Brands radiate emotion. Well at least the good ones do. They spark an emotion which serves as the catalyst to the beginning of a relationship and the ultimate action, the purchase. Some brands, like PRADA, make you feel decadent so when you purchase a PRADA bag it’s your way of treating yourself to a taste of the good life. Other brands like Volkswagen communicate a strong sense of practicality. The person that buys the Volkswagen does so because the car has a strong reputation of safety, fuel efficiency and reliability (far different than the feeling radiated by a Porsch).
Creating this same level of emotion in today’s fragmented multi channel, multi device world has become an increasing challenge for many practitioners. Many marketers have forgotten their roots and are now beginning to wonder why they are missing the mark. Here are my two cents.
In the old days, before the advent of the Internet, the formula to striking a chord with your audience was simple: create a compelling brand message and broadcast the hell out of it so that the public was assimilated into your brand. The key to success was based on two fundamentals, writing and art direction. A copywriter once wrote, “Don’t leave home without it” and with the help of the art director, the campaign became an instant smash. Why? Because it created an emotional response that drove a behavior. Take some time and think about some of the other big slogans of that time. Whether you recall “Have it Your Way,” “Oh What a Feeling” or “Let Your Fingers Do The Walking,” each of these examples was brilliant in its own way and success soon followed. Each was also the product of a collaboration between a team made up of the art director and the copywriter.
This is where the Internet world is missing the bus. Today, everybody is moving at 110 miles per hour to design and produce more visually immersive brand experiences, and technically challenging one-to-one personalized dialogues. In this environment, the art director runs the show. What is the copywriter doing? The copywriter has been left behind.
With the copywriter being squeezed out, many of their responsibilities are being taken on by the art director who to say the least, is not skilled in this art form. Think of it this way. Giving the art director the keys to copywriting is akin to having a special effects wizard take on the duties of writing a screen play. The end result would be another Pearl Harbor — a movie full of spectacular, visually compelling images and special effects meshed with a weak dialog that is completely incapable of moving the audience. Nobody is claiming that the special effects people are not critical. Like the art director, they are a vital ingredient to success, but we cannot completely abandon the elements that worked in the past in favor of this new breed.
In addition to the extended duties of the art director, another role has been created, the content strategist. The content strategist job is to help define how a brand communicates to each of its audiences, what channels it uses, what it says as well as when it is said. This role of the content strategist is critical in today’s harried, multi-media channel world. However, as with the art director, their addition to the equation should not come at the expense of a great copywriter.
Striking a chord with your target audience is just as important today as it was when Maxwell House told us their coffee was “Good to the Last Drop.” The difference is that the models for success have changed. The role of the art director has evolved dramatically and new positions and skill sets have emerged. These changes were inevitable and essential. The issue is that as each grew, they did so at the expense of the copywriter who has been all but abandoned. The agency of today needs to hold on to some of the key success drivers of the past including the copywriter because the last time I checked, emotion is still the key ingredient for a great brand and nobody can cook-up like a copywriter.