the power of words – how the copywriter makes the difference

Remember the occasion when you purchased a service over its competitor, only to realise that it wasn’t up to standard? Ever wondered how that happened?

Answer: the copywriter.

The copywriter holds the power of words within his fingers and scribbles beautiful phrases that captures your heart as enchanting pictures conjure in your mind. You imagine the amazing landscape, mouth-watering lunches and amiable experience he describes. He sets your expectations to an all-time high. You sign up for the deal. Then the classic case of over-promising, under-delivering comes into play.

I joined a day tour some time in the previous week, attracted by the vivid descriptions of great travel and authentic local lunch experiences en route my destination.
Yet as I took my seat, I began to wonder if this 16-seater school bus would be the mode of transport, compared to the typical 40-persons coach bus. I scrutinised the PVC-covered seats with the little holes punctured in them and broken handles of the mini-bus, soon coming to realise that I’d been waiting for the tour to start since an hour ago. It started to get uncomfortable with a severe lack of leg-space and no head-rest for the seats.

We finally took off after what seemed like an eternity of waiting. Then I began to realise that the driver wasn’t going to give a commentary of the sights – what I’d expected given my experience at many other previous day tours, where the drivers doubled up as the tour guides to share about life in their city, history of sights that we passed etc. I started to fume despite the wonderful views. Would’ve been better if I could shut out the incessant yelling of some passengers in the already jam-packed enclosed box that was supposedly my bus, of course. That aside, we hopped on and off at some great scenic areas and I had a wonderful stock of photos that amazing nature has decided to share with us. This shall come in a different (less begrudging) post.

Each time I hopped onto the bus I asked myself how I had decided to pick this tour out of two which I was considering over. I started recalling every word I had read of the tour description – and I realised the power of words – I had compared a badly written copy to one that was so appealing, that I had failed to check on the providers’ credentials or reviews prior to making my choice.

What could I say? I’ve had my stint as a copywriter not too long ago and I know the trade. I see the viability of such a business model and had my share of understanding its operations – average product/service, wonderful copywriter – and there will still be those who are satisfied. Only, that wouldn’t be me. And for those of us who understand the principles of marketing and WOM, if I’d chosen to share the name of the provider, I doubt it would be of any good for the business.

Next time before you decide to over-promise and under-deliver, think again.
No-one’s to be blamed! I guess, Buyer Beware! 

why the customer experience matters

I’ve veered off my blogging schedule for way too long – it’s irregular, I’m writing on diverse topics that pop like wild mushrooms from the ground and I’m now back with more randomness.

I came across a very interesting write-up on Mashable today about marketing vodka – Is This What it Takes to Market Vodka? Pitchmen Pose as Window Washers  – the video can also be found on YouTube.

This isn’t a plug for the brand and I’m not promoting alcoholism or anything of that sort. I’m marvelling at the creativity of the approach Ultimat Vodka has taken.

Sometimes it isn’t only about the product; it’s about appealing to what really matters. I saw the video and smiled. We all get lost clocking endless hours at work and it soon becomes a norm. Then someone comes by your window and reminds you to take a break, one that you deserve! A simple message like such can bring cheers to an office. This was followed by the opportunity to grab a drink with the same guy by your window after work! What an experience for a day!

Unquestionably this simple activity, put on Youtube, becomes viral and a two-hour affair is spread globally. In terms of marketing ROI, this is probably a good shot.

What matters though, is the unparalleled memory you would’ve created for your potential consumers – I for one, remember the brands that brought smiles to my days, and I would be happy to recommend them anytime.  

now social media can kill our self esteem too?

Here comes a very short post about an article I read: Social Media Fuels Low Self-Esteem, Anxiety [Study]

I have been wondering about Social Media and its effects on us for some time. I argued that social media is a tool for communication – at times a hindrance to real communications. Regardless, a good tool to leverage upon for businesses to reach out, connect & engage. The article above suggests that social media can fuel low self-esteem & anxiety.

We see our friend’s Facebook timeline and wonder why their lives are so fulfilling while we’re not doing much with ours. We see millions of tweets & instagrams, everything appears so fiendishly tempting but we haven’t anything to share. We panic when we fail to access our social networks, emails and online sources (speaking of which, I do get worried when I heard about the DNSchanger issue).

I feel that Social Media and online platforms give an avenue to learn more than I could possibly have sitting at my desk; I get to connect with acquaintances whom I would never have felt comfortable calling or texting. But with all its merits, does it kill my self-esteem? I wouldn’t deny it – it probably gives it a hit every now and then.

We see the good things on social media and tend to shelf the negative aspects we see online. Or, the vast amount of “happiness” floods your walls and feeds drowns out the occasional unhappiness. And it’s occasional not due to low frequency of occurrence – it’s less prominent only because we’re often advised against spreading the pessimism. We then compare this imagined bliss with our status and start to gather our defeats. I guess this isn’t so much about social media – it’s a lot more to do with the human mind and its tendency to make comparisons.

What do you think? Does social media kill our self-esteem?

does social media make us unsociable?

