Branding · Copywriting · Tone of voice

This hotel knows how to talk

Lots of brands have a top tone of voice in their campaigns. But very few manage to make it work in all the nooks and crannies.

I was very impressed with Citizen M’s tone on a trip to Glasgow – I took home all the stationery!

Behavioural science · Branding · Language

“Oil” and “gas” become dirty words

The London Stock Exchange now talks about the oil and gas industry as “non-renewables”. And in a recent change to its style guide, The Guardian now refers to climate change as “climate crisis”.

People are beginning to make small yet powerful changes in language to achieve social change. How long will it be before we refer to eating meat as the “non-veg” option?

Interesting article here in the Financial Times (paywall).

Branding · Copywriting · Language · Storytelling

I feature in this fabulous book on business writing

Very grateful to have a cameo appearance in this Dark Angels book on business writing, “Changing lives with words”.

I feature alongside some true greats from the corporate writing world. People who’ve written creatively for some of the biggest brands and who’ll continue to shape the marketing industry.

I’m only four chapters in, but so far I’ve found it a very inspiring read, full of anecdotes and exercises to try.

It’s a must for anyone involved in writing, branding, marketing or communications. Or even if you’re intrigued about the things us writers get up to.

Here’s a bit more about the book, and how you can buy it.

Advertising · Behavioural science · Branding · Copywriting · Language · Naming

BMW or… Bayerische Motoren Werke?

The thing that’s most interesting about BMW’s latest ad is what lies beneath its logo… I’ve never seen BMW spell out its name like this before.

Of course, it makes sense to sound more German (so long as the company doesn’t create a rip-off of Audi’s “vorsprung durch technik” tagline). But why would the company spell out its name on this occasion and not others?

A luxury line of cars, perhaps?

I think BMW may be doing this to draw attention to a new luxury line of products. Similarly, think about the relationship between Calvin Klein and CK, Paul Smith and PS. When do these brands choose to use each one?

It’s not for every brand

It’s not for every brand, and some, such as Ingvar Kamprad Elmtaryd Agunnaryd (IKEA) don’t need to do this.

IKEA has worked hard in using its visual brand and language to keep its rich associations with Sweden, where it was founded.

But for BMW, if its objective is to rekindle an awareness of its German heritage to sell a high-end product.

Who knows, it may just werke!

Behavioural science · Jargon · Tone of voice

How CrossFit reminded me about language

Last night I went to CrossFit for the first time. Free trial.

Before you ask, I’m fine. I’m not writing this from a hospital bed or anything. But whilst I was there it made me think about language and the way we use words at work.

When I arrived at this big warehouse – sun shining, lots of sweaty people – I talked to the person on reception and they said I could put my jumper and coat in the “Mezz”, and then hang there until the workout.

We then headed to the “Box”, before going over the “WOD”. We then smashed the “Wall Balls” and the “SQs” with “AMRAP” within eight minutes.

Are you still with me after all that gobbledygook?

See, the thing it reminded me of is that people love jargon.

As Harvard Professor and popular author Stephen Pinker says: “Jargon is a tribal thing. Jargon is a sociolect we’ve adopted amongst our colleagues. It’s a sense of being in a team.

“But, people who aren’t in the team feel left out.”

Now, don’t get me wrong. The people at CrossFit Nottingham were great at explaining all the lingo and the jargon.

Like most teams I’ve worked with at work, they were passionate about what they do. There was a sense of community and camaraderie there.

And they took the time to explain the jargon, to make me feel welcome.

What’s your equivalent to a WOD?

So, when you’re next communicating with the people in your team, think about your equivalents to a WOD (Workout of the day) or a SQ (Squat).

You might be using language like “synergies”. You might be “underpinning” a few things. (I won’t go on.) But think about how it feels to others. How does it feel to your readers and listeners? Are you explaining it? Do people understand you?

As humans, we’re socially conditioned to love jargon. To love feeling like we’re part of a team. But be aware of when and where you use it. And especially who you’re talking to.

Advertising · Branding · Copywriting · Risk

Causing a stir with your words. Is it worth the risk?

“No one cares what you’ve got to say,” said Dave Trott – the advertising guru who’s just as famous for his human truths and bold remarks as he is for his published books and award-winning copywriting. He was talking at an event I attended last night in London called Take Fucking Risks.

And the thing is, he’s exactly right.

No one cares what you’ve got to say. No one cares what your business or brand has got to say either. And it’s something so many people struggle with.

The average Londoner (okay, we’re not all Londoners but roll with this) sees 1000 ads a day. 4% are remembered positively, 7% negatively and 89% forgotten. How many adverts can you remember today?

Businesses spend £21bn a year on advertising. And the figures above mean that roughly £19bn (which is probably enough to buy you a Neymar) is going to waste.


So what’s the problem? Where does it all go wrong?

One of the reasons is that people don’t realise no one cares what you think. No one cares what you must say in your ad, in your report, on your website banner or in your email footer. All people care about is what’s in it for them.

So as creative people, our job is to make things as simple as possible. Trott said, “As creatives, our only job is to create demand [but the problem is] stupid people think complicated is clever”.

Again, completely right. It was Einstein who said, “If you can’t explain it to an 11 year old, you haven’t really understood it”.

This is a problem which Harvard scientist, psychologist and linguist, Steven Pinker, calls “The curse of knowledge” – where people who are an expert on a certain topic try to over-explain it. They think people care about the detail and everything behind the scenes. When really, their audience couldn’t care less.

So what’s the solution?

Well, isn’t it obvious? It’s time for people, businesses and brands to take some risks with their marketing and advertising.

Your writing is something which should turn heads, make someone want to read it and create demand for your brand, product or service. We live in the age of content and your content will just blend in otherwise.

It’s time to trust your creative writer or creative team and try something disruptive.