Content Writing: The 1 Mistake Rookie Writers Always Make (That The Pros Avoid)
Be honest, how much time do you spend understanding your client’s brand? If it’s very little, let this be your new motto: “I will not forget branding.”
Too often, copywriters want to dive right into the topic. “Let’s get Googling,” you might say as you begin your research.
But have you ever asked your client the big questions?
What does their company stand for? What’s their core mission? How do customers feel about their company?
These questions often get pushed aside, sometimes understandably so. Some clients might even wonder why all of this matters. Sure some will gladly give you answers and be happy that you’re so thorough - those are the clients who know what they're doing. But others will be hard pressed to give answers because they don’t truly understand what branding is or what it's for themselves.
Do them a favor: Explain to them how important understanding their brand is, and why this is critical for you in order to write amazing content.
Readers and consumers would develop certain expectations from your client's brand. Unless you take to heart what these expectations are, you're going to disappoint them, alter their perception in a way you never intended, or worse, lose their patronage.
Not good, right?
But if you master their brand identity and learn how to use it to their favor, then the possibilities are endless.
What is "Brand Identity"?
Don’t get confused.
Branding and brand identity are the foundations on which a company stands upon. It’s not the dressy part, like the logo or color schemes or ads, although those aspects can helpcommunicate who they are.
What helps influence the audience’s perception, but is not branding:
So then, what is branding?
Here are a few things that define branding:
- Mission & Vision
- Target audience
- Customer relationship
As you can tell from the second list, "branding" is the essence of a brand - not just its appearance. It's what allows companies to form a deeper bond with customers.
Branding or brand identity is what defines the voice, the personality, the perception, and the reception of a brand.
As a result, this becomes the starting point of a brand's relationship with the public. A clear and relatable brand identity inspires a following, loyalty, and when done well, even love.
Take for instance Filipino fast food brand Jollibee. It's essentially a localized spin-off of McDonald's, with its menu and business plan. Yet, it garners more love from Filipinos. Why? Because they find Jollibee's brand identity (family-centric place where you can have good and affordable food) more relevant to them personally than McDonald's Western sensibilities.
This was evident in Jollibee's recent opening in Winnipeg, Canada where hundreds of Filipinos braved the cold and waited in line for hours.
Seth Godin’s definition of a brand nails this point.
“A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer's decision to choose one product or service over another.” – Seth Godin
Why you should study your client’s brand identity
- To project a solid and consistent image
So, you’ve gotten assigned a new job from your client. Let’s say it’s to write content for their yoga blog.
Not knowing who they are or what they're all about, you decide to focus on yoga for weight loss. You write with humor, fill the piece with casual jokes, and use terms popular with 18-25-year-old females.
Unfortunately, it turns out that your client's brand isn't about yoga for weight loss. Instead, it's about the spirituality behind yoga and is targeted towards aspiring yogis in their 40's and 50's.
Not only will publishing that piece completely alienate your client’s company from its readers, it would also insult them by making light of something they've dedicated their lives to. If you have a brand you trust and love, and suddenly it disappoints you by giving you useless information, you will probably not go back to it, right?
Worst of all, this one piece of failed content could cost your client lots of money - and it all points back at you.
A company needs to project a solid image and consistent personality or they’ll lose focus. If their messaging is scattered, their audience will feel betrayed and drop them fast.
- To communicate better with the brand’s audience
Brand identity defines the brand's personality. This is what allows them to build rapport with potential customers. And just like with humans, this is where real relationships begin.
A brand that effectively communicates "who they are" to their target audience can successfully create deep relationships.
Look at Nestle's milk brand for kids known as Nido or Nespray in various Asian markets.
- Mission: To provide the essential nutrition for school-age kids
- Vision: To see children grow up healthy, well-rounded, and ready for the real world
- Values: They believe that mothers can only take care of their children to a certain extent. The best mothers can do is to equip their children, so that they can grow gracefully and healthily into the world.
- Personality: adventurous, imaginative, fun
This message is relayed in all of their advertisements throughout Asia, no matter the country or language.
If you're their target audience, a mother who shares the same values about child-rearing, this will hit you right in the spot.
Understand your brand and you can craft an unforgettable message for a client’s company.
- To show you’re conscious and that you care
Asking about a client's brand demonstrates a more committed writer. It shows you care. You want to know more, to understand deeper.
