Humanizing the Copy: Marketing and Characterization
If you’re a freelance marketing writer with an academic and/or literary background, you’ll be happy to realize that our love of stories can refine our freelance work, making it more marketable and enhancing the reputation of both our employers and ourselves. As a new freelancer, I’m discovering this: what makes my blog posts, articles, product descriptions, and marketing writing stand out and impress is my comprehension of character. Good marketers know this too: you need an understanding of human motivation and personality to market something well.
A character in a story—which is really what the consumer targeted in advertising is—has a context. She exists within circumstances, feels emotions, asks questions, makes decisions, learns things, and interacts with others. Elements of human behavior will bring your marketing writing to life, even in a short product description.
Dramatic scenario. Envision the customer’s needs, questions and emotions, placing them in a real situation. A “dramatic” situation doesn’t have to be unusual, but should be a relatable, human, ordinary situation that probably involves a problem to be solved. Stories are premised on conflict, and advertising is premised on needs or problems that the product will address.
Focus on people, not products. Learning that an “auto wrap” is a colorful form of advertising that can adhere to the side of your vehicle may be mildly interesting. But it’s far more catchy this way: “Have you ever been stuck in traffic, glancing at the trucks and vans around you, and tried NOT to read what they say? People can’t help reading your auto wrap …” That was my first-ever marketing blog post, and my employer was so impressed he recommended me to a colleague, who also hired me.
Method Acting. Like an actor, imagine your way into the customer’s mind, feelings, circumstances, and motivations (that’s known as “The Method”). If you’re writing about engagement rings and you’ve never been engaged, no problem. You know or can imagine plenty about the anxieties accompanying the giddy excitement.
Plot and Narrative. Any good story needs movement. Envision the narrative arc of a business, product or process. For instance, marketing a new health product might allude to the evolution of opinions on the healthfulness of eggs, milk, soy, etc. The character focus comes when you ask yourself how a person might feel about the conflicting and confusing information circulating about health.
Dialogue. People will read your copy if it talks to them, if they perceive themselves in it. Sit in a public place and eavesdrop, with a notebook, on people. Listen to their words, phrases, exclamations and reactions. Practice altering your tone for different audiences and crafting a multivocal symphony of words.
Overall, the more you revel in language—the words you read, write, and hear—the more that linguistic aptness and perfect turn of phrase will add éclat to your marketing writing. Not everyone will notice or care, but over time, quality, literate writing and imaginative ideas will garner respect.
Celestine W is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.