The World According to Renee

Views, Reviews, Short Stories and More…

Authority Marketing: Using an Expert to Sell Your Product

Today I read this article which talks about failings in logic. In particular, take notice of the section call Appeal to Authority.

This is a technique used a lot in marketing. Think of a popular brand of toothbrushes- 9 out of 10 dentists recommend this brand, according to the ad. There’s also a spate of advertising to do with kids’ nutrition. Recent ads are showing mums who are also nutritionists selling products that everyday mums should put into their kids’ lunchboxes. (Those of you who watched The Gruen Transfer on August 31 know what I’m talking about).

Therein lies the question: how effective are these endorsements? Experts are a fantastic way to sell your product. If you’re looking to buy a product, for example, a book, you’ll probably read some reviews written by people who have read the book. The same applies to any product- you want to be assured that you aren’t wasting your time and money by purchasing the product. There are a bunch of websites allowing people to review every product imaginable, which helps you decide if it is the right product for you. Let’s say you’re buying a service. The service provider has a website with a heap of testimonials from satisfied customers. There is a chance that these have been made up but generally, the more information about the person, the more likely you are to believe it because they are more real to you.


The plumber was on time and everything was fixed perfectly.

The plumber was on time and everything was fixed perfectly.
-Pamela S, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria.

Perhaps the most well-known example is celebrity endorsements. This is when a celebrity advertises a product (for a fee, of course, but you’re supposed to forget about that part). Personal trainers from TV weight loss shows are a good example- they advertise everything from courses to weight loss products to herbal treatments for joint pain. For some reason, people trust celebrities (particularly if they are successful in their career, like a sportsperson) so the celeb promoting a product is going to engage the consumer more than a nobody. Sometimes, this works as an advantage for community safety; remember Dr Karl Kruszelnicki’s ads for micro-sleeps while you’re driving?

So if you’re running a business, how can you cash in on this Appeal to Authority?

Use Testimonials: they are very effective. Contact past customers and ask for a few lines of their experience. Make sure you tell them that you’re planning to use this on your website/brochure/newsletter etc.

Connect with an Expert in a Complementary Area: If you’re a professional photographer, team up with a professional makeup artist so you’re both selling your services. The idea is that you’re selling both the photo and the experience of looking amazing. Similarly, if you’re a graphic designer, consider teaming up with a friendly copywriter to sell a package deal…

Last but not least: Solve the problem. The mums-who-are-nutritionists are solving the problem of what to put in your kids’ lunchbox. You want something healthy that they will eat. By using a nutritionist mum, she knows what kids want as well as what you want for them.


August 31, 2011 Posted by | Copywriting | , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s All About ME!

The Golden Rule of Copywriting is:

What’s in it for me?

This is the basis for your sales. The customer sees your ad (whether it be website, newsletter, brochure etc) and immediately, they need to know why they need you. This is where good copy can make a sale. Let’s see an example.

Bad Copy

Our company makes the finest cupcakes, from a secret recipe handed down generation to generation. We delight in using the freshest ingredients and our cupcake chefs are the best in the country. We know this because we have been awarded the prestigious Cupcake Award 3 years in a row.

Good Copy

Your tastebuds are in for a treat! Using a secret cupcake recipe from generations of mums, you’re promised the freshest ingredients from the best cupcake chefs in the country. You’re tasting the winners of the Cupcake Award for the past 3 years.

Mmm… cupcakes. By changing the “we” to “you”, you’re bringing the customer into your world and then you can begin the hard sell. When writing copy, ask yourself, “What’s in it for me?” You’ll see your business in a different light because you’ll see it how your customers see it. You might have all the qualifications in the world and some pretty stuff to sell, but it won’t sell itself. Customers want to know why they need to buy your product/service.

(No, I do not have any cupcakes so please don’t ask!)



August 16, 2011 Posted by | Copywriting | , , | Leave a comment

Words Are Powerful (well duh)

Everyone remembers something someone once said to them. In almost every celebrity interview, you’ll find the question “What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?” People also remember the bad words- who remembers being bullied at school or being told they’re stupid?

Today I had my hair cut. As the hairdresser chopped off those locks, I heard the voice of my first boyfriend say, “You’re so vain…” This stems from a phone chat we had after I’d gotten a haircut and I said I liked it, I thought it looked nice. He told me I was vain and to stop looking in the mirror (which I wasn’t doing, but how would he know? We were on the phone!) Strangely, I hear this every time I have a haircut. So if I see a hairdresser every three months (give or take), over 17 years, that’s about 68 haircuts, so 68 times I’ve heard this voice tell me I’m vain because I like the new hairdo.

Don’t tell me words aren’t powerful.

