27th November 2020

The Power Of Copywriting 

The Power Of Copywriting

A picture may well be worth a thousand words, but try making that point with a picture alone. Copywriting can appear pretty much anywhere a brand wishes to communicate. Packaging, websites, brochures, scripts, presentations, social media, email headers, bus sides and beer mats. Ah, the humble beer mat... *stares wistfully out the window*. It can range from a single killer concept executed in as few words as possible to bringing complex ideas to life over hundreds of pages in the most engaging way. Yes we live in a visual world and attention spans are shorter than ever, but people still read, you’re reading this aren’t you? That’s why having a consistent and engaging brand tone of voice is more important than ever.

What do you mean by tone of voice?

Good question. A tone of voice isn’t what you say, but how you say it. It can determine how your brand feels and can even influence the price of your product. A sophisticated tone of voice can make your product feel premium, aspirational and exclusive, whereas a playful,  informal tone of voice can make your product feel accessible and relatable.

In the past advertising was all about persuasion, today it’s all about engagement. And people don’t want to engage with a boring brand. They want to engage with brands that are interesting, motivating, that have a personality. Just like people. If you met me at a dinner party and I told you I was a shoe polish salesman, then proceeded to spend the night droning on about shoe polish, you’d probably avoid me next time.

Used correctly, tone of voice will give your brand consistency and can help build an emotional connection (brand love) with your audience.

To find your brand’s tone of voice you first need to know your audience.

Take Nike for example. A sportswear manufacturer, their audience are athletes… but they know that deep down that we all aspire to be more athletic. It’s their brand ‘truth’. Therefore, their brand motto is ‘if you have a body, then you’re an athlete’.

As a consequence, their tone of voice is always talking ‘to the athlete’. It’s motivational, inspirational and aspirational. It’s the reason people print out their ads and stick them on their computer monitors at work. They also have arguably the stickiest tagline of all time ‘Just Do It’ which just so happens to reinforce their motivational brand mission.

In fact, their tone of voice is so successful that it can be recognised on a blank page, some copy and a swoosh. Right, I’m off to buy some trainers…

Nike Copyrighting example 1

Good copywriting should read like one person talking to another. The conversational approach has become even more important with the rise of digital. Innocent is a prime example. The witty, informal and subversive brand has surprised and attracted customers with their distinctive tone of voice for the last few of decades. What makes their work so powerful is it’s simplicity. Copy and product, that’s it. Without their playful tone of voice, innocent ads would be incredibly dull.

On the outside, their tone is direct, intimate, innocent even. It’s off-the-cuff and spontaneous, or so it appears, in reality, it’s smart and carefully thought through.

Their conversational tone shapes all their content, from packaging, print, blog posts, to tweets. Their copy draws you in, ensuring brand interaction at every touchpoint is entertaining and memorable.

Their conversational tone also lends itself to creating and joining online debates, commentating on culture and keeping the brand relevant. Take the infamous 2015  ‘Dress’ debate for example. In 2019, Innocent launched the Bolt From The Blue smoothie with a single tweet telling us that the drink is blue (when it’s clearly green). This single tweet immediately sparked an online debate as to whether the drink was in fact blue or green.

And when Colleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy had a Twitter spat, Innocent quickly used their witty conversational tone to comment on the event whilst promoting their smoothie.


Even the packaging is designed to make you smile.

Another brave brand that has nailed their tone of voice is Oatly. It’s sarcastic, irreverent, self-aware and speaks directly to the audience it is targeting – younger people, interested in a more sustainable lifestyle, disillusioned with ‘traditional’ advertising. 

Their sarcastic, anti-dairy tone builds a sense of tribe, making you feel like you’re part of a bigger movement, contributing to brand loyalty.

Oatly provides a masterclass in copywriting at every touchpoint.  The packaging draws you in with the wall-to-wall copy and homemade aesthetic. Irreverent headlines such as ‘The Boring Side’ make reading the ingredients entertaining while opposing sides explain their brand purpose and call out the dairy industry in an anarchic fashion. 

Their unconventional anti-advertising tone is backed up by equally unconventional media buys. Rather than traditional billboard sites- fly posters and murals provide more palatable ad spaces for their audience.

