Tuesday, April 21, 2009

in the beginning, there was the word

back when i was a freelance writer/copywriter, this biblical verse (john) was on my business card.

and the point is, the words matter.

quite often, ideas begin with the right words. finding them takes time.

and the wrong ones - or too many words - can kill an idea in its infancy.

i remember i did a job for japanese client and my agent called me all distressed, she said, the client said, why should i pay so much money for only three words?

i was laughing my head off.

let's think - how much would you pay for three seminal words like "just do it" or two like "think different"?

yes, the build-up to the nike line was brilliant. and now it's dogging them a bit.

and images matched with the apple ad really made a huge difference. but the words brought the brand front and center in people's minds.

so while i LOVE that elevator pitch thing from the harvard business school, the missing element is the word-finder.

because the choice of words make all the difference between predictable and inspiring.

if you're talking about something fun, you want the words to be bright, enthusiastic and punchy.

if you're talking about luxury or banks, you want the words to have weight, importance, history, a sense of responsibility and care.

fragrance and cosmetics? the words are generally sensual, indulgent, romantic - but they are also light and transparent - they inspire dreams.

fashion? they should be bold, unexpected and definitive. they should speak to the way the wearer identifies him/herself. unless it's a brand based on tradition or investment, fashion is playful and exciting, it's a chance to reinvent yourself.

art and dance? the words should dance or splash colors on the page, the thrill should come from the immediacy, the ability to move your emotions and touch your soul. (the right words might even cause stendhal syndrome!)

just been asked to work on an american fashion brand who wants to be playful fresh and, of course, american. and i had to ask for a lot more details.

because what's american? ernest hemingway or william faulkner? mark twain? hunter s. thompson? willa cather?

what's more american - tommy hilfiger, ralph lauren, donna karan, calvin klein - or is the gap? coach, cole haan, ann taylor, american apparel, kate spade?

we're in a recession. differentiation is more and more important. what separates all those pretty pictures on billboards and websites?

lucky me. otherwise the hbs elevator pitch tool would make me irrelevant.

the words are key.


spotskhan said...

im interning as a copywriter at ogilvy mumbai..post a 2 yr experience at a radio station where i felt a lil better about my skill...in here im still trying to comprehend under a great loss of confidence..

can u help me in raising my standards of advertising ?they tell me i need exposure in return for every idea i give..

Ameena Meer said...

sure, i'm happy to help but you're somewhat difficult to contact - facebook, twitter, email?

your blog is not even a mirage for me because it's black-on-black - more of a nuage.