Words are overused and misused and can hurt. They can stick with people for a very long time (I’m not talking about the written word either) or they can be said in jest but remembered forever more. Not just the hurtful words and the advice, but small things that probably shouldn’t be remembered. If I called that boyfriend today and asked him, he probably wouldn’t remember telling me that (never mind that he spent half an hour every morning getting his own hair just right!) Words do count so choose them wisely.



July 5, 2011 Posted by | Copywriting, Thoughts & Reflections | Leave a comment

Confessions of a Copywriter

Dear world,

I am a copywriter.

With those few words, suddenly I’m in the spotlight. People look at my grammar and spelling and pounce when I make a mistake (they’re all typos, I swear!) Here’s a list of small confessions.

1. Wot’s grammar?
There are few people today who use exquisite grammar. There are fewer people who know what it is. In this day and age of internet and 140 character limits, grammar is a forgotten skill. I wonder if most people would recognise proper grammar if they read it? (Although I have several pedantic friends who definitely could…) The truth is, when a copywriter writes, they’re writing for the general public using everyday language that is easily understandable. There’s no point in writing exceptional English by the book if no one can understand it. By the way, I still have trouble remembering when to use its or it’s.

2. We make up Words
Oh noes! Who’s seen the latest ads for McDonalds’ M Selections menu? Here are two words that are used which aren’t actual words: Schmancy and Deluxier. Those were written by a copywriter who, presumably, knows they aren’t words in any dictionary. Personally, I’m not a fan of making up words and catering (ha!) to a nation of grammatical retards, but that’s an entirely different matter. (The “Schmancy” campaign recently won an advertising award in the UK).

3. Australian Spelling is Optional
This is something I’m trying very hard to come to terms with. Last week, my copywriting coach presented a piece of work she’s recently completed. I have no idea what the point of the presentation was because my attention was completely absorbed in one little word: personalize. I picked her up on it, asking why she’d used the American spelling. She explained that a few years ago, she was pedantic about using the UK/Australian spellings but only recently resigned herself to using American as well, and increasingly. She mused it was probably her software’s spell check that auto-corrected her S’s to Z’s to the point that she doesn’t even notice her spelling anymore. I’m not sure I will ever be that comfortable with using Z, but I’m certainly trying not to get so upset over it!

4. Breaking the Rules
In the first heading, you’ll see I’ve written “Wot’s”. Some words were meant to be played with. Recently, my sister asked if “agreeance” was a word, as in, “We’re all in agreeance”. Of course, the correct word is agreement but she argued agreeance sounds better. There are other silly words that I use regularly: bestest is probably the one that appears the most. I may even use that in a campaign at some point…

5. Everything is awesome, and don’t you forget it!
I got into trouble this week for saying what’s on my mind. Copywriting is all about making things sounding amazing and irresistible; you can’t possibly live without these products or services. A few months ago, I wrote a promotional piece about a diet shake. I’m not a fan of diet shakes and writing how amazing this one was proved to be a challenge. Earlier this week, someone asked what I thought about a new doughnut. I may have said something rather unflattering about it, likening it to something my dog may have done last week that is still un-picked up in the backyard. Unprofessional? Absolutely. Tactless? Certainly. True? I thought so. It’s not often people ask what I actually think about a product, so it’s refreshing to say something a little bit nasty occasionally.

I’m finishing an essay for uni today. It’s been a while since I wrote an essay. When I started, I really wanted to use bullet points to get my thoughts across (bullet points and white space are essential when writing web copy). It was interesting moving away from my copy writing into essay writing, felt like I was learning a new skill, using different parts of my brain.

Or is that brane?

April 1, 2011 Posted by | Copywriting | , , | 4 Comments

Y: It Matters

Some years ago, someone said every time you read a book, there’s always a detail you missed the first time. For a long time after that, whenever I re-read a book, I looked for the bits I’d missed. The same goes for movies- every time you watch it, there’s a detail you’ve missed before.

For example, today I watched The Wizard of Oz. I’ve seen that movie oh, about a thousand times. Today, I noticed Dorothy’s posy of flowers changes before she begins walking the Yellow Brick Road. The posy she’s handed has mostly purple flowers, then the posy changes to mostly yellow flowers, then back to purple. It’s a detail I’ve never noticed before.

Recently I wrote a piece for a client and for some reason, despite all my proofreading, I completely missed a blindingly obvious spelling mistake. Even worse- it was the client’s name that had been misspelled. Yes people, I committed the Cardinal Sin of Copywriting: misspelling the name of the client in a piece of copy. Luckily, it was picked up before the client saw it, but I beat myself up about it for days afterward. How could I miss that detail? How could I miss something right in front of my eyes? How could I miss it after all the time I’d spent reading and re-reading the piece?

