There’s some great B2B marketing copy out there. Ever wondered why there isn’t more? After all, there’s no shortage of people wanting to turn their writing skills into money. And hardly anyone, according to frequent media reports, likes reading this sort of stuff: “Reaching out to stakeholders with robust solutions going forward”.
So where does bad copy come from? Sometimes it’s bad writing. Sometimes it’s a bad brief.
Quite a lot of the time, it’s bad attitude. If whoever is reviewing or signing off the copy is thinking solely about what’s great about the product and/or has very rigid views about how things should or should not be written, the effect on clarity can be severe. And somewhere between the first and the final draft, the copy gets beaten up. It’s a bit like the tree swing diagram, which can be adapted for just about any creative discipline from advertising to software engineering.
Because we can’t draw, we thought we would have a go at doing a written illustration of what happens to make good business writing go bad. It’s a fictional, highly simplified but not entirely unrealistic example of what we could impolitely call the ‘bullshitification’ process.
Here’s the first draft, which the copywriter thinks pretty much nails it:
And here are the comments, from an internal executive who we’ll call ‘John Doe’. As you’ll see, John has strong views about the first draft. Too much about benefits, not enough about the product. And a flip tone of voice that just doesn’t convey the gravity of the company’s serious products.
And the finished article, delivered to a delighted John Doe by a weeping copywriter.
Next time come you across some impenetrable marketing copy, an overlong and self-congratulatory press release or website that makes you wonder why you visited it, chances are it could be because ultimately, the customer is always right.