You’re so London City
I used to be far too familiar with London City Airport, both too early in the morning and too late at night. It’s a soulless, soul-sapping place even by airport standards. And it’s entirely befitting that the ads you see there are terrible. The worst kind of vacuous corporate onanism.
Your copy is camouflage
The walls of City Airport are a rogue’s gallery of ads for corporates, consultancies, financiers, and fund managers. All of them are paying top dollar to say nothing. The headlines and straplines of these ads are interchangeable. You could swap them around and no one would be any the wiser, including the clients who bought them. Bombastic copy is like the O negative blood type. You can transfuse it into any bland ad without risk of rejection. If this is you, your copy is camouflage.
You see the same thing with website copy. In any given sector the copy converges on a similar set of ideas and phrases. This means that the tonality converges too. The companies behind the websites might be radically different, but you’d never know it. A hacker could swap the copy between competitor sites and it would be days or weeks before anyone noticed. If this is you, your copy is camouflage.
You can be unconventionally conventional
No doubt there are some category conventions that each brand needs to conform to in order to reassure potential customers. But you need to be distinctive if you want customers to be particularly attracted to you and you only. The most feted distinctive brand assets tend to be those which are visual or sonic. But your brand language can and should be a distinctive brand asset too.
You need a thing
What might be the “thing” behind your distinctive verbal identity? Ronseal has its does-what-it-says-on-the-tin directness. The Economist turns the archness up to 11. Hendricks is all about colonial eccentricity. Your average b2b brand (and a lot of them are average in their use of language) could learn a lot from the effort that the best consumer brands put into creating a distinctive verbal identity.
Your culture is your identity
For b2b and service brands the foundation for a distinctive verbal identity usually lies in their culture. Every b2b and service organisation that I’ve worked with has had something about its culture that translates into language that is relevant to customers at the same time as being authentic and distinctive to the brand. Regardless of what market you’re in, no matter how strong its conventions, there’s no need for your copy to be camouflage.
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