Of course, the best thing about mistakes is that you always remember them. Hopefully, you never make them again. So while I can no longer claim my strength is ‘attention to detail’, I’m always going to check, re-check and check again the client’s name before I press Send.

(In case anyone was wondering, I left out the Y in their name, hence the title of the post.)

February 6, 2011 Posted by | Copywriting, Thoughts & Reflections | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ahead of the Trend

It’s a secret that everyone wishes they knew: how can I have an idea that is ahead of our time and other people will copy? Unfortunately, I don’t know the answer (sorry!) Sometimes it’s just luck when someone famous has the same idea and implements it.

A few months ago, my sister was chatting to someone at work and they came up with an idea for a store. Somewhere that women could have access to professional styling and makeup artistry to complement their natural style and body. Together, they started the ball rolling and things fell into place despite a few speed humps. The result is Nueva Style Studio in Brisbane.

Yesterday, it was discovered that reality star du jour Kim Kardashian has done the same thing in her boutique in New York City.  Now, one must remember that Kim has a bit more money and celebrity leverage than my sister… so the two stores can’t be compared in any way except for the concept.

So what does this mean for concept stores? This is fantastic news for similar stores. Kim has fans over here in Australia who could be looking for the same kind of thing; somewhere to go for fashion and makeup for that special day or just to lift their spirits and find professional advice on how to flaunt your assets and hide the other bits. (There’s something here I could write about SEO to get website hits using key terms, but that would take a whole blog of its own).

Although there’s no crystal ball to tell you the trends of the future, sometimes luck steps in and gives you a celebrity endorsement.


October 19, 2010 Posted by | Copywriting, Thoughts & Reflections | Leave a comment


One of the questions asked in a copywriter’s brief is: Who are your top 3 competitors and why are you different? (OK, that’s technically two questions…) When asked, one of 2 things will happen: The client says, “Oh, I don’t know” or “blah blah blah, we offer this.”

Let’s take the “I don’t know” statement. If you’re in business and you don’t know who your competition is, you haven’t done your research. As well as copywriting, I work in retail for a well-known doughnut company. Our competitors are other doughnut companies. We’re different because the dough is yeast-based, not wheat, making it lighter and fluffier. We offer different doughnuts than the competition and we regularly change our promotional doughnuts. Recently we switched from regular icing to actual chocolate on the doughnuts.( I know one Brisbane-based doughnut company already uses real chocolate…)

It’s one thing to know who your competition is and something else to know why you’re different. If I’m in the market for wedding photography,  I want to know why I should choose you over Joe Bloggs. You both do pretty photos. You both offer DVDs, negatives, good prices, fast service. What do you offer that he doesn’t?

Knowing your competition is vital for the success of your business. Being different catches people’s eye and draws them in. They will shop with you and keep coming back.

Here are 5 tips on differentiating yourself from your competition.

Have a Special Offer
Most special offers are for first-time customers. That’s fine, but you want return business. Having a loyalty card is one way you keep customers/clients returning. Buy 10 whatevers, get one free. You probably already have 20 loyalty cards in your purse- everything from clothes to coffee. To draw in more customers/clients, the best special offer is giving a discount to the referrer. If they refer someone to you, they get 15% off their next purchase. It’s win-win: you get more customers which covers the cost of the discount.

Guarantee Your Work
Most businesses will have a guarantee. In retail, it’s money back, credit or replacement. In other businesses, particularly those offering services, there’s a 30 day guarantee offering anything from refund to discount to next service free. As a copywriter, I offer 2 free re-writes of any piece you’re unhappy with. The trick here is to have a different guarantee from your competition and one that is both legal and easy to enforce. You don’t want to have long delays and extra expenses incurred over a disagreement.

Make Your Product Different
Recently I wrote for a website about a therapeutic pillow. There are literally thousands of different therapeutic pillows on the market so I had to find ways to convince you that this was The One. I focused on the unique design, the approval by leading health professionals and the price. Blu-tac’s major competitor starting making brightly coloured adhesive globs. Post-It’s major competitor started putting cute animal designs on their sticky notes. The possibilities are endless- think outside the square.

Unbeatable Customer Service
Be polite and go out of your way to ensure every customer has the exact product they want. That’s it. How many people do you know who won’t go back to a retailer because they were rude or had a bad experience?

