Does an online brand story really need a good enemy?

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In a recent article in Advertising Age entitled ‘Hey Brands – Every Great Story Needs an Enemy’, veteran US ad-man Pete Favat suggests that brands need to, “stop playing it safe and find an enemy.”

He goes on to say that, “Ever since humans started telling stories, those stories – the ones worth hearing and sharing – were built on tension. They are driven by a protagonist and an antagonist. Something to root for and something to root against. Without that enemy you’ve got nada… tension makes people pay attention.”

Favat was talking about advertising in general, and references many print advertising campaigns, but can the same be said for the telling of a brand story through online copywriting?

What makes a good enemy?

Though Favat does mention an iconic picture of a young Steve Jobs giving the finger to IBM, the enemy in question doesn’t usually have to be a specific organisation or individual. Instead it may take the form of a concept or a common problem faced by consumers.

If you think of the many television adverts for household cleaning products, how many of them characterise dirt and germs as an enemy that needs to be defeated, using those products as a ‘weapon’? How about the Benylin advert which personifies a mucusy cough as a grotesque troll to ‘get off your chest’? Or Shreddies’ ‘Keep hunger locked up till lunch’ series of adverts? All of these successful advertising campaigns create an enemy and then offer their product as the best possible way of combating that enemy.

The enemy is the thing that your brand will help customers to overcome.

Finding your brand’s enemy

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What’s that you say? You’re a peaceful company and don’t have any enemies? Look a little deeper and you’ll find your enemy in the things that you’re trying to protect your customer from and the solutions you provide. Here are some examples:

  • The low-cost travel booking firm fighting the enemy of overpriced holidays 
  • The health and beauty e-commerce site selling solutions to combat the effects of aging and ill health 
  • The insurance broker protecting its customers from potential risks and expensive polices 
  • The funky fashion retailer battling against boring clothing styles

You get the idea. Once you’ve found your enemy, you can start leveraging it in your online content production. Just as a general would rally his troops against an enemy before battle, you need to tell your web copywriters who the enemy is so that they can set about slaying it in your marketing content. You might choose to personify the enemy as in the television adverts mentioned, or you might simply refer to it in your web content frequently. For example, if you’re selling affordable and reliable used cars, you might make frequent reference to ‘rip-off’ used car deals that motorists can avoid by going through you.

Enemy’s and villains make stories more interesting, and interesting stories are stories that sell. Like Pete Favat says, “Imagine ‘Jaws’ without the shark. Or ‘Star Wars’ without Darth Vader. Crappy, right? So why is marketing any different? We need to provide people with two sides of the story. In some ways, our brains need this polarity.” So find your enemy and set about defeating it in your online marketing.

Whether you know what your brand’s enemy is or you need help finding one, get in touch with Big Star Copywriting and our web copywriters will get to work telling the stories that will sell your brand.

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How do two of today’s biggest digital travel booking firms tell their brand story?

Brand story

Once the preserve of high-street travel agents and glossy holiday brochures, today the travel industry is dominated by online bookings. Figures from ABTA suggest that in 2012/2013, 49% of UK holidaymakers booked their holidays abroad online, while IBISWorld’s Travel Agencies Market Research Report says that, “online travel agents… are expected to account for just over half the industry’s total revenue in 2014-15.”

So who are these giants of the digital travel world, how have they captured the hearts and minds of the holiday booking public, and what can you do to secure your own slice of the online bookings pie? Here we take a closer look at two online booking megabrands.

Booking.com

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One of the world’s most popular booking websites is booking.com, which claims to provide access to more than 600,000 holiday properties globally.

Perhaps part of the brand’s success is its single-minded focus on what it offers its customers – bookings (it’s right there in the domain name). The brand has rather shrewdly aligned itself with the concept of booking a holiday itself, and in doing so made a bid to become synonymous with the action.

On first glance at booking.com you’ll find little about the brand itself – the website is more or less given over to the process of finding and booking a holiday in virtually any global destination. This in itself reveals part of the brand story – the company is committed to forefronting a huge range of choice and making it easy to make a booking online.

