How to write clear, clever and creative copy

Hi there, thank you for joining me for this edition of Lab Notes. If we don't know each other, my name's Felicity Wild and I run the Brand Language Lab. And today I'm going to talk about one of my favourite topics to rant about, which is how to write clear, clever, and creative copy. 

To give you a bit of background before we get stuck in, received wisdom tells us that copy should be clear and not clever, or by extension, therefore creative. If you've been in the industry a while, you'll be aware of what's sometimes called “the great debate” in copywriting, which is clear versus clever copywriting. 

If you google clear versus clever copywriting, you'll see a ton of articles have been written on this debate. 

And the overall majority tends to side with clear copy and don't really support the idea that it should be clever. I think this is a limiting belief. I think copy can be all three things. It can be clear, clever and creative. But you need to know how to do that for it to work well. So that's what we're going to talk about today. 

Here are my steps for clear, clever and creative copy and we're going to go into this in a bit more detail. 

I'm really sorry if you came here for a five minute quick fix or a hack. I don't really believe in them. I don't think there's really any substitute for putting in the reps, doing the time, making mistakes, learning from them and mastering them.

And that takes years. So I'm really sorry, but the first step is to get good at writing copy. 

Then once you've done that (no small task) the next step is to really know your audience well. If your copy’s going to be clever and creative, we need to know what's going to work for the audience, what's going to strike a chord, what's going to make them laugh, what they're going to connect with. 

And you need to be clear on your message. You need to know the important information you're trying to convey. What you need to get across. 

And then once you've got those all sorted, you can layer on insight-based clever and creative touches. 

I say insight based, meaning anything that you add needs to be based on knowing your audience, knowing the brand, knowing what's going to work, knowing how to write good copy. All of that. 

So it's really quite a considered process. It's not a case of just chucking a few puns in there and calling it a day. 

I'm going to show you how I do this or how I approach this for my own brand, because I take quite a creative-led approach with my own copy. 

Whenever I'm starting to write a piece of copy, I've got my messaging, I've got what I want to say, and then in terms of tone of voice, my non-negotiables come first. 

Anything I write needs to be unambiguous, it needs to be perceptive, and it needs to be personable first. I can't take it any step further until it's all of these things. And you can read the descriptions that I've got in a bit more detail to add a bit of context. 

Then I add in the added magic. Once I've got my non-negotiables sorted, there is final frontier bombast, sci-fi spoof and knowing little nods that I add in for fun, for connection, to be memorable, to stand out, all of that. 

And, again, I have little descriptions here to add a bit more context so you can see what I'm getting at with these. 

Now, I'll show you what this looks like in action. On the left here, we have the non-negotiable: 10 rounds of edits and your copy still isn’t right? 

And then we add in some added magic: 10 rounds of edits and your copy hasn't hit light speed? 

You can see how they mean the same thing, they convey the same information, but the added magic makes it a little bit more special, makes it more memorable, and I think for the right person, it really works well. 

And another example with the non-negotiables on the left: suddenly your brand's difference is obvious, your message is clear and starts getting heard, and browsers turn into buyers and your biggest fans.


That's fine, that's my non-negotiables, that's what I want to say and how roughly I want to say it. 

But then add in a little bit of added magic: suddenly your brand's difference shines like a supernova, your message is clear and cuts through the static, and browsers turn into buyers and your biggest fans. 

And you see here it's clear and it's creative and I hope it's a little bit clever as well. And I think it's much more memorable, I think you're much more likely to remember what's on the right than what's on the left. It stands out, all of that good stuff. 

And there's knowing little nods that I talked about like breaking the fourth wall that I do occasionally. I find that's a really useful technique for kind of shocking people a little bit: breaking the fourth wall for a hot sec and we can do *all* the voices and tones, not just sci-fi spoof. Ask and we'll send samples. Hope you enjoyed reading it though because we had a lot of fun writing it. 

I’ve got that on my website as well. And I think it's just fun to play around, add in things like that. And I think it works really well. 

Thank you so much for listening today for my clear versus clever copywriting rant. I'd love to hear your thoughts, feedback, suggestions, requests for things to cover in upcoming episodes. There's my email, I'd love to hear from you. 

Or you can connect with me on LinkedIn. That's the only social media platform I'm active on right now. And I'll see you next time!