The pen, they say, is mightier than the sword, and on the epic battleground of retail marketing, this famous adage proves its point emphatically. In a sector as competitive as retail, good marketing needs to do more than sell products – it has to persuade consumers to buy into a brand.
As hundreds of companies bombard us on a daily basis with adverts for the same products, price-points become a key factor in consumer choice. For example, if one music retailer advertises a new album at a certain price, a rival competitor selling the same product for less has only to market this cheaper price to ensure that consumers purchase the product from them.
On this basis, it appears that there’s little scope for creativity when it comes to certain types of retail marketing. However, today’s savvy consumer has become blind to these marketing messages, which is why marketers, and copywriters in particular, have to turn up the creativity to ensure that their brands are the ones that stand out in the collective minds of consumers.
This lack of a unique proposition on which to sell the standard retail advert means that retail copywriting has to sell ‘brand’ rather than product. With retailers peddling the same consumer goods, what’s needed is copy that is clever, creative and gets enough people talking – long enough for the brand to remain front of mind.
The automotive retail market is a perfect example of an industry that essentially sells the same product – a motor vehicle – yet is defined by its branding, of which copywriting plays a major part. Volkswagen’s current ‘efficiency’ campaign comes courtesy of DDB London and stands out in a crowded market due to its multi-layered and extremely clever use copy:
The words have been ruled through or highlighted to leave simple, yet effective, statements, that not only play on the company’s ‘brand’ (German efficiency), but also stand out as something unique in a congested industry sector. The fact that no images of cars are used – the very product on sale – is testament to the fact that many retail brands rely purely on copy to sell their products.
However, not all retail marketing copy has to be this complex. Retail behemoth Tesco churns out an astonishing range of print advertisements, but has become renowned for its short, simple messages that succinctly promote a product, convey a message or sell the Tesco brand.
The team at marketing agency Lowe London was responsible for the ‘Granny Smith’ advert that won the Newspaper Marketing Agency’s (NMA) £25,000 ‘Winner of Winners’ award 2005. The premise of the advert is simple; Tesco is selling Granny Smith apples, yet like so many retail products, this is available in shops nationwide. In order to sell consumers ‘Tesco’ Granny Smith apples, the copy has to be really effective:
The competitor slogans ‘Quality Food, Honestly Priced’ and ‘That’s Asda Price’ (from Waitrose and Asda respectively), have here been turned on their heads to serve the purpose of Tesco’s marketing communications – a brazen move, yet damn effective.
When it comes to marketing traditional retail brands, price-points are now defunct topics. The expansion of online retail has made it clear to high street retailers that they now have to focus on selling their brand once again, rather than product. In order to hand your retail client measurable success, strong copywriting is an essential tool in the marketing arsenal – and one that when got right, can add serious credibility to any retail brand.
How important do you think copywriting is to retailers? Do you think it is more or less important in a recessionary environment?
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Callum Saunders is a copywriter, digital marketer, SEO enthusiast and social media enthusiast. He also manages the Marketing Professionals Network http://www.stopgap.co.uk/linkedin
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