What makes something timeless? Whether it’s Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, or Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, each has its exhaustive characteristics that define their worth.
All of a sudden, someone wants to sing in a white tank-top on top of a grand piano. Or has this burning desire to wear a Ghost Face costume for the upcoming Halloween party. Or maybe, get immersed in a flash mob inspired by Kate Bush’s music video in an open green space.
Nope, that someone is not me.
Now that I look at it, there’s a similar structure in these works. A recognizable pattern. A rule. A rule of the game that does the magic of turning everyone’s heads.
In an instant, the works become so magnetic they remain intact even twenty, thirty years ahead.
These masterpieces are so often interpreted into various forms and media. Countless adaptations, covers, re-make, re-masters, you name them, are even loudly present in today’s entertainment industry. And it has never lost its audience; young or old, men or women, democrat or republican.
Such constant iteration is a living proof that people are not forgetting them. That there are possibilities capable of being explored from numerous focalizations.
Taking an example of Queen, one source claims that there hadn’t been any song like it ever until 1975. Its “sheer originality,” starting from the iconic Bismillah after the intro to the subtle opera undertones before the end, is what makes people glued to it ever since.
But when it comes to copywriting style, how can we make that glue?
Unique writings stick longer
During my creative writing courses in college, I’ve read various types of writing that digress away from the conventional or conformed one.
It blew my mind just to find out that there is someone really writing in this style, one in particular is E. E. cumming’s broken poetries.
In most of his works, he uses a lot of blank space showing vast gaps between every word or letter. (Gah. Imagine reading that for one semester!) This style creates a wonderful disorientation in terms of readability and comprehension.
To get what I mean, let’s take a look at one example below:
I’ve also read this science fiction short story where all the character’s names (and their dialogues) use punctuation marks and numbers. It’s an alien language, basically.
So I had to sink my teeth into it just because it is so difficult to read. Sorry I couldn’t remember the title and the author. But this is just an example that those are the kinds of work that stuck with me compared to the rest of the works using conventional writing style.
However, this doesn’t mean that that writing style is better than the other. It just sticks longer with me.
Then, when it comes down to copywriting style, what are the trends, really? Is it that predictable? You may think that this particular style of copywriting is to your liking, but that’s not your call. So, one thing that makes sense is probably create the kind of style that stands out. The style that “sticks longer.”
It is, therefore, crucial to break through from “the noisy advertising.” From plenty of hard-sells and yearly discounts on your email newsletters almost every day. So one way to stand out is, as You Lead Agency recommends, to “provide more relevant and educational experiences.”
It’s not only how catchy the phrase, or how memorable the punchline is, but the amount of new information that the audience never knew.
It’s the amount of knowledge they get from reading a particular style of a sentence in any language. The kind of language that makes them stop for a while and think, “Hey, I’ve heard this before!” or perhaps, to your surprise, “what the hell is this?”
5 copy styles that will rule in 2020 and up
So this is my list of favourite copywriting styles I’ve tried and will try for the next, I don’t know, 5 years tops?
- Wishful thinking
I’m not saying that the list is the current trends on copywriting. But it’s highly likely that I will use these styles for my future works. Not because it’s easier to understand in one reading, but because it’s flexible to explore in terms of meaning. And it also serves as a subtle introduction to a “new” form of Indonesian language.
Now, let’s break them down:
Some of us like to speak in broken sentences, sounding jaded and partial.
The meanings are not meant to be understood completely. But the conversation carries on, only the intentions are partially conveyed. Therefore, sometimes, continuous raving just occurs and neither of the speaker gets their message across.
But hey, that’s the fun part of a conversation, right?
When it comes to copywriting, idioms become a tricky part. Mistakes are intended and errors are expected. Interestingly enough, the meanings can skew.
I’ve seen some billboards from several prominent brands using this technique.
One strategy I find is the efficient use of localization such as keleus (meaning “perhaps”) and lebay (meaning “to overreact”). The spelling of these two words can vary, but the meaning is very much the same.