Something must have happened again. It might be the terrible weather – the stifling heat, warm and uncomfortable – that saps away all the energy for any forms of creative writing.

Having put these off for a few days, I’ve decided to gather my thoughts on some issues I’ve been pondering about and address them briefly over the next few days.

Does social media makes us less sociable? 
Some days I stare at my Hootsuite and the vast amount of information shared across multiple platforms. I think about the articles posted via Twitter, numerous connections on LinkedIn and my close friends on Facebook. Needless to mention, the various email accounts I maintain for work and personal reasons. Seems like I’ve covered all grounds in forging ties, haven’t I? But something’s lacking, right?

Right. I believe that phone conversations are valuable every so often, but I also appreciate face-to-face interactions. The convenience of a re-tweet or “like” has encouraged greater inertia in writing full replies and sometimes, even creating the impression that we have interacted sufficiently to avoid a meet-up. Our habitual screen-facing routine has resulted in less sociable individuals. Calling to check on your availability for dinner can be replaced by a text message or email. Meetings might be replaced by Facebook chats, IMing/PMing and other means that allows for conversational text chats.

I like social media in all its ways that has made our life more invariably intertwined. I see the value of social media in business, and in personal interactions just as WordPress allowed me to meet all of you. Social media helps to transcend borders for greater interaction; it bridges time differences across the globe and keeps the ball rolling in most conversations; it generates buzz with a relatively small investment that encourages start-ups and more. But we really shouldn’t neglect the good ol’ traditional means that have brought us as far as we have come today. Sometimes a snail mail, phone call or knock on the door might bring a pleasant surprise amidst the sea of social interactions.

It is up to the user to draw the line differentiating effective engagement and over-reliance. It cannot go wrong to call up a friend, colleague or even acquaintance to catch up over coffee. A good conversation can inspire greater ideas for work or hobbies – which you can then share as a status update or photo on your favourite social media site too! 🙂

what can Pinterest do for you?

Yet another social site after Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and many others – Pinterest. Pinning things that are of interest to you. Nice name, I like it, and I like the concept. For those who aren’t already aware of it, Pinterest is like an online pinboard. Get a little “Pin It” button and you can pin pictures you like onto your virtual pinboard. Upload pictures of your garden and house, pin your favourite travel destinations from the Internet, whatever you wish – legally. Organise your pictures into any categories you’ll like. Tagging friends still work and you can even link it to your Twitter/Facebook account.

So what can it do for you that all these other networks cannot?
From a marketing perspective there’s still quite a lot of debates going on. I see it as a great eWOM tool – people pass on pictures of travel destinations, wedding gowns, home furniture etc really quickly due to its ease of use, and for those who are more interested, they can find the origin of the picture i.e. click on the actual url where the picture came from, to learn more.

From a personal point of view, I like Pinterest. I put up various boards (eg. Favourite Travels, Food & Drinks etc) and categorise the beautiful pictures I see online. Visiting a board is like visiting a world of happiness – basically you get to see all the things you like across your screen at once! Of course the sad part of me rings a bell that there are so many things I wish to have/visit but have yet to be able to do so. But the joy of looking at all things pleasant far outweighs the sadness. It lets you live in a dream, even if for a short while. This is what it does best, that other social networking sites have yet to provide.

I have recently invited a friend to join Pinterest and observed how she used it – when things got bad or unpleasant, she turned to Pinterest. It soon became a hobby – She put up pictures on her pinboards, tagged friends, and most of the time laughed after a brief “pinning routine”. It is easy to use, hassle-free and you get to write short comments beneath the pictures. I am an advocate of writing meaningful comments below each picture – afterall, a picture can speak a thousand words but it doesn’t tell us what you think of it. Don’t just put a heart, don’t just put a smile. Tell us where/what the picture is, and what you think of it. Share a good thought, with a good picture, for what it deserves.

Pinterest hasn’t been excessively flooded with ads yet, and this further enhances its “out-of-reality” image – I almost feel liberated from the ads that bombard me online and that gives so much peace of mind when the days are bad. Hopefully Pinterest will continue to be unpolluted for a little longer. And if you haven’t already hopped into this, I think this is a worthy try!

different writing styles for different occasions & purposes

I’ve been through a week of angst – my job requires me to write (though only a small part of it), and I am no great writer like many I’ve seen on the blogosphere. It probably doesn’t mean much when I say I’m frustrated. Whatever I went through cannot be worse than the feeling writers get as their work is edited, rejected, smashed and thrown back unforgivingly. Before I start the rant, I’ll take the opportunity to express respect to writers. I know writers who spend above a good 250 hours fixing up the index and making sure that the book is are impeccable. So much goes on backstage of a book before it surfaces on the market, everyone deserves a round of applause (less those who choose to paraphrase others’ work, not proofread, throw together a pile of text pretending they are sentences – symbolic of an insult to academics & writers). My frustrations are hence beneath minor, but I question about writing styles hereafter.

