Copywriting for Casio

This month I took on a huge project to rewrite Casio’s Edifice website. Translated from Japanese, their web copy needed a lot of work and a shot of personality.

I developed their tone of voice guidelines and worked with the producer to follow the content strategy and write it all from scratch. Everything from the ‘about’ pages to product descriptions had to tie back to the connection with Formula 1. This meant I learnt a lot about the mechanics of watches (Tachometers anyone?) and race cars. Not my forte, but now I have so much brain fodder for pub quizzes!

We ended up with 39 pages and the client came back with three comments total. Needless to say I was pretty chuffed. The new website is launching in the spring.

 

[Image: copyright Efifice/Casio]

 

Don’t deny the need for normcore

Mainstream is cool: you heard it here first. Gone are the days of revelling in choice; people are bamboozled. Consumers are beginning to mistrust fad following brands and running back to old faithfuls. There’s comfort in our favourites and in this tumultuous time, people want to settle down and cosy up with what they can rely on.

The best example of this is craft beer. Independent micro-breweries were all the rage a few years ago and consumers would avoid your Carlsbergs, Foster’s and Becks and like the plague. It’s the same as “I knew them before they were big” claims with indie bands; as soon as they’re famous, fans move on. At one point, big beer brands even tried distressed labels to seem more “authentic.” But as craft beer has boomed, it’s no longer hip to namedrop the obscure. Fast forward a few years and consumers have circled right back by coveting friendly brands they’ve known their whole lives – we call this “poptimism.” We’re now experiencing a serious backlash to craft beer in the media, but isn’t the whole definition of being cool being different? So shouldn’t contrary consumers be doing the opposite of what the media is preaching? The whole thing makes your head spin.

The same is happening with coffee. Those iced almond-macadamia milk lattes are just too much to fathom when you just need a good old-fashioned caffeine kick. When you’re trudging into the office on a Monday morning, the warm lights of chain coffee shops represent a home from home. They draw you in during sensitive moments like a moth to a flame. It’s times like these when consumers opt for cheap buckets of filter coffee over a brag-worthy flat white (even the Instagram likes aren’t worth it). Campaign explains that the media has nicknamed this movement “normcore.”

Just look at “clean eating,” which has shaken up the food industry over the past few years. Causing endless opinion pieces on spiralizers, now consumers are retreating back to cake and abandoning complicated courgette recipes. The rainbow plates of exotic fruit and vegetables may look better on Instagram than a greasy burger, but who can be bothered with that? Cutting out entire food groups is not only time-consuming but the effort is pretty damn stressful. VICE’s Munchies is leading ‘food porn’ media by quashing health food fads one dripping cheese toastie photo at a time. As soon as people, along with hoards of trained nutritionists, started to question the credibility of fancy food aficionados, the trend was dissected and is, thankfully, slowing dissolving. The biggest issue? The complicated recipes isolate a huge chunk of the population who can’t afford to shop at Whole Foods for bone broth, sumac, chia seeds and the like. On top of that, most of those behind the clean eating surge are white, attractive, thin women (more on that in our blog on diversity). But we digress, all this aside there is proof that consumers are going back to basics – just look at soaring supermarkets.

Time and time again, consumers get sucked in with fancy logos and ridiculous names, allured by something new, only to be disappointed in the product. In other words; the novelty and fleeting excitement does not justify the risk of losing out on what they really want deep down. What’s the lesson for brands? Think it through before jumping on the bandwagon as you could end up wasting piles of cash and crawling right back to where you started. You also risk losing loyal customers who always loved your original product in the first place. Don’t follow the trends for the sake of it, choice wisely and be 100% sure your market will understand and respond well to your new tricks. But trust us; there is really, really, wrong with sticking to what you know.

New client: Nicky Murray

I’ve been working with an inspiring new client Nicky Murray: yin yoga teacher and mindfulness coach. I’m helping develop Nicky’s brand and rewrote her website to tell her story in a clear, unpretentious way. She offers something quite unique in the wellness world, combining yoga, food and meditation, and it was important to get the whole message across through her website, highlighting her rich and varied skills.

