4 Age-Old Copywriting Principles That Still Count Today

Posted by

“I do not regard advertising as entertainment or an art form, but as a medium of information.” – David Ogilvy

Wise words from the ‘father’ of modern advertising.

In our content-driven age, good copywriting still matters.

Studies show that 75% of web consumers keep tabs on spelling and grammar quality on a brand’s website. Moreover, content marketing is three times more effective for lead generation than outbound marketing and costs around 62% less.

Circling back to Mr. Ogilvy for a moment:

“First and foremost, copywriting is a means of communicating information to your audience.”

Whether you’re crafting a blog post, developing a white paper, producing a video script, writing a piece of product copy, or anything else for that matter, keeping the wants, needs, and desires of your prospects in mind is paramount.

Failure to do so will dilute your content and render your efforts futile.

To resonate with your audience on a deep and meaningful level, apply a mix of age-old copywriting principles to your efforts. Despite the constant evolution of digital, these four classic copywriting principles still stand tall today. Here we demonstrate how they work in a real-world context.

Add authenticity to your copywriting

In a world rife with jargon and buzzwords, many marketers overlook this essential copywriting principle:

Always make your copy authentic.

Even back in the ‘Mad Men‘ days, copywriters fortified their claims with statistics, testimonials and studies to breath authenticity into their words. It’s a notion known today as, social proof.

Today’s consumers crave transparency, credibility and authenticity from brands. This means that honesty, coupled with verified information, is key to convertible content.

Acclaimed copywriting pioneer Gary Halbert helped to develop a print-based fat-burning ad during the 1980s. It outlined the benefits of the product in question while offering a clear-cut incentive of losing 98 pounds — within the copy, medical expert and ad author, Dr. Don Schwerdtfeger verifies these claims.

While the precise conversion metrics for this particular advert don’t exist, this is widely used as a working example of age-old authenticity in marketing.

Adopting a similar approach to its copywriting initiatives, UK-based mental health charity Mind creates hard-hitting, researched-backed content to raise awareness and encourage its audience to fundraise.

Screenshot

By speaking to its readers directly and injecting authenticity into its content, Mind enjoys a steady rate of growth year-on-year, communicated in its engaging, data-centric annual financial reports.

Be specific

To write effective copy, you must know your audience.

By gaining a deep understanding of your audience, you’ll know where to direct your efforts. This brings us onto our next age-old copywriting principle:

Specificity is the key to striking a chord with your readers.

If you’re too generic, you will not grab attention, you will not engage, and you fail to convert.

In 1923, pioneering copywriter Claude C. Hopkins stressed that specificity is a vessel for persuasion.

A metropolitan coffee shop, for example, could state: “We make the best coffee in the city.” A bold claim, but how many other vendors are saying the same thing in the same locale? A lot, probably.

Rather than making such a generic statement, said coffee shop is far more likely to attract caffeine-hungry city dwellers by using the phrase, “Our Americanos have won awards…” or something to that effect.

Take eco-friendly fashion brand, VETTA, for instance:

This excerpt from the retailer’s ‘about us’ page communicates its dedication to producing ethical garments. It uses specifics on its processes and a statistic on its solar-powered initiatives. This copy is specific, authentic, and persuasive and, ultimately, one of the primary reasons for the brand’s exponential growth.

Fashion & Beauty Benchmark Report

Murder your darlings

The original writing advice, offered by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, officially read: “kill your darlings,” but I feel the term ‘murder’ really drives the message home.

Today’s digital consumers scan web pages, rather than read them in detail. They want to know how your product, service or message benefits them immediately.

Be ruthless with your words. We all like to showcase our poetic edge, but when you need to grab attention and get results, simplicity is key.

To help in your quest to produce simple, effective, punchy, jargon-free copy, here’s a framework to use:

  • word in lieu of a phrase
  • phrase in lieu of a sentence
  • sentence in lieu of paragraph
  • paragraph in lieu of a page

Exercise: Armed with this ‘murder your darlings’ guideline, explore the copywriting efforts of your direct competitors, cherry-pick notable examples for inspiration and find instances of over-egged or redundant phrasing, then consider how you’d improve it.

Doing this regularly will help streamline your copywriting and help you build more engagement with your content.

Eyes on the prize

In the words of Shirley Polykoff:

“Copy is a direct conversation with the consumer.”

Our fourth and final age-old copywriting principle is about empathy and focus.

Keeping your eyes on the prize means never getting distracted from your goals and never speaking down to your audience—as explained here by the iconic David Ogilvy:

Fail to speak to your consumers conversationally and on their level and you lose their trust straight away. Showcasing empathy and understanding with your content is an essential component of copywriting success.

Remember: never patronize your audience, you’re the one that’s looking for the sale, after all.

Here’s an excellent example of conversational, empathetic copywriting from outdoor apparel brand, Moose jaw:

Not only is the copy here simple and punchy while delivering direct value to its audience, it’s also humorous and showcases a genuine level of understanding. It’s communications like this that make Moosejaw one of the US’s most popular outdoor retailers.

Effective copywriting focuses on connecting with your audience on a personal level, while being as direct, honest and understanding as humanly possible. The rest is fodder.

We hope these tips propel your copywriting success and produce more content-based wisdom. Now explore our guide to millennial marketing.

Create Your Campaign Today!