Scroll down to the bottom of the site and you’ll eventually find the ‘about’ page. The main purpose of this page seems to put some concrete figures to the scope of the company’s booking abilities, including the following statistics:

  • “Each day, 850,00 room nights are reserved on booking.com”
  • “Booking.com is available in more than 40 languages, and offers over 640,950 properties in 211 countries”
  • “Over 9300 people right across the world are dedicated to serving booking.com’s customers”

The first statistic tells prospective customers that the company are trusted and popular, while the second puts some exact figures to the range of holidays available. The third tells them that there is a large network of people behind the brand, rather than just a faceless website.

Also on the about us page, and throughout the website, it is suggested that beyond the level of choice and popularity of the site, it also offers the ‘best available rates’, that no reservation fees are necessary, and that booking is entirely secure.

In doing all of this, the firm aligns its brand identity with the things that its customers are most looking for – choice, value and trustworthiness.

lastminute.com

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Lastminute.com is of a similar ilk to booking.com in that it aims to offer a wide selection of bookings to a wide variety of people, with accommodation, flights and events around the world. But to distinguish itself and its brand story from the competition, the booking website has placed its marketing focus squarely on its ability to get customers heavily discounted deals. Again, this core brand trait is present right at the root of its online identity – its domain name.

Also like booking.com, lastminute.com don’t carry substantial textual information about their brand on their website, instead bringing the deals which are the core of their identity to the fore. But again scroll down, and you’ll find a succinct narrative of their brand story on the ‘about us’ page. Most importantly it links the founder’s initial idea to the company’s current values: “In 1998… a man named Brent Hoberman was turning up at flash hotels trying to blag a top suite at a knock-down price. He was surprisingly successful. Brent decided that everyone should be able to get a five-star lifestyle for three-star prices…”

In those few lines, the company expresses the philosophy behind its brand and does so in compelling story form. Bringing the founder’s original intentions into the picture also gives the brand a more human element that people can relate to.

What both successful brands have in common is that they have clearly identified what their brand story is, and they have communicated it subtly but distinctly throughout the flow of their content. If your travel firm needs help doing the same, get in touch with Big Star Copywriting, and our star copywriters will put the story into your content.

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Beyond product descriptions: How Yoox communicates its brand story online

Branding

For any e-commerce company, product descriptions demand care and attention. Your products should be an extension of your brand, and should fit neatly into the jigsaw of the overall brand story you’re trying to tell. But, even if your company specialises solely in selling products via the internet, product descriptions are not the only content that you should be creating in order to communicate your brand story and make those sales.

One brand that appears to understand this is Yoox, the Italian-owned online fashion, art and design retailer.

Yoox – A lesson in product description minimalism

Take a look at Yoox’s product descriptions and you won’t see much in the way of verbiage. In fact most description of the product is done very briefly, with single words. For example, their description for a ‘Emilio Pucci short dress’ simply reads, “Composition: 93% silk, 7% Elastane. Details: Satin, designer’s motif, classic neckline, long sleeves, belt, no pockets, front closure, button closing, side slit hemline, stretch.” This is accompanied by the price, colour and size options, and of course some pictures that clearly display the product.

This minimalistic style runs through all of the brand’s product ranges, and is common amongst luxury e-commerce retailers. They know that their customers have already got a good idea of the quality and status of the clothing brands their selling, so they instead focus on communicating pertinent details succinctly. They also assume that the customer is discerning and well-versed in fashion terminology, such as ‘side-slit hemline’, ‘no appliques’ and ‘round toeline’, so no additional information on these is provided. This approach might not work for many other online retailers, but for a brand like Yoox which specialises in selling last season’s luxury items at discounted prices it’s a good fit.

But in order to build customer relationships and their brand, Yoox still need to communicate their values and their brand story to visitors. So how and where do they do this?

