I have a good understanding of copywriting fundamentals.
But to a client, all of the above are irrelevant, as long as I help them. Help them do what, you ask?
That would be to compel action, generate leads and ultimately help them make more money.
And that, is exactly what I do.