“Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”
–Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
A great copywriter never falls in love. And if he does, he strays: often, freely, and with cold-hearted detachment. From his words, that is.
Here’s the thing: the point of commercial content and copywriting isn’t to exude a clever turn of phrase. The point is to take your reader through a journey that starts where their head is, and ends where their heart is. The end goal? To cause them to fall in love with, to become enamored by, to not be able to go another day without whatever it is you’re selling. The words themselves are almost beside the point.
This is counterintuitive, verging on blasphemous, particularly for word nerds. Based on my daily conversations with companies that need copywriting services, it certainly isn’t the norm. Clients and writers alike believe that copywriters are in the business of flawless grammar, of massive vocabularies, of pithy metaphors and dazzling analogies. Well, sure. But they are incidental. In my view, the meat of a copywriter’s job is to gather clear-cut business insights, then apply a vast toolkit to these insights to open game-changing doorways. To be clear, words serve strategy—not the other way around. So your strategy had better be both apt—and powerful.
How it goes wrong is akin to infatuation. The writer seizes on a concept, say about love at first word. The writer forms an instinctive—even primal—attachment to an ankle, a preposition, the curve of a thigh or tagline. He then starts developing the concept, without keeping his priorities in check. Heart full of lust, he builds a fantasy, knowing it’s beautiful, and praying it will fulfill. He commits—without a complete awareness of whether this will meet his needs or, er, his client’s objectives. And it doesn’t. He falls headlong, but by then, it is too late.
Don’t do it. Don’t settle for a copywriter that attaches to love’s first blush, and can’t take things further. Ask for samples, read them carefully, and then ask the copywriter—or copywriting agency—what the objectives were, what the brand represents, and whether the twain actually met. Make sure the answer is one you can take home to your mom, er, your boss—not something that’s fit for a quick fling, an immediate heartbreak, and a costly and unfortunate rewrite.
Looking for ordained copywriters, ready to marry poetry with purpose? Please reach out to us! We’d be happy to discuss your engagement in more detail.