Is Copy Dying? (Conclusion)

[August 28, 2009]

As I visited the US Web sites of major fashion brands, I found, as expected, a distinct sense of style. That is, each site had a distinctive look, making a world of difference with subtle twists of scale, proportion and color. When it came to Copy, however, these sites ran the gamut from blank to better-than-average.

The Calvin Klein home page assumes users are already sold. No doubt many of them are, but in a landscape chockfull of respected designers it seems unwise to count on that. After all, brand recognition consists of more than logo spotting.

In this case, it also consists of satisfying consumer’s expectations of Calvin Klein as an arbiter of fashion. “Define the Season” tells me nothing. Doesn’t the Master have anything fresh to say about fashion trends beyond “My jeans are cool, but you knew that”?

Taking a different approach, Donna Karan, greets visitors with a message celebrating vibrant fall colors.

Now, I doubt there’s a single US copywriter who hasn’t contemplated the Fall/Season: Fall/In Love metaphor at one time or another. But “Fall in Love with Color” at least reveals something about the DKNY POV. As a result, I do feel more included, even though this is not exactly where I’m planning to shop.

In contrast, Kenneth Cole takes the phrase “brand narrative” almost literally, guiding users through the site with pithy commentary. Under the umbrella theme “Make the Most of Wearing Times,” the site positions Kenneth Cole as a brand for people with a tad more perspective:

• Mens Clothing: The World is Changing (and So Are We)
• Womens Clothing: Generate Your Own Electricity
• Accessories: Don’t Let Your Baggage Hold You Back

This approach parallels CitiBank’s “Live Richly” campaign, another example of what happens when a well-crafted messaging strategy is allowed to unfold, unfettered by Marketing Anxiety.

Ultimately, Kenneth Cole’s headlines serve a larger purpose—as a lead-in to the company’s charitable program, “Awearness.” Like “Live Richly,” they reveal effective Copy as a powerful tool for shaping and controlling the subtext of brand positioning.

“Is Copy dying?” As evidenced by this casual survey, many industry professionals do seem indifferent to this crucial discipline as a tool for connecting with consumers. Yet, on the more successful pages, I found Copy had lost none of its ability to shape perception and position a product succinctly for its audience.

In my opinion, it comes done to this: Copy lives when a brand has a coherent message and the courage to convey it honestly and memorably, based on an apt observation about the human equation. That’s the key difference between Copy and “writing.”


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Mark Laporta

Writer, Creative Consultant
New York, NY




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