Is your inspiration cupboard bare? Business copywriter and creative thinker, Joanna Brown, offers a few ideas on how to get going with even the driest of topics.
Help! I’ve got 25 words to sell laminate flooring - where do I start?
If it’s been said once, it’s been said thousands of times: in writing, less is more. The best writing can never pinch more than an inch because its skin is tight to its bones. Not a single word to trim off and leave on the plate.
Copywriters often have to write about unexciting topics - toothpaste, insulation, insurance and so forth. So, with a seemingly dull subject and perhaps just 30 words to change the world, how are you going to write something creative?
Take heart. High falutin’ phrases and similes will be stronger for being boiled down into a concentrated juice. Let’s be honest: the more you write and the more flamboyant you get, the worse the writing is likely to be. As Samuel Johnson said: “Read over your compositions, and where ever you meet with a passage that you think is particularly fine, strike it out.”
So, embrace the restrictions of just a sentence or so, and work to make the most mouth-watering morsel that a writer ever created.
The stock cube of all your writing should be:
● What am I saying?
● Why should they care?
● How can I make them care?
From this start, you need to build up to a fine stew by adding the writing equivalent of water, vegetables, and other tasty tidbits. Where can you get the ingredients? Well...
Be a magpie and steal any idea that’s bright and sparkly. Random clicking through the web, or flicking through a book or magazine, are great ways to find ideas that you can save for another day. Most copywriters keep a swipe file of great copy to use as inspiration in dry spells. Obviously, you don’t steal word-for-word, but you use the idea, switch it around, add some seasoning, and from someone else’s idea comes something new, and hopefully even better. Giants’ shoulders are there for you to stand on!
Laminate flooring isn’t sexy, but people still want it. It can be made desirable. Try these creativity techniques to stimulate new ideas:
● What are the key words for the product (not keywords in the search sense, but two or three words that contain the essence of what you want to say)? Looking at those words together, do they make you think of something else? One of my favourite adverts is a picture of a diamond ring and the words “Getting rid of headaches since 1888.” Simple perfection from De Beers that makes me smile every time. Diamonds to sex to headaches - how can we use headaches to sell diamonds? If your key words want to take you on an unexpected journey, then go along for the ride. What do you have to lose?
● Think about your product and ask yourself: “What if?” These two words are perhaps the most powerful in the world of creative thinking. What if we made it twice as strong? What if we changed its colour? What if it didn’t exist? What if I put snails into ice cream? What if we used this glue-that-doesn’t-stick as a benefit?
● Get childish. How would a 5 year old think about the product? What inspiration can you draw here? Asking naive questions may have been the way Lamborghini came up with “Please do not drive faster than your GPS satellite can fly.”
● Run the basic idea through a translator into several different languages and then back to your own. It’ll become garbled on the way, but that garbling may stimulate some interesting thoughts for you.
● Don’t dismiss any thought until it’s had a chance to live. A rule of thumb is to have two builds before you allow a crush. The herbs on your windowsill can’t be harvested until they’ve grown, and they need water, warmth, and light for that - ideas are just as tender.
Anyone can do it, with practice. Like the White Queen, get into the habit of believing six impossible things before breakfast, and your copy will never be dull.
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