Guest Blog – The Power of Words by Claire Sparks

I’ve had the pleasure of working with Claire (or Sparky as I’ve always known her), and the even greater pleasure of hearing her take on subjects wide and varied for a few years now. Not only has she escaped the world of PR and marketing for the lush open fields of being a free-range  writer, she’s also used her experience to fuel that escape and come up with a brilliant debut novel based on that industry. So who better to dig deep into what we see, hear and read when brands start talking to us?

Words.  They are everywhere.  Just do it.  I’m lovin’ it’.  The World’s local bank.  Every little helps. I can’t believe it’s not butter (I can).  But how powerful is the written word when it comes to marketing?

I write novels and screenplays now but previously I worked in communications (I still dabble).  So, as you can imagine, I’m interested in the relationship between words and brands.  A novelist, a screenwriter, a director, an actor, a PR, a brand consultant, an event producer, we’re all doing the same thing.  We’re telling a story.

As I writer, I only get one chance to tell a story so I want it to be big-hearted, progressive and for a wide audience.  Marketing is no different.  Put the right words together and you’ve got yourself a story that evokes emotion.  Bombard me with words and you’ve alienated me as a consumer.

In film and fiction, the plot has to be appropriate to the genre.  The brand story is no exception.  Aldi’s marketing campaign says what it does on the tin.  ‘Like Brands.  Only cheaper’.  As a consumer, I know exactly where I stand.  The TV ads are cheap, simple, human and they make me smile.  They work.

It’s not just about choosing your words carefully.  It’s where you put them.  Brands, think about where you place your words.  Mark my words, if you interrupt my casual internet browsing with a roll down or any other advert that assaults my face and summons me to click it shut just so I can carry on, I will never buy your products.  Never, ever, ever.  There is a great blog that calls out bad media buying and alerted a grateful and responsive Clarks to a shoe advert placed in the middle of a Nazi tribute page.

There’s getting it wrong.  There’s getting it right.  Then, there’s the big moment.  Just do it, three little words that, arguably, defined a generation.  Whenever I see the swoosh, twenty years later, I know exactly what it means.  The same probably goes for a kid in Karachi or a teenager in Tokyo.

More and more, brands are becoming story tellers and journey-makers.  For me, at this point in time, John Lewis is the most prominent.  Their creative ad team is essentially producing a series of short films committed to telling a story that is bigger than the brand.  The best adverts are not self-serving.  At Christmas, the first time I saw the journey of the snowman one, my eyeballs moistened.  Does it use the right words?  I didn’t even notice the words.

“Nah, you’re alright.”  Mum has just moved Dave in and he’s trying to get on a level with her son.  But the son’s not having it.  Potentially, McDonald’s have a brilliant TV ad on their hands.  It’s a sweet but authentic snapshot of emotive kitchen sink realism.  I was with them the whole way through.  They had me until the end line.  “We all have McDonald’s in common.”  You’ve already shown me that.  Do you need to tell me as well?  It’s like cracking a joke at a party then going around the room asking every single person if they got it.  That line of text at the end encroaches.  It patronises me.  Powerful brands respect their audience.  They give their audience space to think, to wonder and to explore.  Ultimately, they let the audience make their own assumptions just like a screenwriter or a novelist would.

Claire Sparks is the author of the comic novel, An Uncontrollable Urge, which is out now on Kindle.  Follow her on Twitter: @Sparky_Sparks or visit www.clairesparks.com