advertising copywriting

How emojis could change your communications forever

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Is this the future of communication?
Is this the future of communication?

Whether you love them, hate them or just don’t get them, emojis seem to be everywhere.

From the latest advertising campaign by McDonlads, to Google’s decision to allow them in certain Adwords or the fact that Instagram’s most recent update has made hash-tagged emojis searchable; there’s no escaping these tiny graphic icons.

In fact some people think that these might be the first truly global language.

Like many new technologies the early adopters of emojis were Millennials, quickly followed by their social-media-savvy siblings, Generation Z.

And in the words of American marketer and bestselling author Seth Godin, these early adopters are ‘sneezing’ and spreading the emoji virus to the masses!

But it’s not just emojis that are changing how we communicate

If you want another example of how communication is changing and focusing more on visualization, take a look at Snapchat.

In a recent interview Evan Spiegel, one of the social networks founders, was asked a simple question: “What is Snapchat?”

Here’s his blindly obvious but insightful answer:

“Snapchat really has to do with the way photographs have changed. Historically photos have always been used to save really important memories: major life moments, but today… pictures are being used for talking.

So when you see your children taking a zillion photos of things that you would never take a picture of, it’s cos they’re using photographs to talk… And that’s why people are taking and sending so many pictures on Snapchat every day.”

And you can’t argue with Snapchat’s success, having over 100 million daily users of its app. Quite how the app will ever make any money – not least a profit – once the current trend for investing marketing funds in almost anything social with no real payback has abated is a debate for another day.

Here are three emoji advertising examples

1. Oreo’s “Play Together With Your Kids” campaign: The cookie brand ran a campaign in China that urged parents and children to create custom emojis by putting their faces onto dancing figures.

The result was eminently sharable and the campaign hoped to capitalize on the idea of parents bonding with their children to support Oreo’s brand goals. The firm also put codes on cookie packets that would unlock more content and, obviously, boost sales. This video has more detail.

2. General Electric’s #emojiscience: GE created an “Emoji Table of Experiments”, that uses emoji as icons in a periodic table-type layout, and that introduces people to DIY science projects.

The campaign aims to show the fun side of science – alongside some of the interesting work that GE is doing – and also insists that “There’s science in everything—even emojis,” which ties nicely with the firm’s “Imagination at Work” tagline.

3.Bud Light’s 4th of July tweet: Of course, it’s easier for certain brands to incorporate emoji than others. Bud Light made use of this with an emoji tweet — the right form for a millennial audience, timed for a holiday that matches with the Budweiser brand — for the US 4th of July celebrations.

So what does this mean for your communications?

I guess this is all about relevancy. For instance, if you manage marketing communications for consumer brands aimed at Millennials, emojis might be a perfect fit for you.

Some brands might feel that there is no relevance with their positioning or target market.

To be honest, I’m yet to use emojis in any work-related communications. Maybe it’s because I manage business-to-business legal marketing which doesn’t feel naturally relevant. Or maybe it’s because I’m not brave enough, and should embrace the ‘safe is risky’ mantra a bit more.

But I would guess the first word of warning is: don’t try too hard. There’s nothing more embarrassing than someone trying hard to act a lot younger and cooler than they actually are; or in other words, desperately trying to be ‘down with the kids’.

I’d love to hear your thoughts? Short-term craze or long term communication strategy? Are words dying out or will they work in tandem with emojis and photos?


They laughed when I said this LinkedIn advertising headline would work. But when they saw the results……..

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Photo of a lady laughing
This lady found the headline downright hysterical

If you recognise this headline you’re either old or a learned marketer. Or maybe you’re both.

It is an amended version of a classic advertising headline written by John Caples; a true advertising legend.

It was used in a newspaper advertisement to sell a distance piano lesson course over 80 years ago.

Obviously the success of the advertisement wasn’t down to the headline alone. Everything else – body copy, images, emotion, offer – all supported the headline and added to its success.

It has been applied 1000’s of times the world over to sell all sorts of things.

And I used it recently on a Linkedin pay per click advertising campaign for professional services. I tested its click through and conversion rates and against 7 other headlines.

And it won hands down.

It also worked as a headline on a posted direct marketing campaign I wrote to sell commercial legal services

In truth, the posted mailing only pulled a single response from the mailing of around 200. But the people on the mailing list had never heard of us and it was our first and only piece of communication with them.