How Yoox leverage off-product content to build trust and illuminate their brand story

The first place you’ll find any substantial content is on the ‘Customer Care’ section of their website. Even this though is kept short and to the point, for example the ‘Payment Security’ page which speaks practically of, “maximum security thanks to the use of VeriSign and ATW-certified secure servers and the implementation of the most advanced encryption services (SSL)”. The shipping page meanwhile is similarly matter of fact, aside from a humorous tagline, which reads “So reliable you’ll wish we could babysit.”

Even these straight forward relatively colourless pages though contribute to Yoox’s brand story. They establish the brand’s online retail services as being reliable, trustworthy and responsible. This then sits alongside their high quality designer goods and discount prices to make it hard for a customer not to make a purchase if they see something they like.

Yoox’s copywriters have kept things similarly tight and to the point on the ‘About Us’ page. Rather than chucking out lots of meaningless adjectives, they tell the reader about “an edited range of hard to find clothing and accessories from the world’s most prestigious designers,” and, “compelling and collectable artworks chosen by international curators and critics from the world’s leading galleries and institutions.” This further sets the brand up as a trusted provider of luxury items, and is backed up by short additional content pages to reassure visitors, such as one entitled ‘Are your products authentic?’

This is followed by an invitation to visit the group’s corporate site to find out more. It’s here that the brand’s copywriters have been much busier, with detailed pages explaining the group’s commitment to sustainability, its wider values, and more in-depth explanations of its history. These provide valuable information for those customers that feel they need to know more about the brand, while keeping the main site uncluttered for those who are more easily swayed.

Is your brand an online success?

Yoox’s online success then can be traced in part to its confident and consistent use of minimalistic product descriptions, coupled with a practical yet robust approach to brand building in other areas of its site. Minimalistic it may be, but the company’s website builds trust and smoothly sets up the key concept behind the brand – last season’s fashions direct from the source, at discounted prices.

Do you need help communicating your brand story online? Get in touch with Big Star Copywriting for a friendly chat.

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Sealing the deal: E-commerce copywriting and the perfect checkout page

Sealing the deal: E-commerce copywriting and the perfect checkout page

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So you’ve spent your time and money optimising your site so that it ranks highly in the search engines. You’ve pored over every inch of its design to make it as attractive and usable as possible. You’ve made your product descriptions scintillating and convincing in equal measure. But your actual sales are failing to deliver on the promises made by your traffic counters? The root of the problem, may lie at the very end of the process.

Once your customers have found your page, browsed through your products, decided that you can be trusted and actually chosen something they want to buy, all that stands between you and a sale is your checkout page. And if it’s a stinker, there’s nothing stopping your prospective customer from backing out of the process entirely and taking their debit card elsewhere.

Here are a few reasons why a customer might find your checkout page to be a turn-off:

  • Uncertainty about what they actually need to do to complete the sale
  • Grammar and spelling errors/ typos that cause them to question the legitimacy and trustworthiness of your website
  • Too much content to read, distracting from making the actual purchase

Just as your product description pages are crucial in convincing your customer to choose to buy, your checkout page is essential in convincing them to pay.

What are the ingredients of a perfect e-commerce checkout page?

Econsultancy published a good post on the technical and design elements that make an effective checkout page last year. These included:

  • Speed
  • No forced registration
  • Security reassurance
  • Easy form filling
  • Progress indicators
  • Persistent basket summary
  • No distractions

In terms of the actual content and web copywriting that goes into your checkout pages, input should be fairly minimal. But get this small bit right, and you’ll reap the rewards in the form of additional conversions and increased sales. Some of the above points carry through into the checkout copywriting process. The speed with which the user can carry out the purchase for example and how easy the forms are to fill out will directly relate to how well the process is explained and signposted in the writing.

Effective e-commerce copywriting on your checkout page should be clear and it put things in concrete terms. For example: “To complete your purchase, fill out your payment and address details below, and then click buy.”

The labels for your user-input field should also leave no room for confusion. Instead of ‘address’, write ‘billing address’ or ‘delivery address’. State whether the debit card number should include spaces or not (something that even some top brands still fail to do, resulting in check-out frustration). Don’t give the user a chance to get confused, frustrated or bored during the checkout process or they may abandon it entirely.

