Connecting the Dots Between Brand Image, Content Quality, and Market Success

In my years of writing advertising and marketing content, I’ve found that organizations that maintain high standards for writing quality achieve and maintain greater market success.

That’s a bold statement, I know, and there are exceptions. Some well-known and widely hated companies hold onto market position through monopolies. And some companies are better at writing than product development. But I have yet to see an organization with bad or sloppy writing that is widely considered the best in its field.

Chicken or egg?

The link between writing and market position is no coincidence. It’s true that successful companies can afford better writers, but there’s a chicken-or-egg argument at play. From what I’ve seen, a passion for quality shapes the foundation of great companies. Every channel moving out from that essence holds to a standard of excellence.

Great organizations—whether we’re talking about locally owned bakeries, city agencies, regional grocery store chains, or multinational technology brands—sincerely care about producing the finest products and delivering outstanding service. They also care about their customers, employees, vendors, and the greater community. As a result, they work harder on every aspect of what it takes to be and stay great.

Demanding is good

I’ve worked with several such organizations in my career, and I can tell you they are both my favorite clients and my most demanding. By demanding, I don’t mean the clients who nitpick to maintain client-vendor dominance, make changes for ego’s sake, or perpetuate myths like never ending a sentence with a preposition. I’m talking about the clients who know great writing and challenge me to deliver my best.

While demand for writing excellence is what I witness when I read eloquent content or work with great companies, written communication is just one of many channels leading out from a company’s intrinsic nature. For me, it’s a signal of what lies at the company’s core.

Try this at home

Test my theory for yourself. Take a moment to look at the websites of three large companies you believe deliver top-quality products or services. If you’re stuck for ideas, try go-to standards like Apple (the MacBook Pro page reads like poetry), Tesla, Google’s “About” site, Starbucks, or Nordstrom. You’ll notice that home pages feature very little writing, but what’s there is flat brilliant. If you dig down or visit the corporate section where more content appears, you’ll see that writing quality hovers at lofty on every page.

Keep those examples in mind the next time you’re evaluating a company, product, or service. Pay attention to the writing quality of brochures, web pages, email blasts, etc. If you see worn-out corporate speak, grammar goofs, punctuation errors, misspellings, or typos, ask yourself what that laziness could be signaling.

Why I'm a sucker for great copywriting

You would think that after spending 25 years of my life working as a freelance copywriter, I’d be immune to the persuasive powers of good writing. Nothing could be further from the truth. I’m the first to swoon under the spell of a clear brand voice and well-crafted words that beckon me to buy or believe. There’s a subtle enchantment in great copywriting that grabs me every time. After a career of reading great copy and striving to create it for clients, I’ve come to believe exceptional copywriting results from an odd combination of craft, skill, talent, and a splash of magic:

A fierce devotion to perfecting the writing craft

Great copywriters can (and will) clear a room debating grammar and punctuation. They know that a slip impedes the message and dings the brand. Though they’re often accused of breaking the rules, good copywriters know exactly which rules they’re breaking and can bore you to tears explaining why.

The willingness and ability to channel a brand

Copywriters don’t write with their own voices. They’re like actors, ghostwriters, or spiritual mediums who wholly disappear into the brand they’re channeling. They let go of their personal identities, assuming the brand’s speech patterns and phrasing to give it an authentic voice.

As an aside, most of the great copywriters I know have tender egos, perhaps because they set aside their identities every time they write.

A passionate belief in the product and brand

Even when copywriters know that brands or products are flawed, they fall in love with aspects they can wholeheartedly champion. (That means they must turn away work for products or companies they can’t champion for ethical reasons.)

The ability to occupy multiple viewpoints simultaneously

Good copywriters learn their audiences’ demographics, pain points, goals, and ideals. They shift quickly between writing and listening to capture and convey a message that will penetrate and compel the audience to buy.

An unwavering eye on the sale

I’ve seen an awful lot of clever, even award-winning, work that failed to sell the product. That circles back to ego. Copywriters must be okay with taking their egos out of the equation and quietly playing a junior role to product sales.

An ear for writing

Most copywriters can tell stories of clients who told them to “make it sing.” And good writing does sing, or at least moves to a cadence that makes it easy to read or hear.

The ability to shapeshift at will

Copywriters who write for a single brand and target audience don’t need this skill, but agency and freelance copywriters often move between brands, products, and industries. They have to shake off one identity to assume another—sometimes several times a day.

And, finally, there’s natural talent. There’s no getting around this one. Some people have a gift for on-demand creativity they can turn on to develop concepts, name products and companies, craft taglines, write headlines, and turn phrases. But talent isn’t a hall pass to success. Even the most gifted copywriters work hard at honing the skills above.