Crowd control: why knowing your audience is the key to great content

Next time you need to communicate with your audience, take some time to think about life from their perspective. Who are you talking to? What do they want to read? What will make their life easier, quicker, more interesting, more fulfilling? What is that magic ingredient that will persuade them choose you over your competitor? Knowing your readers is the first step to drawing them closer: read on for three examples of brands that have me hooked.

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I love advertising, always have done, probably from the moment I first saw Coca-Cola teaching the world to sing in the 80’s. For me, the advent of autumn is heralded not by conkers on the ground, but by Waitrose TV ads where steaming apple pies sit on scrubbed farmhouse tables to a soundtrack of Keats’ Ode to Autumn. I was once told by someone far more experienced in these matters that a brand represents the emotional connection between an organisation and its audience: which makes me an advertiser’s dream, gullible as anything as long as they manage to trigger that emotional connection.

Long before I went freelance, I spent a fair few years as an in-house marketer. I worked on some incredibly valuable, household-name brands and had the opportunity to write for an array of different audiences: holiday makers, office managers, librarians and steelworkers to name but a few. When you manage a brand that has an impressive pedigree and a strong reputation in its market you become very proud of it – rightly so – but this can make it more difficult to prioritise your audience’s reference points above your product’s features.

One of the first conversations I’ll have with any client is not about their product or their offer, but about their audience.  Even small, family-run businesses that are adamant they have ‘never done any marketing before’ will know who their customers are – and therein lies the key to creating that engaging, compelling copy; copy that resonates where it needs to and leaves its audience desperate for a stronger connection. Once I have a clear picture of who my client wants to communicate with, it becomes far easier to create tone, style and content that will hit the mark and, as a result, add value.

Our emotional connections to the products and services we use are, by their nature, highly individual. Here are three examples of brands that use great copy to make my emotional connectors spark:

Loaf

Light-hearted, mischievous, tongue-in-cheek copy underpinned with an engaging brand story and a passion for British manufacturing, the furniture company Loaf compels me to read every page of its catalogue as soon as it lands on my doormat. Some of my favourite snippets include:

“Beds, sofas, knees and toes…”

“Our sofas put the ‘squish’ into ‘distinguished’”

“Lighting and mirrors and rugs… Oh My!”

…and the word-clever URL: loaf.com/kitchencaboodle

Learnings from Loaf: Not everyone is inspired by discounts and interest-free credit, so play around and show some personality rather than following the herd.

Riverford

My box of organic fruit and veg arrives every Tuesday and it’s almost as exciting as Christmas. Lovely fresh produce aside, Riverford founder Guy Watson’s blog – which is included as a printout each week – is my excuse to sit down with a cup of tea for five happy minutes. Not only is it intelligently written (whether by his own fair hand or that of a ghostwriter, I don’t know), but Guy’s knowledge and passion for his subject matter is woven throughout and is highly infectious. As a result of reading regularly I have learnt more about organic farming, neonicotinoids, GM food and the importance of small-scale production than I would ever have been bothered to look up myself. And because I now know more about it, I want to buy more from Riverford and less from the supermarket. Clever.

Learnings from Riverford: If you’re passionate about what you do and are able to communicate it, you can inspire passion for your brand amongst your audience.

Wahaca

The inimitable Tommi Meirs has single-handedly managed to change the reputation of Mexican food in the UK with her restaurant brand Wahaca. When I was a student, Mexican food meant homemade fajitas with sauce out of a packet and too many margaritas, possibly whilst wearing a comedy sombrero. With Wahaca, you get a glorious, vibrant, irresistible mental picture of a country and its food combined (again) with Ms Meirs’ immense passion. Wahaca makes me want to go to Mexico, but until then I’ll settle for the restaurant.

Learnings from Wahaca: Use your copy to tell a story that fires your audience’s imagination and makes them want to be part of your gang.

Over the coming months I’ll delve a bit deeper into each of these, as well as taking a look at other brands that get their copy spot on. Who would be in your top three?

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