Building trust through better copywriting

Your checkout content can also help greatly in reassuring the user about security and privacy issues. Instruct your copywriter on the specific security measure you use to protect your customers, such as SSL encryption, so that they can convey that information with a reassuring and authoritative tone.

Finally your checkout page should contain a call to action, just as your product descriptions could, along the lines of, “you’re almost there, just enter a few details to complete your order.” Doing so maintains the feeling of a personal touch at this late stage, as one might get from a sales assistant in a bricks and mortar store.

Crafting the perfect checkout page can work wonders for conversion rates, and isn’t that, in the end, what e-commerce is all about? If you need a little help optimising your checkout page for success, get in touch with Big Star Copywriting and we’ll get one of our star e-commerce copywriters on the case.

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Will Google’s latest update affect the ranking of your product pages?

Will Google’s latest update affect the ranking of your product pages?

Google mobile update

This month online marketers and SEO experts have been falling over themselves in anticipation of Google’s latest update to its algorithm. Now the day is finally upon us. Launching today (April 21st), the update is, it seems, specifically aimed at improving the mobile-friendliness of websites appearing at the top of the search results.

Towards the end of February, in a Google Webmaster Central post entitled ‘Finding more mobile-friendly search results’, the search giant said that, “starting April 21st, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal… this change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have significant impact in our search results.”

E-commerce sites in particular should pay attention to this update, as, according to Shopify, 50.3% of all e-commerce traffic is now arriving at websites via mobile devices. According to Smart Insights meanwhile, 80% of internet users now own a smartphone.

Understanding Google’s mobile-friendly update

So what exactly does the change to Google’s algorithm entail? As usual, the search engine isn’t giving away to many specifics, but in essence it will favour websites that comply with Google’s guidelines for mobile-friendly websites, while effectively penalising those that do not. Here’s a brief rundown of some of the things Google looks for, according to its own Google Developers Mobile Guide:

  • Mobile friendly design – eg. text displaying at an easy to read size, page displaying at the correct ratio on all devices.
  • A site which is simple and easy to use on a mobile device
  • A consistent template across all devices – “Google recommends using responsive web design over other design patterns.” The emphasis is theirs, so one might surmise that sites which employ responsive web design may fare better in search.

Helpful as ever, Google has also provided a ‘mobile friendly test’ to help you determine how the search engines bots see your page. Simply key in your web address and the test will tell you if your site is mobile friendly or whether there’s still work to do.

Mobile-friendly Product copywriting

So to return to the question posed by the title, “will Google’s latest update affect the ranking of your product pages,” the answer is yes it will. If your product pages are mobile friendly then you’ll likely see some improvements in where you rank, at least in mobile search. If your products are difficult to use and not designed for a fluid mobile experience, it’s likely that you’ll slide down the rankings to a greater or lesser extent.

The upside to this is, you know that if you make your website as mobile-friendly as possible, the results can only be positive. Although Google seems to have focused on site design and development issues in the build up to the update launch, the composition of the textual content of your website will undoubtedly also come in to play. To be mobile friendly, your product descriptions should be:

  • Concise – People tend to be on the go when they’re using their mobile phones and they’ll flick from product to product quicker. Say what you need to say about your product in as little space as possible.
  • Structured for reading ease – Good product copywriting should always be broken up with small paragraphs, bullet points and appropriate subheaders, but for mobile ecommerce it’s doubly important.
  • Keyword modest – A mobile phone screen full of keywords and little substance isn’t going to help anyone and Google is all too aware of this. Tell your product copywriter to take it easy with the keywords.

Above all (and this goes for all kinds of online marketing, mobile or not), your product descriptions should be of high quality and useful to web users.

If you need any help with the content side of getting your product descriptions mobile-friendly post-Google update, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Big Star Copywriting. We’ve got an experienced team of product copywriters who can sell your content to both the search engines and your customers.

 

 

 

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