Hey Whipple, Blog This! Part 2
December 18, 2012 § Leave a comment
Chapter 4 of Luke Sullivan’s Hey Whipple, Squeeze This! brings us to an exciting portion of the book (not that the rest of it isn’t exciting); however, it’s exciting to me because this chapter is about writing!
What does Mr. Sullivan have to say about writing headlines?
1) Don’t just start writing headlines.
To be honest, usually I do. I’ll just start writing whatever ideas I can think of as they come to me. Mr. Sullivan has different ideas. He says that ideas should be broken down into different attributes the brand has, and then headlines can be written about each attribute. This way you’re not blindly thinking of random ideas all at once, but methodically thinking of ideas that can be turned into campaigns. Each attribute or benefit that ideas are broken into, are entry points into what the brand is.
2) If an idea needs a headline, write 100.
I already had a taste of this when I did 100 thumbnails for an ad class. It was grueling, but after forcing myself to keep thinking of ideas, I didn’t just stop at the first one that sounded doable. This led me to better, deeper ideas. However, they weren’t all great ideas. Mr. Sullivan says that these 100 headlines need to workable ideas; it’s not just about getting to 100 as a number, but taking your time and actually thinking through it. These ideas should range from “decent, to hey not bad, to whoa that rocks,” he says. I’m not sure if I can look at my 100 thumbnails and say they all met “hey not bad,” or even “decent.”
Don’t use puns. This didn’t really come as a shock to me, as much as it was a personal blow. I admit I love a well-crafted pun or one that makes you groan, but Mr. Sullivan says they’re not to be used in ads because they’re not persuasive. It’s okay to write them down, just “put them where they belong, and don’t forget to flush.”
Don’t use fake names. I agree with Mr. Sullivan here. Fake names are annoying and obviously fake. You can’t persuade someone with fakery (I don’t care how much collagen you inject).
Don’t use model numbers. Using “C7-89” doesn’t mean anything to the reader. They won’t remember it either, most likely.
Don’t make the headline and visual both work. If the visual is doing a lot of work, ease up on the headline. Conversely, if the headline’s strong, you don’t need a powerful visual fighting with it. “Never show what you’re saying, and never say what you’re showing.”
4) Save the keyword of the headline for last.
Like a punchline, the operative phrase or word should be the kicker at the end. It gains more punch if it’s saved as the surprise at the end of your headline.
Mr. Sullivan then turns to body copy.
A lot of what he says here is just about writing well and writing persuasively, which is important in any media. I’ll highlight some key points about advertising specifically:
5) Write like you were talking for the brand.
Some of the best brands can be identified simply by the way the copy is done. They have created a unique voice that is tied to the brand. The words embody what the brand is. It’s incredible.
6) Write like you talk.
You don’t need to have slang, but it should read like a conversation. Ads are the link between consumers and brands. If brands can have a conversation with their consumers, consumers will want to have a conversation right back. It’s hard to make a brand seem human, but it’s even harder if you can’t talk in a way that consumers will relate to.
7) Pretend you’re writing a letter.
You only need to write to the one person who will be viewing your ad. Not that only one person will see it, but you don’t need to write for a mass group if you’re only going to be reaching out to individuals. This relates to “write like you talk” because you want the ad to be intimate and read like a conversation between brand and one consumer.
8) Don’t pre-ramble.
Mr. Sullivan’s analogy is a salesman at the door who introduces himself, then once he gets in the door, introduces himself again. If consumers are reading body copy, it can be assumed they read the headline, they let you in the door. The body copy doesn’t need to repeat what the headline has already said. No time for reintroductions, just get to the point and give details.
9) Break your copy into as many short paragraphs as you can.
This is just a readability factor. No one will read your body copy if it’s a page of text. Give it some breaks and make it seem more accessible.
10) Make your tagline your anthem.
If you have to have a tagline, try to write about something bigger than your client’s product. Mr. Sullivan’s example is Nike’s “Just Do It.” It’s not about selling shoes, it’s a lifestyle about kicking butt. You can deduce a tagline by boiling down what you’ve written into a provocative line, or you can induce a tagline and see what executions you can pull out of it.