Be Easy to Contact
The curator of a gallery I know has his phone number in the window of the shop. A customer saw a piece they liked, gave him a call and he was there within a few minutes, even though the store wasn’t due to open for another hour. He made the sale and the customer was very happy. This doesn’t work for everyone as not many people live within 10 minutes of their stores. On your website (and you need a website!) have several ways you can be contacted. Phone number, email address, store location. If you have a smart phone, set up the email so that you are alerted every time a new email arrives. You never know- that email might be a huge sale! Of course, this doesn’t mean you need to answer your phone in the middle of the night, but ensure you have voicemail reassuring customers/clients that you will return their call ASAP (and keep to your word!)

Naturally, this isn’t an exhaustive list. Whatever business you’re in, have a look at your competitors. Look at their websites, go into their stores, have a look at their portfolio, chat with them. Find something they do, and either do it better or come up with something completely new.

October 5, 2010 Posted by | Copywriting | , | 1 Comment

Go M.A.D.

Some years ago, I went to an Amway seminar. You know the ones- people talk about the ladder of success and how many recruits they’ve gotten that month. Everyone in the audience is hyped up and yells “Yeah!” at every opportunity. One thing that has stuck with me through these years was the phrase Go MAD! It stood for Make A Decision.

Although we make decisions all the time, every day, about every thing, often we don’t think about the decision. If we’re driving, it’s a split second decision. If we’re on the phone with a client, we stop and think about what we say next (well, hopefully…) Just as often, the decision not to make a decision leads to bigger decisions later on. For example, if you’re in a job you hate, you’ve made the decision it is easier to stay than to leave.

Last week, I made such a decision. Fueled by big dreams, I made the decision to move away from the comfort zone. I started actively looking for things I can do in order to achieve these dreams. I made a decision and let the universe know about it.

Two days later, things started shifting. I noticed people asking for small things in relation to writing. I got an email from my copywriting coach about an opportunity (which I have since accepted). I’m finally moving into the realm where magic happens- because I made a decision not to stay here in my comfy little rut.

Is it scary? Sure! Am I nervous? Yep! Both of these are sure signs that I’m leaving my comfort zone, widening my horizons, exploring these dreams which have been constant companions.

By making a decision, you’re choosing the path of your life. You are actively navigating the road your life will look like. And every decision you make, is the right choice for you at that moment.

September 17, 2010 Posted by | Copywriting, Thoughts & Reflections | Leave a comment


There’s a billboard ad at my local shopping centre that I just can’t work out. Firstly, it’s for “cookies” (when did biscuits become cookies?) but more importantly, they’re “ready baked”.

Ready baked? Do they mean already baked or ready to eat? It’s a jar of chocolate chip biscuits so I’m guessing it’s not a bake-at-home dough. But “ready baked”? I came to terms with it as I told myself it meant ‘already’ baked and was considering getting a permanent marker to add the ‘al’… when I saw a packet of chips labeled “ready salted”.

Ready salted? That was the last straw. Not only is it not an actual flavour (what happened to Salted or Original?) but I’m wondering if it means it’s salted enough so I don’t need to add any more or is the salt ready to be eaten?

As my brain melted over this wordy dilemma, I asked my boyfriend what his interpretation was. He replied ‘ready’ meant it was ready to go, nothing more needed. I argue that this is pointless, as the packet of chips is clearly good to be eaten and the ready-baked biscuits are cooked, cooled and packaged for you. Are people really that stupid not to recognise ready-to-eat food when they see it? If anything, I’d think the opposite- seeing a piece of fruit in its raw form could lead to questions such as, How do I open this? Where’s my dipping sauce? and I saw this in an ice cream flavour… mmm, ice cream.

Or maybe I’m just overthinking the whole thing.

August 31, 2010 Posted by | Copywriting | Leave a comment


As I buy a second sympathy card in a week, I stand in the post office trying to think of words to write. I’m aware of the irony; my whole life is words and yet they are completely inadequate for some things. How do you express the sadness of someone’s passing? How do you provide comfort for those mourning, especially when you can’t be there?

It was at this moment I felt for the Hallmark writers. I’d spent a few minutes looking through the sympathy cards, trying to find one that wasn’t cliched, religious, schmultzy or just plain crap. I’d settled on a blank card with a lily on the front. Nothing written on the Hallmark cards resonated with me. Yet, here I was staring at the card, wondering what to write.

You’d think these things would come somewhat naturally. Whenever I have something really important to say to someone, I write a letter. I’ve always expressed myself better in writing than speaking. This is why copywriting appeals to me and why people think I’m pretty good at it. Writing is more natural to me than talking (of course, this is probably because I can think what to write and delete when necessary… when talking, it often doesn’t go through the logic centre of my brain first).

What is comes down to is writing from the heart. People will always look past the actual words and see the thought and intent behind it. I’m saddened by recent events of those around me and I hope that whatever words I offer are of some comfort to them.

August 3, 2010 Posted by | Copywriting | Leave a comment