More importantly, the one person who did respond became a client whose fees paid for the communication, with some extra for profit. And as the objective of the direct mail was sales, it was a success.

Do you know why I think it still works today as it did over 80 years ago?

Old couple in black and white photo
This couple probably had the same basic wants as you.

It’s because, contrary to popular belief, people don’t really change.

You and I still have the same basic needs, wants and desires as we’ve always had.

And you and I are human beings, meaning we are emotional. People buy on emotion much more than they do logic, even in business-to-business.

This concept of us not changing much is explained in this quote. It’s by another grand old man of advertising, Bill Bernbach.

The next time you’re planning a marketing campaign, you might find his words useful.

“It took millions of years for man’s instincts to develop. It will take millions more for them to even vary. It is fashionable to talk about changing man. A communicator must be concerned with unchanging man, with his obsessive drive to survive, to be admired, to succeed, to love, to take care of his own.”

How B2B marketing really works – and 9 simple tips you can use today

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Online Free Internet
An offer you can’t turn down

If your job involves marketing, you know that you’re involved in the sales process. After all, nothing really happens until something gets sold.

But how does selling to people in a B2B environment differ from B2C? Humans make the decisions for both, don’t they?

And none of us dump our subconscious at the front door before going to work. We are the same people at work as we are at home.

I’m not talking about management style or patience here. Many of you might have a different personality at work than at home. I’m talking about your wants, desires and things that subconsciously grab your interest.

The reality is that, by and large, the techniques that work for B2B also work for B2C.

But there are some vital differences, which are included in this list. Why not print this out and stick it to your wall for the next time you’re facing a business-to-business communications challenge.

And remember to like this post if you liked this post!

1, Mix your channels: If you use a single marketing communications channel it is unlikely to make a sale by itself.

That’s because most businesses make their purchasing decisions in small groups, typically of around 4 people.

And seldom will all four read the same communications. For instance a finance director might read for insights, trends and news. Whilst a production director, who might have a powerful vote if it’s an industrial purchase, might read technical trade communications.

Others you might need to convince like the managing director or CEO, who’s focus is likely to be on broader firm benefits including cost, might only read things like the Financial Times.

So it might pay you to use several channels with different messages for each.

2, Make it interesting: This might sound obvious but make sure what you are selling is of interest to the person you are speaking with.

For instance, you might be fascinated that your staff size has hit the 200 mark or that you’ve won another award. However, your clients probably won’t give a damn.

But they will be interested in your promise if it helps them solve a problem they are facing.

3, Be specific: No one like generalities or vague statements, but people love facts.

So say how much money your product or service will save your prospect. Or how much time. Or how many percentage points better your product scored in independent tests.

Here’s a classic, and very successful, strapline using facts for cat food that I bet you’re familiar with: “eight out of ten owners said their cat prefers it”.

Here’s another great fact that could be used in communications, but I don’t know if it is: “WordPress was used by more than 23.2% of the top 10 million websites as of August 2013.” If I managed WordPress communications that would feature heavily.

4 Use testimonials: As a rule of thumb any testimonial is better than none, but relevant ones are best of all.

If you want to see a great professional services example of this take a look out the covers in Andy Bounds’ book, The Snowball Effect.

The pick of the bunch for me being: “Andy Bounds recently helped Barclays secure a £2.6billion deal, one of our largest ever.”

Not a bad comment I’m sure you’ll agree!

One of the biggest industry’s in the world, entertainment, uses testimonials to pursued us to spend money. Music, movies, plays and TV shows all rely heavily on them.

And of course there are many websites giving you feedback and reviews on services. From and to and, they all contain testimonials designed to build trust.

5: Demonstrations: If you’re really confident that your product or service is considerably better than that of your competitors, devise a demonstration showing yours as the outright winner.

If it is a simple demonstration that your prospect can quickly do themselves, even better.

A recent example of this was the ‘Bing It On Challenge’ by Microsoft. A campaign designed to go head-to-head with Google to discover which search engine delivered the best results. Take a look here:

6, News: This works really well in business-to-business marketing.

Buyers in businesses are always looking for new products and services to make their lives easier. Or to reduce costs and make more profit.

And when you have news: shout about it.

