Effective marketing copy: “A rest is a note, too.”
Dizzy Gillespie famously said of his work in jazz music, “It’s taken me all my life to learn what notes not to play.” Such is the art of jazz improv, and such is the art in writing copy for marketing materials.
We are classically trained and instinctively inclined to take great pride in the text we write for our websites, brochures, advertisements, newsletters, trade show booths, etc. Think of the countless hours one pours into drafting, editing, re-writing, re-reviewing, passing through legal, and finalized marketing copy. Think of the painstaking precision and pedantic pride we place on each word, punctuation mark and clause. It’s hours, is it not?
Consider, too, that our natural inclination is to tell the whole story. We practically can’t stop ourselves. In fact, therein lies the problem.
Too often, what results is WAY too much text, to the point that, in its entirety, it has little to no effect.
And here’s your reader’s dirty little secret: They didn’t read even a fraction of it. Like, less than 10%.
It’s taken me all my life to learn what notes not to play.
— Dizzy Gillespie
Consider how you consume marketing messages, be they on websites, in ads or in brochures. How much do you actually read? Or, are you like most, whereby you simply get a “feel” from a given website, brochure or ad, and that most of the message conveyed is not through the written word at all?
So Why Do We Waste Our Time?
It’s not that effective copywriting is unnecessary or a dying art. It’s just that the game has changed. A lot. It’s been said before, but it’s true: We live in an era in which even a full 140-character tweet seems like a lot to read. Our attention spans are shortening, and data is proliferating exponentially. We’re constantly inundated by marketing and other messages. So our eyes and brains are trained to take rests. We move away from the words, and off to the images. We’ll consume less data more completely and with enduring impact far more effectively than we will the “whole story” that takes time, mindshare and concentration to read, digest and commit to our attentions.
- Take what you’ve written and cut it back. Way back. Perhaps as much as 90%.
- Distill your message down to its critical core. What is the one thing you need your audience to take away from a given experience with one of your marketing assets?
- Say that, and only that.
- Then allow the user to dive deeper for more information.
This won’t make the copywriting any easier—quite the contrary. But it will have far greater impact on the consumer of your brand message. And don’t feel bad if it doesn’t come as easy as A-B-C or 1-2-3. After all, it took Dizzy Gillespie his entire life to figure it out. As a former musician myself, I can assure you that a rest is a note, too.
What do you think? Which of these ads below do you think delivers a greater impact on an audience?