Copy Debriefing

Copy Debriefing

Translating brand strategy into brand language.

A crucial component of brand building is developing brand language. The right words bring your client’s brand to life. Words inform, inspire and ultimately weave a personality for your brand. So don’t be a dullard.

Forge beyond the keywords in your brand strategy. Account service has left for the weekend. It’s just you, a creative brief and the cleaning crew. Here are a few notions to occupy your desperate mind instead of pondering the mathematical inevitability of when you will run out of words.


Talk to your demographic like humans, not Venn diagrams. 

Take a step back from the conference room. Put on your consumer hat – the tin foil one that filters out words like committed, passionate, genuine and artisan.

Put yourself in your demographic’s earbuds. Turn on their favorite shows. Put yourself on their yacht (this isn’t nearly as much fun if you’re writing a used car ad). How do you talk? What makes you laugh? What makes you listen?

Now write as if you’re talking to that person at a party or a knitting circle or the elevator as they try to avoid making eye contact.

Millsaps CEO Ad
Know who you’re talking to.


Work with a good account team.

I consider myself pretty lucky in the account services department. These ladies and gents know our clients and know how to translate their goals into strategy. Without solid intel, you’re sunk before you begin. A good strategy brief provides the signposts for messaging. Write what you need to get to the point. Nothing more. Nothing less. If you can’t get that from your account team, I suggest looking elsewhere.


Don’t play magnetic poetry.

It’s tempting to just pepper in a laundry list of words from the strategy document. But that document wasn’t written for your target market. It was written for you. Account service has done their job. Now it’s your turn. The problem with digital marketing keywords is that consumers quickly adapt to ignore them. So translate those consumer insights and product benefits into actual people talk.


Talk to some humans.

If you need conversational inspiration, try talking to real live people. Stroll the office. Talk to your team (I’m assuming you survived the weekend and everyone is back in the office now). Have regular conversations about the brand and what you’re trying to say. You might just walk back to your desk with a shiny new headline scribbled on a Post-It Note.


Read a book.

Read a for real tree-slaughtering book. Engage your brain. Turn the pages. Feel the flow. I personally recommend Chandler and Hammett. Those guys didn’t mince words. Neither should you.


Pace yourself.

Rhythm and syntax color the personality of your copy as much as the actual words. You’re not writing an engineering manual (I hope). Have some fun. Disregard grammar. If your brand is a stickler for grammar, settle for eloquence.


Shut down.

There is a fine line between inspiration and distraction. Turn off the computer. Grab a notebook. Walk away from the desk. Go for a run. Have a drink on the patio. Is drinking alone a problem? Imagine yourself chit chatting with the target market.


Remember, nobody wants to read/hear this.

Just because you have the space, doesn’t mean you have to fill it with words. A few well-chosen words are always more engaging than a full page of blah blah blah. I take particular pride in once writing an ad campaign with no words at all.

Massage Therapy Ad
Sometimes no copy is the best copy.



Quit thinking so much and just start typing. Or scribbling. Start pulling the ideas down from the ether and put some words down. You’re probably going to hate the first few things you string together, anyway. So just go ahead and get that miserable part out of the way so you can get to the good stuff.

That’s it. Quit farting around on the Internet and get to work.

Or you could find some more distracting inspiration in this collection of long copy ads.

Wes Williams, VP/Creative ContentWes Williams, VP/Creative Content

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