Introduction to Copywriting
Copywriting—the “make it or break it” of marketing. The pinnacle of creativity, the cherry on the cake that can convert a customer or drive them away.
It’s not easy, but it’s a beast that can be tamed.
Regardless of what anyone may say, the words don’t always just magically ‘come to you’ as people like to boast when asked, “how did you come up with that?” It’s a skill that can be honed through practice, by learning how to master some key elements of any language.
And in this article, we’ll dive into these key elements with great examples from companies out there putting them into action.
After reading, you may ask yourself, “well, great examples, but how do I use it?” Truly, the best way is to put it into practice and give it a shot yourself. There isn’t a guide to being creative—Picasso didn’t become Picasso by following a guide—but rather you have to put it into practice.
And this is our way of giving you a few tricks to have up your sleeve.
Anesis is a famous Greek term used in drama. It’s essentially concluding your statement with something that diminishes what has previously been stated, leading you down a different path than you expected.
For headlines, you need to be quick to cut the first line with the second. It’s often sarcastic and works well with humor. You just drive them towards one direction, then twist the other way.
Analogies span and cover a wide range of literary devices, such as metaphors, similes, symbolism, and allusion. But it’s essentially comparing two separate things, often considered unrelated, and finding a way to connect them. You see them everywhere. They’ve been around since the beginning of advertising. Such as this classic Volkswagen ad, which does so in just one simple word.
You can also hide the analogy while still making a clear connection. I will point out in this example, they broke a rather unwritten rule we should all be aware of: do not start your headline with the word “because,” …because it’s overdone.
You can eliminate that rule by re-wording it just a bit (ie: “Better than chewing deodorant”) or make it a rhetorical question (ie: “Would you rather chew deodorant?”). Either way, you can’t argue it’s a good analogy.
If you’re stuck on metaphors, another way out is a simile. The difference between metaphors and similes comes down to just two words: Similes contain the words “like” or “as,” making a clear distinction. If you write an analogy and it takes too long to figure out, try writing it as a simile (see example below).
Rhetorical Questions & Rhetorical Answers
We see these all the time. A question meant to not be answered, and instead you expect the viewer to work it out themselves.
Rhetorical questions can be found in all the other categories in this article, as it’s easy to take a headline written one way, and turn it into a question.
Rhetorical answers, as defined by Urban Dictionary, are “answers to a rhetorical question, what is asked to make a point, which is answered to make a point.” That’s where you put the twist.
An overstatement, exaggeration, or hyperbole is overexaggerating a concept until it’s clearly untrue, but still delivers the key message.
We use them every day without even noticing. “I died laughing,” is a common hyperbolic expression. This line from Jack Daniel’s hot whiskey makes outrageous claims about its heat.
Parallelism can be anything from a word, to a phrase, or a sentence. It’s fairly simple—you just repeat parts of the first sentence in the second. You can make them grammatically identical, or just similar in construction. You’re trying to create a recognizable form of symmetry. Here’s some great and short uses of parallelism from this campaign by Spotify.
Here’s another example from Diesel (note how the previous example uses copy only, and this one uses imagery to help with the messaging too):
This one’s simple and easy to get away with.
If you’re stuck comparing words or themes, see if you can find a few descriptors that start with the same letter or sound. It’s pretty straightforward, and more importantly, keeps it fun and catchy. Here’s one you might recognize (especially if you’re a woman):
Alliteration works great when the only visual you can use is the product itself. In the example below, note how Dodge used alliteration in its name (Dodge Durango) and in its tagline (Masterwork of Muscle). :
Some may argue it’s an easy way out, and doesn’t add the best twist. But if you can find adjectives that twist the perspective from one direction to another, you just might land on something worth writing.
Personification is a way of bringing the non-living subject to life by comparing it to the actions of a living being. It’s simple, straightforward, but still hits on the “unexpected” aspect. And a classic from Porsche. Says everything about its speed in just three words.
Facts & Stats
These are a good first kick at the can because you have a solid starting point. You just need to add your twist. You can use bizarre facts that fascinate, or real statistics with a line or insight that gives it a new meaning. The goal is to say something that takes the reader down an unexpected road.
Here’s a great example where Spotify took statistics from their user data, and connected it with the insight of a current event to add a twist. They’re not misleading you with the fact, but rather creating a satirical observation.
This one’s tough. Puns can go so wrong, so fast, and you should probably use them as a last resort. You can play off the meaning of a word, or you can twist and tweak the familiar into the unfamiliar. The biggest thing to remember is: don’t make it cheesy.
Here’s a great example from the Lebanon Lottery. The way its structured, there’s a wider playing field for some good, funny copy that all works with the ending clause.
It’s common to see idioms and everyday phrases used as puns, but a general rule-of-thumb is, the deeper the meaning, the less likely it is to be cheesy. The better the twist, the better the pun—so use it wisely, and sparingly.