The Power of Narrative
For sale: baby shoes, never worn.
This story, or narrative, is made all the more poignant because of the story behind it. The story itself, captured in only six words, is powerful enough, but the story behind the story, is what makes it interesting. The story is attributed, whether falsely or not, to Ernest Hemingway, via a dare. To write a story in less than ten words.
Which he did. Thereby becoming one of the first copywriters through craft and distillation. A real copywriter will tell you that though it’s a good story, it still needs a call to action. It can probably be improved by adding an image. And under scrutiny, all sorts of questions suddenly pop up.
Why is it only shoes? If the message is what we perceive it to be, then what happened to the rest of the baby’s clothes? Or did the parents just buy shoes? Highly unlikely. What size are these shoes? What colour? What is it made of? These are known as body copy thoughts. The story itself is only the headline. The beginning part to suck you into reading further. To find out more. As ads go, this one is lacking.
And as copywriters go, this is the way our brains work. There are questions. Always questions. Whereas designers are visual hoarders, storing files and files of design ideas, copywriters are hoarders of curious ideas.
As a species, we are fascinated by the narrative behind the human truth. We are storytelling animals, and a good story is why we write. It’s why we make music. As Edgar Allan Poe so rightly said, “Music, when combined with a pleasurable idea, is poetry. Music, without the idea, is simply music.”
The same can be said for marketing. Merely stating a fact doesn’t magically sell it or tell a story. But give it some thought. Put an angle on it. Find that one thing that makes the difference, which tells the story, that sells.
We’ve got milk is not a story. But, we’ve got pampered cows, living the life of luxury with their own human sleeping with them in the barn at night, caring for and milking them every three hours so that the milk is always fresh and their udders always taken care of, is.
This is what makes copywriting so exciting. To do what others do but in fewer words. To find the crux of the matter, apply logic and strategic intent to it, adapt it to different channels and then see real results through a novel concept.
You don’t convince people to buy into a boat by telling them how big it is or how many rooms it’s got. You convince them by telling them what they will see, who they will meet, what they will experience. You convince them through the narrative of the journey.
But it’s more than just doing it for the beauty of words or the pleasure of craftsmanship. It has a purpose, linked to real results. Copywriting is the satisfaction of taking a product, getting creative through concepts and achieving sales.
Because at the end of the day, we are glorified salespeople. It’s our job. And what a job it is!
If you want to find out more about becoming a copywriter, please enquire about our Digital Content & Copywriting online short course, our Certificate in Creating Digital Content or our new Advanced Diploma in Copywriting.
See what we did there?
A real call to action. A story that led you here. A journey that could be yours.
About the author:
Pieter Verwey, Master of Steampunk, Creative Director, Lecturer, Author, Coffee Snob and Lost Lover, Not necessarily in that order.