This will show clients a person who doesn't only aim to meet minimum requirements, but someone who is sincerely concerned about other aspects of their business. After all, if their reputation and success are just as important to you (if not more so) than getting paid, they would see that you're more than just a content writer, you're an invaluable asset.
Because brand identity can also be overlooked, being the only writer who reminds them shows that you know more than the others. And if you know more - and care more - than the tens of other content writers out there, then you're probably better.
Prove them right.
Get them to talk about the essence of their brand. Ask them the deeper questions. Take the answers to heart. And if they can't answer you, help them understand the importance of knowing their brand better. Guaranteed, they will thank you for it.
How to Maximize Branding
- Know your client’s brand strategy with these 2 things
This is your client’s plan on developing a successful brand. A successful brand grows into the audience’s mind. It doesn’t sprout from nothing.
Think of brand strategy as the car and brand identity as the passenger. It's the brand strategy that will deliver the brand identity to different destinations (goals and target audience) within the brand's marketing plan.
You can harness these 2 important factors and make them work together to create highly-targeted content across different platforms, which are relevant and attractive to your audience.
Take Korean electronics brand Samsung. It took years of purposeful choices to grow the brand into what it is today. It used to be only second to Apple, but with consistent communications, a clear brand image, and relentless marketing, it has overtaken its predecessor in many ways.
- Know the brand's target demographics by just, well, asking for it
Brands can't target everyone - that's an important rule in Marketing. You always have to target a specific type of person to make your strategy, identity, and communication clear.
One way to define your target audience is through demographics.
Demographics entail statistics-based factors such as age, gender, location, ethnicity, status, financial standing, net worth, and the like. The idea behind this is that people in different groups will have specific shared qualities, opportunities, and behaviors.
These are what's important to your client's brand, so don't be afraid to ask for data.
By knowing your target demographic, you'll know how they talk, you'll know their habits, you'll know their concerns, you'll even know how much they spend for a cup of coffee. Thus, you'll know how to talk to them, what to talk to them about, and how to get them interested in what you have to say.
- Know the brand's target psychographics
Psychographics is the study of personality, values, opinions, attitudes, interests, and lifestyles. Every successful brand that people love (or obsess over) targets a specific psychographic.
Just like demographics, it lends an insight into the kind of people you're trying to talk to.
Say your client has a men's active wear brand and you're tasked to write content for their blog. Their target demographic are 28-35 year-old single male professionals living in the city. Would this give you a clear idea of how to talk to them? Not really.
But if you add those stats with psychographics, i.e. they prefer outdoor activities such as biking and mountaineering over indoor activities like the gym, then you have a better picture. You can now focus your blogs on their specific interests instead of general topics that will have little to no relevance.
Use SWOT Analysis
Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Threats
SWOT Analysis is traditionally used to develop brand strategy. And since strategy and identity are so closely tied together, this can help you define branding as well.
(Use this as your note-taking exercise during strategizing stage.)
Example of client’s brand: Meditation company Main product: Meditation app
- “Meditation is for everyone.” Communicates this benefit well.
- Well designed, easy to understand UI for beginners.
- Teenagers like the colorful, animated designs.
- Doesn’t offer advanced guided meditations.
- Beginners find it difficult to continue their practice.
- Subscription price is too high for many.
- Other apps on the marketplace with the same “Meditation is for everyone” theme.
- Some practitioners are very specific on what they feel meditation should/shouldn’t be.
- Top brands are moving into the app space.
- Lots of high-income urban populations find meditation attractive.
- New research shows it might help those suffering from ADD.
- A survey discovered that those who want to meditate also care about eating green.
With this information, you'll know how to position your brand so that it can take full advantage of the market situation. It'll guide you in how to use the brand's identity to best penetrate the market and carve your brand's niche.
Branding, the foundation on which you’ll begin
Don’t make the mistake of looking over branding or rushing into a specific project. Branding is important for a company’s consistent image, reputation, communication to their audience, and to show that you care as a writer.
Understanding and writing in accordance with a client’s brand identity will make you stand out from other writers. Some only do the bare minimum to get paid. Others might have the skills but don’t put in the effort to go above and beyond.
If you're still not convinced that branding not only works, but is an integral part of the writing process, see how we used branding in our copy for a small Malaysian startup that shot them up to the #1 spot on Google.
Discovering the values, mission, and identity of a brand takes time and effort.But if you want to be the best writer you can be and to keep your clients impressed with your work, you’ll never want to forget about branding ever again.
You would never build a home without a foundation, and so you should never begin writing without understanding what and who is at the heart of your content.