Would you get a drink with your copy?
Read your website. If it sounds like someone you wouldn’t mind having a beer with, then yay! Give yourself a star and stop reading this article – you’ve already nailed it.
Everyone, from banks to cafes to web designers, wants their brand to have personality these days. Why? Because that’s the point of brands – they’re entities that should connect with consumers on an emotional level – as we’ve written about in the past, people make purchasing decisions based on gut instinct. Copywriting is an important part in creating that gut reaction. And, of course, having a bit personality also makes you stand out in a sea of competently written, but incredibly boring, ads and websites.
But writing copy with the right amount of spark and quirkiness – without being completely cringe-worthy – isn’t as easy as it seems.
Here are 10 simple ways to add personality to your copy:
1. Let’s be real
Personality only works if it’s authentic. Which is why you need to match your copy personality to your brand.
If you’re a bank, you can probably be a little quirky in a dry, Daddish way, but you can’t get away with full on slang or yoof speak. You still want people to trust you with their hundreds of thousands, after all. But if you’re selling something fun, like beer, or cupcakes, or glitter bombs, feel free to go crazy.
The key is matching the tone of voice with your brand, rather than the other way around.
Mac’s, a well-known Kiwi beer brand, has a quirky, irreverent tone of voice that fits their hipsterish vibe. Because they’re selling beer, they can get away with being a bit silly.
We’ve written about how to establish a brand tone of voice in your copywriting already, here.
2. Try, but don’t make it obvious
Of course you’re going to work hard on your copy, but you don’t want to make that hard work too obvious. Does that make sense? Trying too hard often comes in the form of awkwardly shoehorned jokes or embarrassing attempts to use your teenage daughter’s slang. It’s better to keep it simple and avoid that cringe factor – people probably aren’t going to use your business out of pity.
3. Consistency is key
Once you’ve established a strong brand voice and personality, you need to make sure it comes across everywhere people interact with your business. If your website is bursting with humour and personality, but your emails are dry and corporate, it strikes an odd note for your customers. Keep it consistent and your personality will seem more authentic.
4. Write for the right people
This goes along with matching the voice to the brand. Match your personality to your people – AKA your customers and potential customers. It’s important that you know who you’re talking to. And no, you can’t just say ‘everyone’. Think about more than just your target’s age, gender, occupation, class or location and try to imagine how that person will be feeling when they’re reading your copy. The same person will think a dirty joke is vulgar one day, and hilarious the next, depending on who’s telling it and in what context.
5. Be a human, not a robot
This is a big one. In fact, if you do nothing else, at least remember this. Write copy as if you’re a human being talking to another human being. Which should be easy, because that’s what you are.
Lots of writers, particularly when they’re starting out, fall into the trap of thinking that they need to be corporate and formal at all times. They think this makes them sound professional and knowledgeable, but it really just comes across as dull, personality-free and (really!) like they don’t know what they’re talking about.
So write like you talk. Check by reading your work aloud after you’ve written it – if it sounds stilted and awkward, go back and simplify. One very simple example: people say things like ‘Give us a call’ or ‘Get in touch’, rather than things like ‘Call today’ or ‘Visit our website’.
6. Humour has value
Being funny doesn’t come easy to everyone. But even if you weren’t the class clown, try adding a bit of humour to your copy. You don’t have to think up hilarious puns. Simple things like a self-deprecating aside or a pop culture reference can make a big difference. And on the plus side, you have hours to make it funny – no more agonising over that hilarious comeback you could have made.
7. Take a stand (even a small one)
If you’re on the internet a lot, you might not believe it, but it is actually possible to have an opinion without being rude, mean or sarcastic. And it doesn’t have to be controversial either. Even taking a stand on something silly or minor (“We believe dipping bikkies in milk is an abomination!”) can add a bit of personality and interest to your writing. After all, people have opinions, companies don’t tend to.
8. Big ideas, small words
Using big, fancy words can be tempting. You spent all that time at university learning them, why not put them to use? But if you’re trying to sound like a human being (or a likeable one) they’re not so useful. Big words can sound pretentious and make it hard for people to relate to your writing. Worse, they make it harder for people to understand your message – which is kind of the opposite of effective communication.
9. It’s all about me (and you)
Using the first person (I and we) and the second (you and your) sounds obvious, but some copywriters still don’t do it. It’s key to making your customers feel as if they’re communicating with a real person, not a faceless corporation. ‘We’ve got your insurance sorted’ sounds much friendlier and more relatable than ‘Contact Sunshine for insurance solutions.”
10. Break the rules
We know that you know how to spell, and write a good sentence, and use an apostrophe. But that doesn’t mean you can’t break the rules sometimes. Starting a sentence with ‘And’, using a run-on sentence and using colloquial spelling sometimes (wince) can all make you sound more interesting. People don’t tend to speak in perfect sentences, so it all comes back to that ‘sounding like a human’ thing.
Simple, right? Well, it’s actually not that easy (which is why copy writing is still a thing). It takes a while to get your head around putting some personality into your copy. Even when you get it, it can be tricky to create a whole new personality for each business.
Luckily, most clients just want their copy to be ‘friendly and relatable’, which is only a challenge for some of us…