Moving forward, I’ll be helping Nicky with PR and social media consulting for her yoga workshops and events. Watch this space…

2017: you’ve served me well

I thought I’d share my experiences of my first six months of being freelance and the rich variety and spice of life this has given me. One thing I’ve learnt (among many) is that self-promotion is very important so please permit me this indulgence. It’s been one helluva half year as a lone ranger.

I went to a 6am sober rave up The Shard, watched the sunrise and was lucky enough to call it work. I spoke on a panel. I was offered £20 to write an article and was offered £0 to write an article a couple of times too. There have been many interviews, coffees and events – some have led to work, some were dead ends (but I’ve learnt it’s always worth going). I had my own business cards made and plastered them all over my Instagram very excitedly. I landed a lot of work from replying to tweets and Facebook posts (the power of social media is very much real).

I was freelance arts editor at the app DOJO where I researched London exhibitions to write up.  I spent two weeks in Wales working from home home and walked the dog in my lunch break. I’ve continuously worked with ME v ME: the new British activewear brand. I’ve helped them with traditional PR (i.e. getting their stuff into newspapers/magazines) and influencer marketing (i.e. getting bloggers with lots of followers to wear their stuff and post a photo). I secured pieces in Stylist, Cosmopolitan, Dose, About Time and big shot influencers posted about the brand too. I’ve also been helping FizzArrow with their social media, including competitions and influencer marketing. We sent some products to Emma Gannon and she shared to her 16,000 followers, which was pretty exciting.

I’ve also been working with Salma El-Wardany who is a poet, entrepreneur, influencer and content marketing lady extraordinaire. I do monthly copywriting for her clients so this means anything from writing blog posts about VR or diversity, to transcribing interviews between two tech CEOs, to putting together Instagram captions for a wine start-up. I’ve also helped develop her influencer brand so she can start looking into collaborations.

Ever since my first week of being freelance, the lovely Tamsin Daniel has been bringing me on to help with her (ever growing) client base. Predominantly art PR, I’ve helped promote the new Banksy Basement, the Making Places art initiative in Waltham Forest (they’re turning the whole borough into an outdoor installation) and Roy’s People Art Fair, as well as exhibitions, artists and cafes. All amazing, creative clients (my bag) and really fun to work on.

The art/lifestyle PR agency Scott & Co took me on for five days. They have some incredible clients including Sushi Samba, Southplace Hotel and the RA. Funnily enough I really enjoyed being back in an office, as part of a very talented team, and they put me on some great influencer projects.

At digital marketing agency Harvest Digital, I’ve been working on a disability awareness video campaign for the past two months on a rolling contract. One of the three participants in the campaign is Umber Ghauri; an LGBTQ makeup artist who suffers from severe endometriosis. In the video she talks about how she “came out” as disabled and that seemed to really resonate with the media; it was picked up by pretty much every LGBTQ publication. It’s about labels and ladies and race and invisible illnesses and minorities and artists and women of colour and sexuality and identity and…bathrooms (but only if you look reaaallly closely).

I also have a new yoga teacher/meditation coach client who I’m helping by rewriting her website and developing her brand. It seems that – not necessarily on purpose – I’m moving into the ‘wellness’ sphere, which is a great space to be in at the moment (but trying to avoid the pretentious stuff to make it more accessible/bearable).

By December, I was overwhelmed by work and had to actually turn projects down. I was managing three inboxes and people were coming to me directly to offer work, including press trip invitations. I had compliments on my CV, which had never happened that often before, as I’ve got so much to cram into it. Finally people are recognising variety as a good thing (goodbye pigeon hole). I’ve kept on top of updating my website regularly. I’ve set up a Contently. I’ve issued 30 invoices since June.