7, Information: There is a long held myth in communications that people don’t read copy.

This is not true.

People read what is of interest to them and if this happens to be your message, it will be read.

Selling a typical business solution is usually more complicated than selling an FMCG product. After all, there is not too much to say about a deodorant or pasta sauce.

But in business-to-business marketing you have to answer a range of questions including things like: price, performance, delivery, suitability, guarantees, maintenance, support and more.

So it stands to sense that you need to use more words to construct and win your argument.

8, Layouts: Your layouts should be simple, avoiding the ‘lets do something different for the sake of it’ attitudes of far too many designers.

Use images that are interesting to illustrate your message. Don’t try to be clever by making your reader work to understand the link between your image and message. They won’t bother.

When designing for press communications copy the editorial style of the publication. Try to use small images with captions underneath them. Twice as many people will read them as read your body copy.

When designing for email try to use very few images, if any at all.

I’m sure we’ve all seen email with lots of empty blocks where images should be, but your software has not displayed them.

They look a mess. Even worse, people that create such emails usually rely so heavily on the images and not the words, the message is totally lost. And the email hits the bin within seconds.

Many big direct marketers actually use text emails when communicating with suspects, introducing more images as the suspects turn into prospects then clients and repeat purchasers.

The landing page linked to this advert followed the rules on above on layout and style. But one important difference was the number of times the copy asked the reader to take action.

With landing pages, the more you ask the more you get!

9 Headlines: Your headlines are vital.

They get on average 5 times more readers than the rest of your copy. If your headline doesn’t sell, you’re are wasting your money and your time.

Your headline can do many things. It can:

  • promise a benefit;
  • give news;
  • offer a service;
  • offer free content;
  • solve a problem your reader has; or
  • quote one of your happy clients.

But please don’t try to be clever. Or use one word headlines. They probably won’t work. An advertising copywriter I know has made it one of his life’s quests to collect advertising headlines proclaiming “The best just got better”. At last count he was at 112, all for different products / services!

It goes without saying that you should spend most of your time on your headline because if it is ignored, so is the rest of your message.

I hope you found this list useful.



This free 7 point marketing brief stops you making mistakes

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Billboard advertisement saying Life is better without crap ads
Actually I rather like this

“A tried-and-tested marketing brief to supercharge your communications”

When you have to produce marketing work, what do you use for help or inspiration?

Do you just fly straight into developing your creative idea, shaping your message along the way?

If you do, you’re in good company. That’s what most people do. Heaven knows I’ve done it 1000’s of times.

I’m not sure about you, but the reason for me rushing straight to developing the creative is simple: time. Or, to be more accurate, a lack of it.

You are probably busier now than you have ever been.

You have a dizzying number of marketing channels to write for, but sadly, the same hours in your day.

But don’t despair, this free 7 point brief could save you

And it doesn’t matter if you’re writing for social media, email or posted direct marketing, press, radio, TV advertising or even events and experience marketing – it works for them all.

It was developed by Steve Harrison, one of the most successful advertising men of the last 30 years.

Steve and his agency, Harrison Troughton Wunderman, produced advertising for some of the biggest brands in the world, including Vodaphone, The AA, IBM and Microsoft.

If you’ve not heard of him, he’s one of the most successful creatives the UK has ever produced; winning the inaugural ‘Cannes Lion Direct Grand Prix’ award. On top of this, he has won three gold, five silver and two bronze Lions at the world’s biggest annual awards for professionals in creative communications.

I had the pleasure of watching Steve present recently at Drayton Bird’s European Academy of Direct and Interactive Marketing (EADIM) conference in London.

What a fantastic experience it was. And if you ever get the chance to see him – or any of Drayton’s events – I urge you to take it.

So, here is your free 7 point creative brief. I hope it helps you.

Use it. Maybe you’ll end up collecting a Lion or two of you own!



How to write your marketing brief

The simplest way of looking at a brief is like this: your client or prospect has a problem. You think you can solve it for them.

When you are writing your brief, keep this in mind as you answer the below questions. It helps maintain logic as you go; ensuring your argument builds irresistibly to your proposition.

1, Who are you talking to? 

Describe your prospect. Who are they? What do they do? How does your service fit into and affect their lives? Do they currently use your service or do they use a competitors offering? If neither, how are they coping without you?

