The #1 Communication Error Brands Make

Have you ever dated someone for years and still felt like you didn’t know who they were? That’s what it felt like to write for a brand that kept its message, goal, and backstory vague. In both situations, a person holding their cards too close to their chest for too long in a relationship or a brand curating their image and withholding information—trust and credibility could never grow. Trust and credibility build loyalty, not excessive mystery. Excessive mystery grows stale in time because it’s a wall you can’t climb. Thus, if you think your brand will succeed with vagueness and masks instead of vulnerability and specifics, your brand will likely be seen with distrust and apathy.

Artificial Flavoring: Where’s the Substance?

Let’s say a research program wants to convince people to offer DNA for their research purposes. Their copy says things along the order of, “The future starts with you!” and their brand ambassadors chirp the typical sales pitch of, “I gave my information and I’m excited I contributed to health!” How persuasive are such statements? Not very. Yes, a testimonial that I too enrolled in the program or have the shoes you’re looking at can often be effective, but with DNA, doesn’t that seem almost patronizingly vague and sugar-coated?

“Give Us Your DNA and We’ll Give You An Amazon Gift Card After!”

Instead, think of how much more effective the research program is when it asks everyone “How many of you wear prescription eye glasses?” and then proceeds to explain how individualized eyesight can be and how eyeglasses are specialized to individuals and that this research program is based on precision medicine and collecting details on individuals in order to better understand how to customize health care and medicine to their circumstances and genetics and proclivities. Now, that specificity with a concrete example helps define their research program in a far more effective and persuasive way than n abstract, watered down Disneyland approach where they simply urge, “You’ll contribute to health! Just give us your blood and urine, and we’ll give you an Amazon gift card right after!” I am not exaggerating—this is an actual approach to convince people to contribute and it’s egregiously Black Mirror esque. Communication is paramount and the method of incentive is revealing. A research program that has vague copy and incentive based on entertainment gift cards, instead of the impact of the research itself seems suspect.

Glossing Over The Purpose and Privacy

“We’re collecting personal information for the future of science!” and “we keep your info private” are more vague statements that tell prospective participants nothing about why they should give their info and what actual steps the company takes to keep it private. A trustworthy person or brand is transparent and open to concerns. They’ll adjust their communication so that trust and comfort can be built.

But What If A Brand Isn’t Cutesy or Easily Condensed?

Now, sometimes, as may be the case with this research program example, a message is just hard to explain because of the jargon and complex science behind it. Sometimes, it’s easier said than done to be specific and avoid generalities. How do you balance losing your audience and gaining their trust? After all, aren’t those vague taglines I just berated an appeal to emotion that lures people and then leads to more specifics? Yes and no. The problem with this perspective is that it’s a fear-based mindset. It’s scarcity focused. It assumes failure by revealing more than the “fun” aspect. Plus, it’s assuming that people will turn away and refuse to understand rather than realizing that people are exhausted from scams and ads and dupes and find specificity reassuring, not boring. If your message and product and goals are noble and valuable, then getting into them in detail should not trigger you unless you yourself feel uneasy about identifying them or believing them.

Never Shy Away From Specificity

Copywriters and brands, if you’re ever in a position where you’re urged to stay shallow and not dive deep, question why. Brands putting forth quality products with sincere goals never shy away from specificity. If you think that specificity is overexposure and that people respond better to simple, broader messages, realize that that assumption comes more from your fear of customers’ turning away than the reality of how trust and loyalty is built.  Read a Brene Brown book on leadership and innovation and you’ll realize that copy that works will never hide from specificity. These are the kinds of conversations we have at WriterAccess every day: clients and copywriters aim to be transparent and specific, both in work expectations and content because we value trust and credibility above all.

 

Samantha S writes direct, dynamic, digestible copy for any purpose and any medium. To inform, persuade, or entertain. Her writing catches and holds people’s attention because it’s accessible and easily absorbed. As both a detail-oriented and big picture thinker, she’s precise with technical aspects and insightful with overarching themes. She can shift from sparkling and conversational to no-nonsense and informative. She has written for apps, games, websites, literary journals, trade magazines, newspapers, e-commerce brands and health//nutrition brands.


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