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Word Power: Copywriting Best Practices for Retail

What would life be without words? Through words we receive and give instruction, communicate during collaboration, notify people of dangerous situations, recommend goods and services, and commit to relationships. This is serious stuff. It’s serious enough for your business to put heavy time, investment, and resources in making sure the words that comprise your messages are aligned with your brand and expectations. Unfortunately, many businesses fail here … miserably. The ingredients for success here are consistency in strategy (a plan), a love for the art of copywriting, team players, and the ability and willingness to call an audible from your plan when a situation calls for it.

This article takes a macro approach and won’t teach you how to be the next David Ogilvy (who you’ll hear from in a moment). Our aim is to go beyond giving you a list of copywriting tips and give you copywriting best practices for retail from our product-related experiences and marketing insights. What we cover can and should be applied to sales and marketing collateral, ads, blogs, social media copy, product descriptions, packaging copy, and retail display copy. Of course each medium calls for a unique approach but it’s the knowledge of what the brand stands for at its core that will make each initiative a success.

We’re not going to sugar coat things either. Excellent copy for retail takes hard work and dedicated involvement from design, marketing, product, sales, and communications. The good news is that it’s all about your comfort zone and knowing how to let your customers into that zone through excellent copywriting and planning. And all this is for the purpose of your business putting together and unleashing a marketing strategy and writing copy that results in sales. David Ogilvy said it best:

“When I write an advertisement, I don’t want you to
tell me that you find it ‘creative.’
I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product.”
– David Ogilvy


Brand Personality

Brand personality is simply what your brand represents. It could be a social cause, a specific code of ethics, higher quality products and price, lower quality products and price, a family-owned feel, or excellent customer service. It’s important you take time to talk to your team to develop what you want your brand to be and how to express it in words. As it relates to copy, a brand’s personality is often expressed in a mission statement or slogan. For example, Dr. Pepper’s trademarked slogan is “Always One of a Kind.”

Being aware of your brand personality is beyond important. Actually, it’s a non-negotiable. It’s necessary because you can’t logically apply words to something about which you don’t know. Also, not knowing your brand’s personality will have your business going wherever the wind takes you.

Do you know the words that describe your brand? And do they align with the words you’d want your ideal customers to use when describing you? A disconnect here will result in several negative occurrences including internal staff and customer confusion, negative press, and decreased sales. Aligned internal and external perceptions lead to a trusted brand. This is also a great way to create unique space between you and your competitors.


Strategy Precedes Production

To ensure that your copy will result in growth for your business, you must first have a strategy. Many things are taken into account for crafting a strong strategy, the most important one being your targeted audience. If you’re not sure who your targeted audience should be then it’s time for you take a step back and evaluate your business from that perspective. Think about who will benefit the most from your product/service and tailor your copy and content to them. But even before that, conduct a tried and true copywriting exercise of crafting client/customer/user personas. This practice calls for you to actually write a biography for each of your target customers. You’re essentially getting to know your customers before they encounter your service or product. Start there and then your team can tailor your marketing, product and packaging, and retail display design to them.

Speaking of retail display design, we’re a big fan of the quite effective “Zoom Out, Zoom In” strategy. We take this approach in our retail display design methodology, but your copy must be in synch with the mission. The “Zoom Out, Zoom In” strategy calls for your retail display copy to incorporate short phrasing that will appear in a large font that speaks directly to your target demographic (zoom out). As your target customer approaches the display, the strategy calls for longer copy (whether it’s on a panel or expressed through a video) to not only speak to your target customer but to engage them and bring them to a buying decision (zoom in). This strategy works like a charm because it attracts, draws in, engages, and influences your target customer from far away and up close.

A consistent brand image will give customers peace of mind because they’ll know exactly what they’ll get when they purchase from you. Set up a strategy with several milestones and checkpoints and always A/B test your copy for all channels. A/B testing is essentially crafting multiple versions of your copy or other marketing units and seeing which version(s) perform the best. This way you’ll be able to measure how well your strategy is holding up to your expectations and pivot if necessary.


All In Together

The phrase “we’re all in this together” and “teamwork makes the dream work” is vital to a business’s success. It’s not some flashy slogan that gets thrown around; it’s the real deal. A business consists of many departments and each one has to work in unison to get the right result. The same goes for creating copy for a brand. If each department doesn’t “come to the table” when writing and evaluating copy and content then your organization is essentially leaving the success of your campaign(s) and sales up to chance. Use all the talent, insight, and experience at your disposal within your organization. Even the most talented copywriter can only work with the information he or she is given. Therefore it’s only right that your organization arms him or her with information and guidance that’s been filtered through the collective efforts of important internal stakeholders. After all, the goal is for your organization to distribute and use copy that will produce big wins for your business.

For example, if your sportswear business’s content writing agency produces content about a new shirt line without insight from your designers and product samples and testimonials from your sales team, your marketing department could receive thousands of words of fluff and filler that doesn’t align with your brand’s mission for the line. This can result in delays for your release and generally throw off the rhythm and energy of the initiative. Don’t let this example be your company. It takes hard work to coordinate schedules, roles, and personalities, but the successful end result is always worth the sweat.


A ‘Natural’ Example

Good copy, especially in advertising, sets a mood. REI (Recreational Equipment Inc.) does a great job at this. Whether you’re in their store or looking at one of their ads, they inspire you to get outside. Though a lot of their branding is highly visual, their copy always supports the imagery and helps intensify the viewer’s motivations for getting outside to play.

REI camping advertisement

REI writes a majority their copy in connection with the different seasons. When you visit their website during the summer, you’ll likely see a photo of a camper holding a marshmallow-oozing s’more with big bold copy reading, “MAKE SUMMER EPIC.” It’s simple but effective.

They also tailor their copy to a specific outdoor activity. One of their hiking-focused ads leads with the copy, “CAN A DAY HIKE MAKE YOUR WEEK?” and resolves with a simple call-to-action of “FIND OUT” (which is their slogan). Though the seasons and activities change, their mission to get you to your next adventure through good copy and images is consistent.

Is your business putting enough focus on your copywriting efforts for your retail initiatives? Our hope is that our insights will help you write consistent and engaging copy for all your marketing and retail needs. Once your strategy is in place, you can call on us at Crux Retail to turn your vision and copy into an intelligently designed and engineered retail display.

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