This one is a great example of what I’m trying to say:
I’ve also seen one unique execution of the latter using rhyme. I forgot whether it was a snack or a spring water commercial. It pretty much sounded like: “laper bhay, ga perlu lebay.”
It conveys a very direct message, giving a solution for those struck with a sudden hunger attack. And it throws its jab with an anecdotal implication: No need to make a drama or unnecessary mumbo-jumbo, even when your stomach is singing solo.
What I love the most about slangs and idioms is that they always change every time. Like Syahrini’s “cetar membahana” or Vicky Prasetyo’s “29 my age” that went quite viral back in 2014, they have a similarly humorous undertone to it, and because of that very humor, people still remember it until now.
Therefore, I think it’s safe to say that slangs are quite acceptable for a larger target audience. However, they might not be suitable for a niche circle of people. For example, early teenagers and young adults might understand the meaning of “bhay” in a glance. But for middle-aged to older people, they might have to jump through a lot of hoops.
2. Wishful thinking
How often do you usually read the review section of an app before downloading it? For me, probably all the time. Isn’t “review” section the best?
You can know what other people are thinking of the same app that you use. You may like it, they may not. Yet, that’s the beauty of it.
I thought about this a lot, pondering why not apply it onto my copy?
So, back in Moka, I tried to implement this style for an event. I drafted a long paragraph of a customer’s complaint about a particular product. I wrote what they felt, why they’re disappointed with, what they’re happy about, and what the product can improve.
It pretty much looked like this:
This style is highly effective to trigger hidden emotions from customers because it’s like they’re reading…themselves. They’re reading their problems with many other millions who think the same way, but might not find the same solution.
Or, even, any solution, really.
You can make it in a form of a sad, complaint letter or it could be like a time-capsule letter, where they pour out everything about their wishes and aspirations.
Either way, you get to tell their stories from their perspective. You can wildly use your imagination to step on the customer’s shoes and behave as if you have used the product.
You might think that this style is a bit outdated and perhaps too old to implement. Well, I highly doubt that.
Because it’s not about which style or form that works the best for the customers. It’s about the narrative and authenticity you bring to the floor. How far you’re willing to step into your customer’s shoes?
“Never fear,” English Copywriter calms down, “there’s still plenty of space for good old storytelling in 2019.” Because customers aren’t just keen something they’ve seen or read over and over again, but they always engage with “great stories and value authenticity” no matter the medium or form.
So, give this one a go.
I never expected that this one would be on my list. The first time I saw a doodle-style was on a billboard of one of Indonesia’s famous beverage brands. It was Ramadan last year (I guess) and this beverage is probably the most sought-after for fast breaking for those who are still stuck in Jakarta traffic.
The billboard looked like a trash paper, where cramples are visible and a sketch of a grinning child is seen at the core. Above the picture is a copy apologizing that they “are still thinking about it,” whatever that means. Ring any bells now?
This one is another billboard I’ve seen from the same brand:
On the surface, it might seem that they don’t have any campaign going on or don’t have something to say.
But on a deeper level, the apology message goes well with the fact that Eid al-Fitr was coming just a few days ahead. And the fact that they’re clueless about what to say on the billboard perfectly fits the idea of innocence, which is an essential part of Eid al-Fitr.
If you wanted to experiment with this style, it would be a wise choice to nourish your childhood memories.
If you used to draw two mountains, with a path spiralling in, and a sun between them, do it. If you used to draw a black hole with crayons, make it happen. If you like to add emojis, let it manifest.
What I like the most about doodles is that they capture the intention of not knowing what to say and having something to say. Both at the same time.
So, why row one boat when you can do two in a swing?
How do you feel when you just received an email from someone important? Exhilarated? Great.
Now what about an email from your magazine subscription that you never even open? Maybe annoyed, pestered, until you finally reach a point where you want to just un-subscribe.
This is the magic of a mail. You can present yourself into their inboxes every day, no matter how their engagement.
However, you can’t really decide which emotions your reader wants to convey.
