Posts Tagged ‘Marketing’

Good Business Writing Is Creative Writing

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Why You Should Think More Like a Poet and Less Like a Marketer

I run a storytelling and poetry night. It’s called Dirty Laundry. I host the night and do a bit of my own before opening up the mic to a wonderfully varied group of voices.

At first glance, storytelling and poetry is a million miles from my day job where I help brands define their position, develop their tone of voice, and create marketing materials.

Actually they’re closely linked. Doing one makes me better at the other.

On stage, a storyteller or poet should read the room, adapt to the mood, and use their authentic voice to leave a lasting impression.

On a company website, for example, marketing copy should grab the reader’s attention and answer their questions, and do all this in a consistent voice.

There’s a misconception that creative writing and business writing are different things. They’re not. Good business writing is creative. To write well in business, we should act more like a storyteller or a poet and less like a marketer. 

‘Business writing?’ thinks the managing director or CEO. ‘Yes, I want some of that. Creative writing? No, keep your hobbies at home. There’s no space for whimsical flights of fancy around here.’

It’s a missed opportunity.

Good business writing solves problems. Both of communication — finding new and better ways to get the message across. And for the reader — what do they need and want to know? Solving problems requires creativity.

Putting on the mask

When we come to work, in a bid to sound professional, we ditch our everyday conversational language and switch to a strange, semi-formal jargon. It’s all ‘bandwidth’ this and ‘circle back to align on quarterly objectives’ the other. This language is a disguise we wear to convince others, and ourselves, that we know what we’re talking about. 

I’m not fooled. Talk like that down the pub and get laughed at. Anyone I’ve ever met who really knew their onions was able to tell me about their area of expertise in human terms. Sharing anecdotes, painting pictures with words. Clarity, simplicity, everyday language — those traits convey authority. And authority wins the reader’s trust.

People know this. That’s why storytelling has been a buzzword in marketing for years. Few brands do it well. Real stories contains setbacks and failures. Companies are nervous of talking about when they got it wrong. But if you’re honest about your mistakes, people don’t think less of you — they admire your transparency and perseverance.

Communication and relationship building in the real world is based on creativity: telling stories that help us make our point in interesting and engaging ways. The best business writing is creative too. To get away from unhelpful habits that make marketing copy boring and inhuman, put away the PowerPoint and pick up a pad and pen.

Need a creative copywriter to tackle your communication challenge? Get in touch and tell me your story.

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Redefining the BrewDog tone of voice

BrewDog logo 4b11ac7e9970082a62dd5ee03b79aecf - Redefining the BrewDog tone of voice


From new punk on the block to principled heavyweight. Thanks to BrewDog’s success, the much-loved beer brand outgrew its category and created an exciting new problem for itself. Namely, how a new, maturer BrewDog tone of voice should sound. I was brought in by Made Thought to help develop a new written personality for the brand. I love drinking BrewDog beers so writing words for the Scottish firm was a treat.


They smashed the system. Next they had to build a new one. As an established company, BrewDog wanted to reach out beyond its hardcore craft ale fanbase. The idea was to attract beer drinkers who might have been put off by the previous ‘burn it all down’ approach. I explored this theme with new copy for the BrewDog manifesto, packaging, and campaign ideas.


My creative work fed into the new-look BrewDog you’ll have seen on supermarket shelves and billboard campaigns all over the country. I won’t claim I’m directly responsible (because I’m not) but BrewDog happens to be the UK’s fastest growing food and drinks brand. I like to think I did my bit.

What the client said

“Mother of Christ! That’s awesome.”

Nick Marshall, Senior Partner – Made Thought

BrewDog sample content

Ad concepts

Things not to say at a BrewDog bar

#1 “Have you got any ‘normal’ beer”?


You have 8,000 taste buds. 

Play to the crowd.


You kids and your ‘flavour’


A taste bud only lives for 10 days

Give it a good send-off

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No One Cares

Customers get angry if you don't think about them

Or the Importance of Really Thinking About Your Customers

I sell myself as a copywriter. Someone who writes copy. And that’s what I am. People need copy. I write it. Supply follows demand. It’s a relationship that works and allows me to pay my mortgage. 

But before I put pen to paper for a new client, there’s an important piece of creative, therapeutic, sometimes even painful, work that has to happen.

The first stage, let’s call it discovery, is fascinating and revealing. 

During the first stage, I’m not a copywriter. I’m a guide, a consultant (shiver), a psychologist.

I’m all of these things as I help my new client navigate the marketing wasteland they inhabit at the time. In this communication desert, there is a single reigning philosophy: 

Everything our company does is wonderful and interesting to the outside world

In my experience, this type of thinking is especially prevalent in B2B companies, but B2C companies are guilty of it too. 

It’s poppycock.

Together, hand in hand, we walk across the burning plains of self-obsession and arrive at the oasis of life-giving truth. It’s here we encounter the single most important fact about copywriting:

No-one cares.

They do not give a shit about you or your company. 

Why should they?

They have bills to pay.

Kids to raise.

A dog to walk.

A car that won’t start.

A crappy relationship.

Dreams they’re shooting for and others they’ve shelved.

In short, they have a life.

Unless your web copy, email, advert, brochure, whatever, shows how what you do improves that life, expect to be ignored.

Copywriting, commercial writing, marketing writing, business writing. Call it what you want. It’s not literature or journalism. People don’t curl up with it by the fire or read it to keep up with current affairs.

They read it because they want something.

A cure for their headache.

A refreshing alcoholic beverage (more on that in a minute).

A sophisticated annual report to help them stand out and strengthen relationships with their stakeholders.

So give them the thing they want.

What happens now?

Realising no one cares, an experience that’s both terrifying and liberating, creates two minimum requirements for the next piece of marketing you create. 

  1. It needs to be focused on the reader
  2. It needs to be good

Here’s a made-up example.

Your company makes beer. You sell the beer in cans. In shops. You’ve just invented a new widget that keeps the beer in the can colder for longer once it’s out of the fridge. Stone the crows, this is excellent. I’m already sold.

Problem is, you’re more interested in the process of creating the widget than the impact it has on your customers.

How to throw money away

You contact me to write an article all about how developing the new widget took five years and thousands of hours. You want to describe in detail the way it works by allowing the thingamajig to extract the whatchamacallit 25% faster than the old widget. You tell me you need to include bios of the team involved. Descriptions of the equipment used. And, of course, a massive pat on the back for our wonderful CEO without whom none of this would have been possible (she was actually playing golf). 

This is where one of the main benefits of hiring a freelance copywriter kicks in—the objective opinion.

This is the point at which I politely remind you that no one cares.

But cold beer for longer?

Your customers care about that. That’s something to shout about. 

Now we’ve got a ticket to the glorious world where we’re solving people’s problems and making their lives better. 

It’s an unlikely example because beer companies are among the best at marketing.

But making this shift, from inward-looking to outward-facing, from introspection to empathy, can apply to any company, any sector, anywhere. 

It drastically improves your marketing. In fact, unless you’re doing this it’s not even marketing. It’s just wallpaper. Or an internal memo.

People are wonderful but they’re also selfish (a lot of the time). They’re most interested in themselves. So empathise with them, speak to them, get into their world.

Or, if you like being ignored, keep on posting updates from the CEO.

Need an objective opinion about your next marketing project? I’d be happy to oblige. 

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