Join Ian Lurie for an in-depth discussion in this video Types of marketing copywriting, part of Writing Marketing Copy.
Think of every way you talk to a customer. You describe your product. You talk about how your product will help them. You tell stories of others who have used it. You describe your company. You relate a story that shows customers you think like they do. You write a script for a video, a commercial, or an audio spot. For every one of these, there are two or three types of marketing copy. Now there are three ways to classify copywriting. By collateral. For example, letter versus brochure, versus webpage. By medium.
Think of video versus print, versus online. By style. Think of the hard sell versus the scare, versus the straight shot. Anything you write, will fit somewhere into each classification. There are infinite variations on each one, but there's some typical types I can describe. I'm going to review each one briefly and why and when you might use them. First, there's collateral. These are the types that most folks know. You generally set out to or hired to write a brochure or something similar. It's better though, if you know which type works best for which situation.
That way, you can make the right choice of collateral, or give your client or boss some great advice. First is the brochure, online or off, this is usually the first thing any of us write. It's a great catch all, that includes the call to action, the product or message, a bit about your organization, and sometimes a softer piece about what makes you or your company unique. Brochures are great as a leave behind, for meetings and sales calls. They're also great as a take away in your office or your trade show booth. Online, a brochure is a good first website or a downloaded take away.
In a brochure, the call to action is more subtle and may show up in different ways. Consider a brochure the introduction or ongoing conversation, not the final handshake. The direct marketing piece. At some point you have to push your call to action to existing customers or people you think might be great customers. You most often do so using email or direct mail. If brochures are a catch all, direct marketing is generally the exact opposite. Don't confuse direct marketing with permission based informational content, such as instructional email series or teaching booklets.
Direct marketing is all about the pitch. All direct marketing is delivered to the consumer in a situation where that consumer may feel like you're intruding a bit. That makes it the trickiest of all copywriting. You have to communicate significance and deliver value, from the first sentence to the last. Use direct marketing copy when you're trying to access a whole new audience or reestablish contact with an old one or a bit of both. Direct marketing copywriting is an art in and of itself. It also gets a bad rap, because most direct marketing is so awful.
But great marketing delivers values to those who need it, when they need it. Direct marketing does that too. The poster. This could be a print poster, a single webpage, or a billboard. Posters require brief, super punchy text that communicates a lot of information in a small space. Generally, the graphic element will dominate, where the text doubles as the graphic. Use a poster to communicate your brand, reinforce a message folks will encounter elsewhere, or to lead people to your website, booth, store, or elsewhere to get more information.
The call to action in poster will often be get more information, even if you don't actually say that. The script. A script usually serves as the guide for a non written message. I wrote a script for this course. You probably won't read it. Instead, I'm up here using the script as I speak. Scripts drive video, audio, animation, and other motion or non written marketing. Use them when you are using a non written form of marketing. The call to action may be subtle, or repeated thirty times. It depends entirely on the audience or product.
The one-liner. Use for business cards, social media posts, or those humongous banners airplanes tow around behind them. Unless it's on a poster or other full creative, the one-liner might have to work out of context. There's rarely a supporting graphic. And even if there is, you have to assume it might not be present when the readers see it. The product description. Somewhere, somehow, you have to describe whatever it is you're selling. This can be part of a brochure or another kind of collateral, or can live on its own in an online store or catalog.
The call to action is implicit in a buy now or call now request. Use product descriptions when the customer is well into the buying process. They've already read that first bit of text in the direct mail piece, or they've clicked through your homepage and are perusing your wares. The next big category is medium. This doesn't require a whole lot of description. Online, print, radio, they're all media. So is in person like a speech. Mobile, social media, or website are not. Those are channels. A medium is pipe over which the message passes, not the environment in which the audience receives it.
The medium may or may not impact the collateral and style. I have to say that I don't often find that it does, but you may see it differently and I'll leave it at that. The final category is style. Copywriting style is unique to each writer and product, but there are certain styles that are best for different tactics. Teaching, the lowest key style. Teaching helps folks learn first and offers a call to action second. Use teaching when you'd be comfortable if people simply bought the product or took action in somewhere, even if they didn't buy from you.
The call to action is please understand why you need this. I've built my entire company around the teaching style. We tell our audience exactly how we do what we do. That sounds crazy, but what we do is really complicated. By teaching, we show our audience what they need and why they need us, while also taking away the air of mystery. Folks appreciate it, and they buy from us. The straight shot. You describe what you have, why yours is best, and then deliver the call to action. This is the most common style.
Use it if you think your audience is ready to buy, and that they understand why they need your product. They just haven't chosen it yet. It's often low key, points out features and then leaves it to the audience to take action. The laugher. You present your message and call to action by making your audience laugh. You can use self-deprecating humor, make fun of people who don't buy your product, or present a funny version of the scare tactic. See the next style for that. Use this style if you know your audience appreciates a laugh. But use it sparingly. It's fun, but it's also very easy to offend your entire audience.
It can really blow up in your face if you're not careful. The scare tactic. This is exactly what it sounds like. You deliver your call to action by saying, do this or bad stuff will happen. Think of messages where people need something for their own safety. Fasten your seat belt, don't drink and drive, don't smoke. If it takes a good scare to save people from all manner of trouble, I'm okay with it. Use the scare tactic when you think people will respond and there's more at stake than a sale. The Hard Sell. Buy now! Sunday, Sunday, Sunday! Like the Scare Tactic, this style has a bad reputation.
But you can use it if you're in a crowded market, and your competition is fairly low key. Or, you can use it to shout down hard selling competition. It's a challenge to do it right without coming off as simply tacky. The people best at it are the great pitchmen and women. They write a fantastic script and then deliver it with more power than anyone else. The hard sell usually repeats the call to action sandwiched between the reasons you'd want the product. Neither collateral nor medium should dictate style. You can apply any style to just about any kind of collateral or medium.
Knowing the types and styles of marketing copywriting help you make a deliberate choice when you write. Most writers will have one or two comfortable styles. But as a marketing copywriter, you have to adjust your style based on collateral and so forth. So come back now and then and review this list. It'll help you do a better job over your career.
- What is copywriting?
- Writing the first draft
- Writing and testing headlines
- Structuring copy for print vs. online delivery
- Using typography effectively
- Rewriting copy
- Managing a team of copywriters