But when it comes to copywriting, this style is a great resort to make them tolerate their impatience.
When you’re putting up a letter in public space, you’re giving the by-standers no choice but to read it. With a white backdrop and a big chunk of words in two to three paragraphs, what is there for the readers but to stop and take a look?
One time, I’ve seen this copywriting style, again, on a billboard amidst Jakarta busy traffic. From afar, it looks like an official letter from the government, with a letterhead and a signature. Sounds pretty serious, right? That’s the point. I even had to slow down even though the traffic light turned green, ensuring that I finished reading until the end.
One thing I can learn about this style is that it emphasizes an unbearable sense of urgency.
Nothing but an official letter grabs your attention right away because it’s a private matter. It’s a confidential document that should be kept under your pillow and made transparent or be stashed in a bunker if necessary. But now it’s out to the world. And everyone can see it. Everyone has access to that confidentiality. While in fact, there’s nothing secretive or private in the message.
We’re just tweaking the package.
I remember the first time I read Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet, and I was never more starstruck by fluffy literature.
It’s not because of the underlying beauty of every word that is written, but because, when combined together, those words sound exactly like one. The words that speak to the subject of the prose as a unity and not just a pool of random words spread throughout the text.
Every phrase triggers various different emotions that I might have never felt before. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience that I want to try over again. Isn’t it amazing that you can go to many places by just reading prose. Dream places. Dark places. Daydreams. Nightmares. Or to a meadow with daffodils floundering as the air breezes through the sunbeams that…
Oops, now I sound fluffy.
Sorry. Can’t help.
Jokes aside, this one does work to activate memories. I used this technique for selling a product on a high-class lifestyle magazine. The audience is middle-class monthly incomers, so my job is to grab their attention immediately while skipping ad pages as most people do.
This one is an About page of Melyssa Griffin. Fascinating.
One thing is to find the loophole that I can utilize from the product. I call it “loophole” because that’s the missing place I couldn’t afford to see before. Usually, a copy selling a product can sound, I don’t know, technical and a bit robotic, in my experience at least.
I remember that in one of Inspigo episodes, Kathrinna Rakhmavika, a comic author and illustrator, said that quote books are getting popular from early 2019 until now. This means that people are into melancholic or even rather flowery stuff. They love lullabies and need something to ease their mind before sleeping.
So if you’re a fan of literary works and love to listen to music before bedtime, this style is exactly for you to experiment.
Imagine a product or service you’re selling, and turn it into a character of your narrative. Who is its villain? Does it have any guide? What kind of denouement does it meet in the end? Then, compare it to any other copywriting experiments you’ve tried, and see which one sticks with you longer the day after.
Alright, to recap, here is the 5 copywriting styles that stick with me longer and I think will rule in the next 5 years:
Natural speech is king
With the rise of voice search and virtual assistant such as Apple’s Siri, IBM’s Watson, and Microsoft’s Cortana, the need for a “more natural” content gets a higher demand.
In terms of copywriting, it doesn’t only mean that “the writing should read like natural speech” but also suggest that we do a more selective keyword research.
So if you’re making a copy for SEM, native ads, or any other BTL purposes, and for billboards, pamphlets, triptych flyers, or any other ATL purposes, it works for both.
Whether it’s slangs, wishful thinking, doodle, epistolary, or prose, all have one thing in common: elasticity.
The only thing that writers can do is to have the intention to probe and dig deeper.
From eavesdropped conversation of people you don’t know to probably the unused dissertation papers from street-food fries (gorengan), those can be a pool of treasure and insights for your next copy.
What I did, which has also proven effective for my writing process, is to take notes as often as possible. Of the warning sign in front of a restricted building, of the funny caveat in a 3m-deep swimming pool, of the 5-minute advertisements before a movie starts.
It can be a phrase, a sentence, or even a paragraph. But it can also be two words (“laper bhay”) or three letters (“ILY” for I Love You). Long, short, it’s a reliable source of inspiration.
So, find yours while it’s out there floating.
You can find an exactly identical post on my LinkedIn.