2, What do they think before receiving your message?

This is your opportunity to describe the problem, the need, the want or the desire. This single insight or truth shapes the whole brief. Put simply, you might start by saying “My job is fine but I keep having to……..”. Or “I’d get the promotion I need if only I could…………”. Or “I’m working late every night because …….”. Or “I’d like to eat healthy food but……..”.

3, What do we want them to think after they have received your message?

This is where you will describe how your service will provide a solution to your prospects problem, their need, want or desire. Put simply, you could say “Great, now I can start to ……….”. Or At last I Can…”. Or “Now I no longer have to work late because…..”.

4, What do we want them to do once they have received or read your message?

Go to a website? Return an enquiry form? Call a helpline? Order a sample?

5, What is a proposition?

What is the single-minded promise that will solve your prospects problem? It must, in just one sentence, encapsulate what your product or service offers your prospects. Do not try to write your proposition as a clever headline. Just write it as clearly and as simply as possible.

6, What is the support for your proposition?

Why should the prospect believe your promise? Only give reasons that are relevant and persuasive. Quote facts. Quote figures. Maybe highlight your awards. Quote any tests you have conducted that show your strength against your competitor. Explain in detail how your product or service gives the benefit you have described in your proposition.

7, Other benefits that will persuade your prospects to buy from you

Describe all the advantages your prospects get by using your product. Keep asking yourself “What’s in it for them?”

PS. If you have not already got it, buy and read Steve Harrison’s book ‘How to Do Better Creative Work’. It is without doubt one of the most useful books I have ever read on marketing communications. 

How these simple tricks get your marketing read

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It really is all about you, you, you.
It really is all about you, you, you.

If part of your job is writing to motivate people to buy – or to make people feel a certain way about your brand – you know it’s tough.

Obviously you can use a brilliant image that, in a heartbeat, shows your product and its benefits, whipping your prospects into a ‘wallet out’ buying frenzy. Or maybe your image creates the right positioning for your brand: from luxury to budget or something in between.

But even though your images can be incredibly powerful, it is the words you use that really create impact.

And one of the most useful tricks you can use to achieve this is using the words: you, your, and you’re more times than any other.

In fact on average, three times more.

You might be thinking that the rules of writing copy for social media are somehow different? Maybe because of the speed at which your audience read (or miss!) your messages in their news streams.

So here’s the content of a tweet you might find interesting. It is from Cindy Greenway, Editor in Chief of

It strengthens my opinion that, regardless of the marketing channels you use, your messages should always be about your reader.

And this gives some good insight into headline writing too.


You know that strong headlines that attract attention to your blog post, articles, ezines, emails (and more) are very important. How would you like to know which words you can use that will do exactly this – attract the attention of your readers? Imagine a stronger interest in your law firm blog posts, simply with a few tweaks to your headlines?

The team at Ripenn undertook extensive research and study to determine how to write a great headline and what works to use in headlines. This information was posted on the Blog earlier this month.

3,016 headlines from 24 top content sites were examined – the most popular words found in their headlines are below.

What does this all mean? Here are some of my key takeaways:

  1. YOU and YOUR are two of the most common words. This means sense considering that the content you created is (or should!) created to help others. Make sure your content is not about you, the writer, but you, the person who needs legal information.
  2. When you use the word ‘this’ in a headline, the reader’s mind switches to a concrete view of whatever you are talking about. The power of ‘this’ is in its specificity.
  3. What, Which and When – These 3 words are all question based. Phrasing headlines in the form of a question does increase click-through rates. In fact, it more than doubles them, on average.
  4. Video – You know video is a must these days. Including the word ‘video’ into a headline (naturally), is a great tactic – it lets people know up front that your post contains video.
  5. ‘How To’ in headlines isn’t only popular, it’s effective! How to in a headline signifies a certain level of education on the subject matter.
  6. The average length of a viral headline is 62 characters. This will be of comfort to you if you struggle with keeping your headlines super short.

Take a look at the headlines you have written in the last couple of weeks. Can you revise some? What will you do differently moving forward to create more attention from your headlines?


So there you have it. Proof that the old tricks of copy writing work across all channels.

And remember, it really is all about you, you, you.

Could he help you with marketing?

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How do you try to improve your business and marketing success?

