David Ormondroyd on the power of words lead­ing to suc­cess­ful brand­ing

David Ormondroyd on why harnessing the power of words is key to brand­ing

Computer Arts - - Contents - DAVID ORMONDROYD HEAD OF COPY, RAGGED EDGE www.ragged­edge.com Would cre­ative agen­cies be wise to take words more se­ri­ously? Tweet your thoughts @Com­put­erArts us­ing #De­signMat­ters

Does your brand­ing agency have an in-house copy­writer? Maybe. Maybe not. But I’m will­ing to bet there’s a de­signer, so im­plicit is their im­por­tance in the cre­ative process.

And yet for brands, find­ing their voice has never been so im­por­tant. With vis­ual and ver­bal iden­ti­ties now hav­ing to work across myr­iad touch­points and en­gage rapidly evolv­ing con­sumer pro­files, brand copy needs to work harder. So why are writ­ers so few at brand­ing agen­cies?

At Ragged Edge we’re work­ing to es­tab­lish a team of copy­writ­ers be­cause we un­der­stand that the most pow­er­ful iden­ti­ties em­ploy both words and de­sign, work­ing co­he­sively to create richer brands.

But we’re still in the mi­nor­ity. And I of­ten won­der how such an im­bal­ance be­tween writ­ing and de­sign has be­come so en­trenched in the cre­ative in­dus­try. How some agen­cies get by with­out any writ­ers at all. Or how some clients, ac­count di­rec­tors, strate­gists and de­sign­ers find time to do such spe­cial­ist work them­selves.

Am I bi­ased? Of course I am. But here’s my ode to the value of good copy­writ­ing.

I don’t need to write down the Martin Luther King Jr. quote for you to know which one I’m talk­ing about. I don’t need to tell you what film ‘May the force be with you’ is from. And I don’t need to tell you which brand be­lieves that ‘Ev­ery lit­tle helps’. From song lyrics to straplines, words have the power to tran­scend gen­er­a­tions and geog­ra­phy, and fix them­selves firmly and favourably in the cul­tural lex­i­con.

Nike re­cently found its uniquely Lon­don voice to great fan­fare; Spo­tify turned data into some­thing mean­ing­ful and funny; and fash­ion brand Jig­saw pow­er­fully spoke about the ben­e­fits of im­mi­gra­tion.

The right words al­low us all – in­di­vid­u­als and brands – to con­verse. To par­tic­i­pate in cul­ture and talk about what’s hap­pen­ing in the world. To make jokes, to con­sole, to speak in terms that res­onate with oth­ers, and to build long-last­ing con­nec­tions. The type of con­nec­tions that make a brand name like Hoover syn­ony­mous with a vac­uum cleaner, and that turned Google into a verb that peo­ple just drop into a sen­tence. Words have the power to ex­plain. And as ev­i­denced, with such power comes a great deal of re­spon­si­bil­ity.

In this man­ner, the 2012 re­launch of GOV.UK de­served all its awards for writ­ing, where it put words to work in or­der to make vast amounts of complicated in­for­ma­tion as widely ac­ces­si­ble as pos­si­ble. Not only was this a prac­ti­cal chal­lenge of writ­ing in clear lan­guage, but a vi­tal ef­fort for a work­ing democ­racy.

Hash­tags get a hard time most of the time. But #black­lives­mat­ter and #metoo show how words can in­sti­gate ac­tion: find­ing their feet on a so­cial me­dia, be­fore protest­ing their way onto the streets, onto the cover of Time mag­a­zine, onto Hol­ly­wood red car­pets, and very much con­tin­u­ing into our col­lec­tive con­scious­ness.

Those con­joined words have sparked con­ver­sa­tion, united peo­ple across the globe, and in­spired move­ments. Talk about a call to ac­tion.

The pro­lif­er­a­tion of Twit­ter a few years back de­pended on de­cent writ­ers. It re­quired peo­ple to learn the art of say­ing some­thing worth­while in a short space. Some brands nailed it. Oth­ers didn’t. But across the board it height­ened peo­ple’s ap­pre­ci­a­tion for good writ­ing.

When the Alexa, Echo and Siri gang man­age to em­bed them­selves in our homes, we’ll be in­ter­act­ing with brands us­ing words, and words alone. So how do you com­mu­ni­cate your brand with­out a logo or a type­face or a snazzy brand film? It’s both a chal­lenge and a huge op­por­tu­nity. Es­pe­cially for us writ­ers.

I’ve spent a decade in de­sign and brand­ing agen­cies, I’ve worked in-house at big, global brands, and I’ve worked with en­er­getic start-ups you’ve prob­a­bly never heard of. And as far as I can see, the best cre­ative al­ways comes from words and pic­tures work­ing to­gether. It’s not one ver­sus the other. It’s never a com­pe­ti­tion. The two are rooted to­gether, in one act of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. De­sign can bring words to life, just as much as words can in­spire and el­e­vate de­sign.

Just look at our brand iden­tity for on­line mort­gage bro­ker Trus­sle. En­gag­ing copy that’s full of pos­si­bil­ity, writ­ten to wel­come read­ers in, en­sures Trus­sle never be­comes just a com­mod­ity, and can talk about more than solely tech­nol­ogy. But it’s when the words work hand-in-hand with a bold de­sign that our brand idea of ‘Open doors’ truly comes to life. The two el­e­ments strengthen one an­other.

Since day one of my ca­reer I’ve been try­ing to in­spire peo­ple about the value words can bring to the cre­ative process. It’s a man­tle I take se­ri­ously. Some­times that in­spi­ra­tion comes in the form of a key­note pre­sen­ta­tion to col­leagues, some­times a thought piece like this, but more of­ten than not it’s about get­ting stuck into a project and putting words to good use, not just talk­ing about them.

And it doesn’t mat­ter where or when a writer jumps into the cre­ative process, be­cause it turns out words are use­ful across the board. From writ­ing a great pro­posal, putting to­gether a win­ning pitch, ar­tic­u­lat­ing strate­gic ideas, de­vel­op­ing a brand’s vis­ual and ver­bal iden­tity, sell­ing it into a client, and bring­ing a brand to life in the real world. Re­gard­less of the pur­pose, it all needs good words.

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