In The Beginning Was The Word...and we're still at the beginning!

 Five Rules To Help You Harness the Power of Words

In an era of iPads & apps, closing bookstores and folding newspapers, words still rule the roost. Blogs and Social Media are full of words. Words, poorly chosen, topple politicians. Witty words win smiles. Moving words change hearts and minds.

And words Brand.
What is Coke? Polar bears
frolicking on icebergs?
Or The Real Thing?


Where would the clever spot about Aaron Burr shooting Alexander Hamilton
be without the words “Got Milk?”

(And where would a host of knock-offs be without that pithy phrase?)


“Where’s the Beef” is what we all remember from that classic Wendy’s ad. Clara Peller’s weird delivery and J. Sedelmaier’s offbeat direction certainly helped, but it’s the phrase “Where’s The Beef” that got into the international lexicon meaning “Where is the substance of an idea, event, or product?


Ask yourself “Where is the beef of my company or product or service”– and start by looking at the words. What words are you using to describe what you do and how do they connect with your audience? Do they hit home? Are you being too timid? Maybe strength itself has become scary. That seems to be the underlying message in this brilliantly clever series of recent spots from Old Spice: “Smell Like A Man, Man”

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Sure, the acting, directing, and special effects are all superb. But it is the idea and the words that power this series of spots. Here are five rules for good copywriting that we follow here at Stretch. You can see examples of them all over this site. We urge you to adopt these Copywriting rules for your own business–even if you don’t hire Stretch to help you do it.

  1. The Shortest Distance Between Two Lines Is A Straight Point. Too many businesses can’t get their message straight about their product or service. They can’t decide on a straight point to make about their product and so their headlines and taglines don’t connect up. They pile on the messages until no message can get through. The connection between headline and tagline should feel to the audience like a bolt of thunder.
  2. Say P.U. to Puns. Puns are fun sometimes, but in general they are cheap shots. None of the examples given above use puns to make their point. Instead, they address unambiguous, universal truths. Good copywriting is not punning, it is truth, distilled.
  3. Write As Though You’re Sitting Next To Your Audience. Your target is your best buddy, and you are sitting there with him or her, poking ‘em in the ribs, making a joke, or simply telling it like it is.
  4. Be Truthful. “With a name like Smucker’s, it has to be good” is simple truth-telling. It’s turning an unfortunate name into a sales tool. Own your strengths. Jiu-jitsu your weaknesses into strengths. Don’t lie.
  5. Write to Your Audience’s Hopes, Fears and Anger “Got Milk” ultimately plays on the audience’s fear of being unable to perform when their big chance arrives. “Where’s the Beef” plays on the public’s feeling of being ripped off. And the Old Spice campaign plays on so many areas of sexual hopes and fears that I don’t know where to begin. Hope, Fear and Anger. Use ‘em — and reap.