Obviously you know that the best way of learning is doing. But that can be a very expensive way of learning what works – and what doesn’t.

Do you ever study, attended seminars or use consultants?

I ask because I attended the Nottingham Post Business Summit the other week. It had four seasoned speakers including Josephine Fairley, co-founder of the Green & Blacks chocolate brand.

But the stand out speaker for me was a guy called Geoff Ramm; someone I’d never heard of before the event.

He gave thought provoking marketing advice on getting your brand to stand out from the crowd. And showed some great examples of how people had done this on a shoestring.

Some of his stories were downright hilarious.

He has written a book called OMG Observational Marketing Greats, which I think I might add to my reading list.

You might want to do the same.

Or speak with him directly to see how he could help you.

Here are the only 3 headlines you should ever use in your advertising

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The most important part of your advertisement, direct marketing, poster, email or social media campaign is your headline.

The majority of people read little else. As proof of this, think about how you read. What draws your attention to the stories you read in your preferred newspapers, websites and magazines? I’d bet it’s the headlines.

And, just like the headlines used in news stories, your advertisement’s headline has one goal: to interest people enough to make them read on.

In fact, it’s not an overstatement to say that your campaign might win or flop entirely on your headline.

So how do you write a good one?

Obviously your headline depends on what you are selling. But no matter what your headline is, it should fall into one of these three categories:

  • Self interest: The best headlines are those that offer the reader some kind of benefit. They offer your reader something they want – something they can get from you. Here’s an example:

“Your cold sore gone in 5 days with Vutuexin – or your money back”

This headline targets its prospects (people with cold sores) and instantly offers two benefits: to get rid of their cold sore in 5 days (which is what they want) or they get their money back.

Who can argue with that proposition?

This headline uses the problem / solution concept. Which is probably the most successful recipe you can use to create your advertising.

And it gets the brand name in too.

So all-in-all a pretty good headline.

  • News: Research shows that people love to get news. Think about how often you seek it out yourself. How often do you read newspapers, news TV channels or news websites?

This is particularly successful in business-to-business advertising. Here’s an example:

“Announcing the new way for you to improve your business’s cash flow – effortlessly”

How many business owners and finance directors would like to improve their cash flow? And do so with very little effort? I suspect quite a few.

Here is a news headline taken from consumer advertising. It’s from a banner advertisement running on the Sky News website at the moment. It’s for Boots No7.

“Now there’s a new serum to reduce the looks of ages for all women”

Like the cold sore one, this is good for other reasons too. It uses the word ‘now’, which conjures up the thought that this is something new. This is then backed up/confirmed by the actual use of the word ‘new’.

It also defines its target market too by clearly pointing out it’s for women. The visual then scrolls to show the different products for their different target age groups.

  • Curiosity: This is the most common type of headline used in advertising, although research shows it to be the least successful.

Here’s one I literally just found in my wife’s latest copy of Vogue Magazine:

“Life, intensified”

Do you know what this headline is for? Does it get your attention. Or make you want to read the copy that follows?

To be frank, this headline is meaningless.

But curiosity headlines can work. For instance a headline that stated “What’s wrong with this picture?” successfully sold a course for self- improvement. This headline urges you to read on. It taps into your subconscious because you automatically try to find out just what is wrong with the picture.

Some people think headlines will make sense when used with a relevant and engaging image. And to some degree that’s right; a great image can rescue a poor headline. But not always.

It is always sensible to write the best headline you can. That way your great headline, used with an attention-grabbing photo, has the best chance of being a winner.

And never look for an image and try to write copy that suits it. Always write the copy first, then get an image to dramatically and interestingly make your point

Here is a simple trick to quickly check how good your headline is

Write your headline down on a piece of paper. Then use nothing else other than your logo / branding and position it where you usually would do.

Show your paper to someone who knows nothing about your business / product or service.

Do they understand what you’re are advertising? Do they understand the general benefit? Would they be interested in reading on?

If yes – then  find a great photo to illustrate your advertisement and bring it to life. If no, look at re-writing it.

So the next time you’re writing headline copy for an advertisement, direct marketing, poster, email or social media campaign or any other item you want people to read – make sure it falls into one of the above three categories.

And by the way – the meaningless headline I mentioned early was for Porsche cars.