5 years ago in Brand  7 min read

What Copywriting has in common with ABBA

Here we explore 10 ways you can keep your audience engaged.

ABBA - In Common With Copywriting

Get to the point! - What Copywriting has in common with Scandinavian Pop

“Don’t bore us, get to the chorus!” is a celebrated piece of pop song writing advice. Roxette took it so much to heart that they used it as the title of their 1995 greatest hits album.

Fellow Swedes Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus of ABBA are reputed to have maintained that, for a tune to become a mega-hit single, it ought to have not one, but SIX catchy hooks.

It turns out that creating a successful piece of marketing collateral is not so different from writing a hit pop song: get to the chorus quick and pack it full of catchy hooks.

What it boils down to is respecting your audience. Being considerate of their limited time and delivering what they need quickly and efficiently. And if you can entertain them at the same time, that’s no less than they deserve for lending you their attention.

However you choose to communicate: social media, leaflets, email campaigns, press ads – think about your audience. Consider who are they, what they need and what might tickle their fancy.

Their time is precious, so you owe it to them to get to the point and engage them quickly. You need to speak in their language too. Don’t expect them to meet you half-way – why should they? You need to reach out to them. Leave your own comfort zone and enter theirs.

And when you do engage the audience, you have to show that you understand their pain points. It’s not enough that your product or service is great. It’s not just about finding fancier and fancier adjectives to describe what you do. You need to demonstrate what it does for them.

Of course rules are made to be broken. Of course we can point to classic campaigns that have gone against these principles: kept the audience waiting, drip fed information and displayed near-contempt for their attention-span in general.

But we can guarantee that the brands that have successfully rolled out campaigns of this type have enormous amounts of brand authority and loyalty in the bank. In reality there are very few brands globally that can get away with this.

If you aren’t Tesla or Guinness or Nike or Disney, chances are your audience will not have the patience to stick with you through a minimal teaser campaign, an extended arthouse ad, or reams of cryptic copy.

So with this principle firmly in mind, let’s sign off with 10 copywriting tips to take away:

1. Be a problem-solver. Identify something that irritates, bores, hurts, consumes time, underwhelms or dissatisfies your audience – and show them how you fix it.

2. Get short. Short words. Short sentences. These things will help you keep it simple. They’ll help you get to the point quickly. Crucially they help you keep your audience’s attention.

3. Write to someone. Don’t get stuck in your own head – think of a person and tell it to them. Don’t let them switch off. Don’t use language that they find off-putting or make jokes they won’t get.

4. Keep the hooks coming. Don’t rest on your laurels, remember Benny & Björn. If you’ve made a great point, offered a great deal, solved a key issue – keep going. Hit your reader with combination punches that leave them in no doubt about the merits of whatever it is you’re selling.

5. Sell with facts. This is all part of respecting the audience and not wasting their time. Give it to them straight. Clearly and succinctly outline what it is, what it does, and how they benefit. They will thank you for it.

6. Read over your compositions, and wherever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out. Wise words from Samuel Johnson, echoing down to us from the 18th century. People are too busy for your clever copy. Be like Sam. Keep it real.

7. Don’t get hung up on correct grammar. Forget about it. Getting your message across is the most important thing. As long as it’s in keeping with your brand’s tone of voice, why not end a sentence with a preposition if you want to? Doesn’t matter. See?

8. Do get hung up on correct spelling. This absolutley dooes mater. See?

9. Read it. Reread it. Read it aloud. Read it to someone else. Get 2 people to proof it. At least. These filters will help you weed out awkward sentences and ambiguity.

10. Don’t bore us, get the chorus. For heaven’s sake – get to the point quick!

So really this is a hymn to brevity. To keeping it short, tight and on target. But fundamentally, this approach stems from empathy with your audience. The more you understand about who they are and how they feel, the more able you are to place yourself in their position. This lets you begin to appreciate how precious their time and their attention is, and to write accordingly.

We hope this blog has shed some light on writing with the audience’s needs in mind and also made it clear why writing for marketing has a lot more in common with Scandinavian pop music than you may have previously thought.