How to write copy that’s unignorable

“That kid is the only one who comes in through the door and goes out through the window.”

These were my nan’s words to my mum when I was 3, after another visit where it looked like a Tasmanian devil had been let loose in her living room. I was a hyperactive little tornado, always up for adventure.

So when I was knocking about with my best mate Tom in the late 80s, I wouldn’t just open his back garden gate like a normal kid, but boot it open, full force.

Tom’s gate was built into the brick wall that surrounded his garden, and kick after kick after kick eventually took its toll, one scorching Friday afternoon.

Unlucky for Tom, he was right behind me when I struck the fatal blow.

As I wellied his gate open for the fifth and final time that day, the bricks above us came crashing down. I took a couple to the head, but Tom got the worst of it. I reckon he got 5 or 6, full-pelt, to the top of his bonce. The weight alone sent both of us to the deck.

What would Brian say???

When the gravity of the situation dawned on me, I wasn’t arsed about my wounds, just that I’d demolished a quarter of the garden wall. My only thought: “What would Brian say???” (Tom’s dad)

As it turns out, Brian, wasn’t that bothered about his wall. He was just glad we were okay. He rebuilt it quickly enough, with a plank of timber to strengthen the frame. Here’s how it looks today…

But even though it’s remained sturdy to this day, I’ve never looked at that gate the same way. The unexpected shock, etched in my memory. Forever drawing my glances whenever I walk past.

Because sometimes, that’s all it takes for you to get (and keep) people’s attention – something out of the blue that shakes them awake from their daily trudge through life.

Make your stuff scream

Everyone’s so wrapped up in their own lives, that your marketing needs to look, feel or sound like nothing else, or people won’t allow it to interrupt their routines.

“Our job is to resist the usual”

Raymond Rubicam

The very second you prevent people from ignoring you, you might even see their behaviour change — d’you think I’ve ever kicked a back door open since then? Not a chance.

Don’t do anything too drastic that could tarnish your reputation, but try things they’re not expecting. It can start with small changes to your copy.

Stop banging on about yourself

People don’t care how delighted you are to announce a new product, or how proud you are of your rebrand, and the last thing they need is a dull welcome to your website.

Instead, make everything about your reader. Shock them, make them laugh (or at least smile), make them think, and above all, let them know how you’ll improve their life. Use human language too.

Some examples

Here are four fictional pieces showing how you can easily ditch the drab and open your reader’s eyes by writing what they’re not expecting to read…

Social media post about a new product

“We are delighted to add Forestry Studies to our range of courses.”

“Deforestation killed off 16 species in 2016. But you already knew that.”

Email about a rebrand

“We’re proud to reveal our newly redesigned website…”

Do you notice anything different? It’s more than a lick of paint…”

Website welcome message

“Welcome to our ultra-premium dog food website.”

Fun (and a bit risky)
“The most requested last meal on Doggy Death Row.”

A press ad for a new vacuum cleaner

“Proudly introducing our new self-cleaning vacuum.”

“Say hello to the vacuum you’ll NEVER have to empty!”

Five more easy ways to zig while everyone else is zagging are:

  • Tell stories to entice people in
  • Use emojis in your subject lines
  • Be personal — people love a real life tale
  • Make big promises, and deliver
  • Avoid puns (everyone else uses them)

Do you struggle to set yourself apart from your competitors? Does your tone of voice lack a little personality? Either way, get in touch and I’ll help you become irresistible.

11 thoughts on “How to write copy that’s unignorable

  1. I am SOOOOO glad I stumbled over your profile on LinkedIn. You have made me laugh out loud in a living room full of sleeping kittens. You have made me question the ‘norm’ and I like that. I hate to do as others do. NOW to go repaint my website…something in the back of my mind kept thinking it was too sterile. I need to give it character.

    Can we be besties?

  2. Great read and very useful. We’re constantly upgrading and purchasing new equipment, so these ideas are really useful – not too sure about Doggy Death Row, but hey, what do I know! 😊

  3. I was a dog food tester once ie stand in the aisle pitching a certain brand of dog food.
    The brand was saying: We are proud to say we don’t use corn in our dog food.
    I would say: Do you want to clean up less dog shit?

  4. I’m happy to have read this. I know for a fact that your words will stay on when I think of my next copy. Thank you!

  5. I am delighted to have found you on LinkedIn….. Oh no that’s not right, let me try again…..

    Genius, straight to the point, insightful. Thanks for sharing 👍

  6. I needed a laugh this morning and definitely got one when I came across your profile on LinkedIn… Hilarious yet informative at the same time.

  7. No puns? But I love my punnet full of puns. What about innuendos? Huh? Huuuuh? Or are you thunderstorming on my parade today? Don’t make me regret finding you … I’m not like all these other lovey dovey people sidling up in your comments!

    ps: the post’s unforgettable 😉

  8. Like many others here, I too discovered your amazing brand of writing on LinkedIn, and I’m so glad I signed up for your newsletter! As someone who has always struggled to sound less bombastic and less—well, bipolar, it’s a welcome relief to find a mentor who can teach me to use my “wild words” to my advantage.

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