Using their tone of voice like a stream of consciousness hints at self-awareness and brings humour to their work.

With any brand, establishing clear tone of voice guidelines is imperative to ensure that its tone and values are present at every communication touchpoint. It will make the brand more cohesive and will ensure every person or agency who works on the brand is singing from the same hymn sheet.

It’s something Cygnus does with all of our clients. Take Papa John’s for example. When they began working with us their communications were heavily product focussed and their brand was lacking in tone.

During the rebranding process, we identified the Gen Z pizza lover as our new target audience and created a tone of voice that speaks how they speak. Chatty, informal, authentic and optimistic. As a result, Papa John’s brand has become more consistent and has forged a greater emotional connection with its customers. 

Instead of always talking about the product, we used our copy to tie the product into the occasions at which we share pizza. By turning the focus to parties, gaming, post-pub sessions, watching sport, and movies with friends, we tapped into the emotional benefit that pizza provides. In turn, the work has become more entertaining, playful and insightful. 

After all, what better food is there for sharing with buddies.

Some brands prefer to focus on social copy to entertain their audience and keep their brand relevant. In the US, Wendy’s provides a masterclass of how to grow your brand with humour, wit and 140 characters. They use their voice to poke fun at the competitors like McDonald’s and Burger King, they even roast their customers, all while reminding everyone that their beef is always fresh and never frozen. 

It just goes to show, a little witty copy goes a long way. 

It’s not just killer headlines, long copy ads and social media that requires thought. It’s worth sweating the small stuff too. 

Nothing pulls at the heartstrings like a two-minute film about a little boy and his lovesick pet penguin or a neglected dog on a trampoline, but the copy that accompanies those films is equally important at driving home your message. Accompanying copy can help expand on the film’s take-out, explain the strategy behind the idea or simply reinforce the brand tone with a cheeky one-liner. 

And what’s the first thing you see when you open your inbox? The email title. So how do you stand out among the sea of spam? Again, copywriting can help. 

In all honesty, there’s no tried and tested theory to writing irresistibly clickable email titles. It could be a short, well-crafted description. A clickbait-style teaser like *Don’t Open This Email*. A humorous subject line to punch through the dry, dull emails surrounding it like “Best of Groupon: The Deals That Make Us Proud (Unlike Our Nephew, Steve)”. Something controversial *Why your sales team sucks*, or something that builds FOMO (fear of missing out) like “You’re missing out on points” or even a single word like “PANIC!”

There’s no right or wrong answer, but there are a few rules.

  • Keep it under 50 characters. Subject lines with less than 50 characters have higher open rates. 
  • An ample amount of alliteration almost always attracts! 
  • Use your tone? A good email subject is approachable, human and conversational.
  • Pay attention to the preview. The email preview that follows the subject line is a valuable piece of property, make sure you utilise it properly and ensure it correlates with your title.
  • Pop a cap in it. Caps are powerful, but not to be trifled with so use them sparingly.

But what about SEO? Should I consider that when writing my copy? You mean Search Engine Optimisation? Yes, I know my acronyms. 

It’s certainly something worth considering when copywriting for searchable online formats, but it doesn’t have to stifle creativity. SEO is all about key phrases. For instance, Cygnus might select phrases such as Milton Keynes, design, digital, creative, and it’s important to include these in your copy. In the past, Google would promote your content based on the number of times these keywords appear on your page, making for pretty poor copy. 

However, as Google has become increasingly intelligent it has come to appreciate the value of great content, therefore it now punishes you for repeating these key phrases. Go Google! So you’re better off having more key phrases and using them each one time throughout your copy.

So, write interesting, creative copy and Google will reward you. Simple as that. Anyway, key phrases will only take you so far, page authority via backlinks is the most effective way to promote your website. But that’s another blog for another time. 

So there you have it. Copywriting should be considered at every touchpoint. It’s the backbone of your brand and determines how people feel about it. And at the end of the day, that’s the most important thing. If they don’t like you, they won’t engage with you, they won’t buy from you. 

So maybe it’s worth stopping. Taking a step back. Work out who your audience is and work out how best to talk to them. Then put finger-to-keyboard and craft that copy.