Copywriter or designer, chef or scaffolder, your job will always be easier if you are working for a brand that has a strong identity you love.
When luxury homeware brand The Linen Works asked me to write product descriptors for their website re-launch, I said yes before knowing the specifics.
I am lucky enough to count owner Larissa Cairns as a friend but I had admired The Linen Works long before we met. Their slow-living philosophy promotes enduring, pared-back style and time spent enjoying life’s simple pleasures.
It permeates everything they do, from the luxurious, timeless linen they create and sell to the tone of voice they use in all their copy.
They are a brand that values words. For a copywriter, there is nothing better.
Words can all too often be overlooked in favour of imagery when it comes to constructing mood for a website. Yet words create ambience, connect with the reader and, crucially, convey USP in just a few sentences.
Unlike images, words can be repeated throughout a website, reminding the reader of a company’s sensibilities – this is the very essence of a keyword.
Capturing the brand in words
The first task for a copywriter is to adapt his or her natural style to that of the client. This is more complex when the brand has established a strong identity; it's also what makes it worthwhile.
On the one hand, it provides a clear guide of what, how and why to write, a template for the copywriter to follow. On the other, there is no scope for deviation and it get take time to truly hone in to the style.
For The Linen Works, the copy had to interpret their slow-living ethos. This I evoked with flowing sentences, emotive sentiment and sensory imagery.
These were words to be read and savoured, not skimmed.
Luxury was conveyed in a carefully chosen lexicon: ‘sumptuous’, ‘elegant’, ‘exceptionally soft’. I avoided the bland and meaningless ‘perfect’ wherever possible.
Phrasing was sophisticated in keeping with the company’s demographic; the audience is well educated and successful, so I did not shy away from polysyllabic vocabulary.
Tonally, the copy was friendly, clever, confident and inspiring, as specified in the brand book. (It is worth asking new clients for a digital copy of their brand book if they have one. If not, other written materials or a mission statement can be useful reading before you start the job).
Making technical writing beautiful
Technical writing style varies depending on the company. Bigger companies err towards technical specification – whether a product is machine-washable, say, or if it comes with a warranty. Prose is kept short in favour of bullet pointed information.
In contrast, smaller brands seek to create a relationship with their clients so there is scope to be creative and tell a story. Their customers invest emotionally and are more inclined to spend time reading a narrative.
Yet even small business will offer a number of similar products within a range. They might offer five varieties of napkin – how do you create an individual narrative for each?
Believe it or not, every product has a USP; it can just be harder to discern when the products are similar.
There are three key factors around which you can hang your narrative.
The first is purpose. What is this particular item designed for: practicality, or beauty? Is it meant for day-to-day use, or is it better given as a gift?
Next, to whom does this item appeal? Is your customer in need of a quick fix to solve a problem, or are they making a considered purchase? You might think about here soft vs hard selling. For The Linen Works, the products speak for themselves, no hard sell required.
Finally, think about the inspiration behind the product. Has it been designed in homage to a particular style? Influenced by a location or region, or the designer’s personal experience? Any of these provide a useful foundation for building your copy.
Whilst it is important to differentiate each product, there must be continuity across the whole site.
A brand with a strong voice will have already established not SEO keywords as well as stylistic keywords.
Once you have chosen your angle, populate your copy with style keywords as much as you see fit. The repetition will create continuity but these are words your customers like to see, so the copy won't seem mundane.
Structure is also key. If you begin with long, flowing sentences, maintain them throughout. Your copy will start to change as you get more of a handle on the brand’s tone of voice. Once you have finished, go back to the start and check.
Writing for a brand with a strong voice might seem daunting at first. Having left your instinctual style at the door, it can take time to affect your client’s style.
But such jobs are joyous for copywriters. These are the brands that know the value of words and the impact they can have.
Your work and effort will be recognised and the result is something that both and your client will be supremely proud of.