How Great Copywriting and Design Deliver Stories People Remember

  • Categories:

    Creative, Work

  • Date:

    October 1, 2020

How Great Copywriting and Design Deliver Stories People Remember

Creative Work

Great storytelling makes people feel something. That emotion, in turn, creates a connection. And in advertising, that connection is exactly what draws people to a brand. So, what’s the secret to delivering stories people will remember — stories that compel them to engage or tell their friends?

The answer is a concept I call 1+1=3, meaning the words and images don’t just coexist. Instead, they complement and complete each other, creating a sum greater than its parts. Remove either, and the message is unfinished. Say and show the same thing, and each becomes redundant.

I sat down with Associate Creative Director Heather Dumford and Copy Director Scott Ellmaker to get their take on what makes copywriting and design work well and work together.

How do copywriting and design work together to tell a story?

Heather: Copywriting has to work really hard. It has to communicate the brand’s positioning in a way that resonates with the viewer’s values to ultimately create a connection.

Visuals help bring that message to life. When copywriting and design work together, they draw people in. They’re a yin and yang, creating an emotional and authentic story.

Scott: Most people are very visual, so it’s often easier to make that initial connection through design. The copy should complement the design, not overshadow it.

Heather: They have to support one another. For example, ads Wray Ward designed for Palmetto Bluff are driven by impactful, environmental shots, and the copy is lyrically written to enhance the visuals for viewers.

Scott: It’s extremely rare, but sometimes — say, in a traditional print ad — the visual does it all, so the copy takes a backseat. The ad may have three words.

Heather: We recently placed an ad for Palmetto Bluff in the New York Times Sunday issue, and since photography doesn’t reproduce well on newsprint, the copy had to do the heavy lifting.

What’s the secret to great creative?

Scott: Generally, when you strategize, it’s all in words. But you have to translate those words for the consumer. You don’t want to just drop the brief into an ad, a video or any other marketing tactic. You have to be able to say everything you want to say in the tone and voice of the brand, with words that are intriguing and effective and that match the tone of the visuals. The tone of the copy needs to match the tone of the imagery, so it all represents the same voice.

You have to do it differently than the normal person writes, thinking about the consumer and what matters to them. Be simple and relatable, translating that strategy you came up with to a consumer-friendly, impactful message.

Heather: People are getting more savvy and want to connect with brands that speak to them. To create an impact, the message needs to feel authentic and have a point of view. It’s important to be culturally aware of the language and visuals that will resonate with your audience.

Maintaining hierarchy and appropriate messaging in the right phase of the customer’s journey is imperative to successful creative. A connection is made with purposeful and strategic storytelling. If the sale is the predominant focus from the beginning, the viewer is going to see through that and swipe or turn the page. Our goal is to draw people in, to tell our story and to build a connection based on similar interests or values.

For instance, Wray Ward worked with steam shower company and industry leader MrSteam to show how steam facilitates wellness. The campaign led with the consumer benefit — wellness — with more of an editorial approach than some more sales-driven campaigns.

For creative to really resonate, it’s also important to understand what’s happening in the moment.

How can great creative live in the moment?

Heather: Digital marketing is a great example because it’s so adaptable. A lot of brands are doing a gut check right now, really thinking about the type of people representing their brand. We collaborate with our clients to pull engagement statistics on tactics such as digital banners. It’s fascinating to learn what people respond to and click on and why. Then, we optimize the banners to perform even better.

Is sparking emotion always the goal of advertising, or is an emotional response just the byproduct of a good campaign?

Scott: I think yes and yes. We’re always aiming for a good campaign, and it’s not a good campaign unless it sparks emotion. Subconsciously, emotion drives what we do, even if we don’t go into it with that goal. It just works that way.

Heather: Agreed. We want to spark emotion, and if someone engages, that’s a sign we’ve succeeded.

What is the highest compliment someone can give a copywriter or designer?

Heather: I found out that a man in the hospital had ripped a Palmetto Bluff ad out of a magazine to hang as inspiration to travel when he was healed. That was moving.

Scott: I think it’s just knowing someone remembers your work. That, alone, says you made an impact. A long time ago, I was in a cab, and the driver asked if I had heard this particular ad … and it was mine. Knowing that people remember your words and they’re still working after the page is turned — that says it all.

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