So here I begin. I strongly believe that everyone has a dominant writing style, one that appears in his everyday conversations (eg. personal interactions, blog, texts, social media sites, whatever). But when it comes to writing for work purposes, we vary it as per contextual requirements. Clearly an informative news article doesn’t hold the same approach as a sales copy, and a personalised letter to appeal to emotions should not mirror an article review. Every piece of text is produced with a different purpose, and in writing, one should respect the rationale for the text. I am no expert at this and at times I am too, guilty of allowing my preferred style to govern my writing. But a (self-proclaimed) redeeming factor is my acknowledgement of my weaknesses and I try to get an unbiased opinion, surveying people whom I know are entirely different from myself.

My frustration begins when inflexibility prevails. Comprehensibly, people higher up the chain holds the power to make decisions and have their own ideas of what works and what not. That in itself is not a problem. But when supposed emotional-baggages eclipse logic, the problem emerges. It was the final throw – Alarm bells were ringing for us, and for whoever was reading it. Some sense of urgency was needed, and there clearly wasn’t much time left to conduct an educational-awareness class for the audience. I felt it was important to get to the point within a stipulated word limit and no-one was going to spend the next hour listening to the history of x, the evolution of x, the problems x faced etc and more. Not unless, of course, you were writing a textbook or something.

At the end of a long-drawn to-and-fro virtual conversation, I came to a revelation that the problem laid in the “negative outlook” implied from the text – it wasn’t nice to make the situation look all “sad and challenging”. Not appreciated. I wasn’t angry; I simply couldn’t understand how that was a problem – this is merely a writing tactic – a challenge, a call to action. In every marketing campaign we see a different angle, an approach that varies according to the audience. I heard from a wonderful marketer recently that men didn’t like being nagged at – selling a product based on its merits wasn’t enough. Instead, challenging them to use the product might be a better approach (in this example, it was a health checkup testkit. Simply put, we all know the benefits of a regular health check-up but we wouldn’t do much about it. The campaign was a success when it challenged men to see who had the healthiest heart, best cholesterol levels etc).

Similarly as I wrote, it was imperative that I challenged those who were in their comfort zone – telling them how things have changed & how it could be beneficial really wasn’t enough. They had to see the problems and how they could give it a quick-fix before things spiraled out of hand. It needed to be concise and impactful. How could a run-of-the-mill text do the job? How can one write with a standard style, much like a cut from the mould template, all the time? I did what was requested, but I couldn’t concur.

I do not purport that my style is better than others. I merely wish to raise the possibility of incorporating more openness to novelty, more creativity and more flexibility in writing within reasonable means. We all have a personalised writing style that we stick by at most times. But with logic and expediency, we manipulate our style to suit the situation and context. I wish to write in whatever way I’ll like, but I do not insist that I have things my way. We all practise some discretion as to when our insistence makes sense and when it doesn’t. When it doesn’t, be open to others’ opinions.

rethinking social media – use it right

I’ve had this dormant twitter account for ages and recently I’ve taken another shot at trying it out. Not too bad. Anyway, point of this post really is to talk about a great article I chanced upon today – everyone out there should read this: 9 Social Media Hacks I Use Every Day 

It’s time all of us consider how we’ve been using social media and whether it has been effective. We don’t need to be on every platform – we need to know how to use each platform to our advantage. I hear from another write-up that it’s more important to start somewhere, not somewhereS. Read the article I’ve referenced above – it shares key points that we all forget along the way. Reach out to a group of people and have meaningful interaction, not endless remarks over and over again without purpose.

Stop asking for “tried & tested” examples – give it a shot on your own! The article tells us the real purpose of “case-studies” – so please stop obsessing over it and get down to creating your own! If you don’t own your own business, that’s perfectly fine too – learn it for your own personal advancements…

I’m no expert in social media but I do see its benefits & disadvantages … share some with me along the way if you could – always happy to learn more! And if you’re still not on any of these, time to get started!

what has happened to the good old days?

I am such an irregular writer I think I’m such an irresponsible creature.

Recently I’d been wondering how the world has changed and how little I knew of the past. Or my past, to be exact. I saw little children on buses playing with iPads or apps; then I recalled how I used to bring a novel on the bus to read and how we were told not to do that.
I saw children with cellphones typing away to their friends; then I recalled how we used to throw little balls of papers around the classrooms to pass secrets around.
I saw teens watching movies on their smartphones during lunch; then I recalled how we used to chat with our dining partners over a meal.
What did I do in the past, I wonder? What was life like before all these technologies sprouted? What was I doing in the past, during the hours that I spend online today? I just couldn’t pin-point an activity which I had done.

I’m not sure what to make of this. While I’m an advocate for mobile marketing and I’m very much into apps development etc, I just don’t think this is the right behavior a young child should portray. It is almost like communicating with machines your whole life.

I guess it really isn’t only the fault of a child – parents play a significant role in shaping their children’s behavior – of which I could never understand how parents would’ve allowed their children to be so overly-engrossed in mobile gaming. Where did the world of soft-toys and Lego go? Even as you enter a toy store now, the toys really aren’t what they used to be – sadly.

I guess the entire environment has shifted significantly, while a sentimental me continues to stand at the very same spot to await the revival of the past …