2017 has also been pretty mad in terms of travelling and my carbon footprint (the guilt the guilt but the fun the fun) as I went abroad 10 out of the 12 months. It looked a little something like this:

January – Went to Seoul to see my old uni pal who is there teaching English. It was bloody cold. South Korea is a strange place. I got some great clothes and accidentally ate meat.
FebruaryTokyo with said friend and giant boyfriend. Their heights and combined blonde locks caused quite a stir amongst the tiny old Japanese ladies and it was hilarious to watch. Stayed in a capsule hotel. Probably the most amazing city I’ve ever been to.
March – I went skiing in California for work (“skiing in California?! For work?!”) Four years in travel PR definitely had its perks. I tried to ski (badly) and fell completely, utterly in love with San Francisco (all the rumours are true – it is as incredible as they say).
April – Stayed in my friend’s AirBnB in Dalarna, Sweden. They chopped wood, I drank a lot and stayed pretty sedated the entire time. We saw the season change literally overnight, which was magical. I still dream about those runs – the air was so delicious. I was curious about the history behind the wooden houses, did some digging and ended up writing about Sweden’s timber heritage for Aesthetica.
May – Didn’t go anywhere but did EMBARK on my freelance journey…
June – Booked onto a spontaneous trip to Cuba with my beloved sister and our friend who, I’m pretty sure, wanted to kill use by the end. Became addicted to Pina Coladas, spoke a lot of bad Spanish, saw some beautiful buildings. I’ve had ‘Despacito’ in my head ever since.
July – Went to Sofia with my sister. Wrote about the burgeoning art scene for Amuse. Bought some great clothes (three kimonos for £1.50 in case you’re interested).
August – Ticked off my TENTH consecutive Green Man Festival back at home in Wales. Does that count as travelling? I’m still 100% sure the Brecon Beacons is the most beautiful place on the planet, so, yes.
September – I was sent to Sri Lanka to review the Owl and Pussycat Hotel, which was just so incredible. Made some lovely new industry friends. Drank a lot of Arrak. Scouted out a yoga Shala. Wrote about it for Amuse.
October – Headed to the Buergenstock Resort in Switzerland, which has reopened after nine years of renovation. Audrey Hepburn got married there so I was expecting nothing short of sublime but those views… When they opened my room door I burst into tears in a true “I can’t believe I can stay here and call it work” moment. Met some lovely American journalists, one of whom had the NY Times logo tattooed on his arm. Wrote about it for Amuse.
November – SUITCASE (I adore the mag and the team) sent me to the gorgeous Caudalie spa hotel near Bordeaux. Went on the EuroStar for the first time. Was given a ‘vinotherapy’ facial and some lovely freebies to take with me. Drank gallons of wine (in a chic French way). Tried to translate bits here and there (finally my degree came in use). Wrote about it here. Also went to Budapest and pruned up in the baths – wrote about it for Amuse.
December – Settled down. Worked very hard. And finally it was Christmas.

So what’s on for 2018? I’m copywriting the website for Casio’s new watch (great agency and great brand). They loved my portfolio and picked me out of a long list of freelance copywriters, which is always good to hear. I also might be working on an amateur photographer festival, which would be fun. Followed by a month long trip in February to Canada and California; a ‘winter without the ski’ themed press trip to Quebec writing for The Week (fanchy) followed by a week in Montreal. Then to LA and Modernism Week to write for The Spaces about beautiful houses in Palm Springs then back to beloved San Francisco. Also seeing some California friends who I miss dearly.

You read so many “how to do a job you love!” articles and it turns out, for me, the trick was doing lots of different jobs and never knowing what’s around the corner. Here’s to an amazing 2018 of freelance freedom.

Making dollar out of downtime

As schedules become more packed, real leisure time has become sparse and more precious than ever. Ironically, the rise of mobile means consumers may be more efficient in spending money, but the distractions are overwhelming, making downtime more frantic than it should be. How can brands help? By providing a product or service that enriches leisure time rather than diluting it.

How consumers spend their free time and their cash has changed since millennials came into the picture. As the Observer puts it: “It’s not cool to show off your logo or handbag. Now, the way you brag is flaunting your healthy lifestyle, so it’s a selfie at SoulCycle, a 10 dollar green juice or geotagging a hike.” We’ve said it once, we’ll say it again: it’s all about experiences.

Because of this, the fitness industry is booming; nowadays working out is considered a treat rather than a chore. The new influx of boutique gyms in big cities are catering to the needs of millennials who prefer a ‘pay-as-you-go’ system rather than committing to a membership. Consumers’ relationship with fitness is changing; they want bespoke classes, the best instructors in the business and the snazziest equipment out there. Each workout session has to be good enough for an Instagram post. According to Courier: “Eating healthy food, taking part in group fitness activity and choosing where to live based on whether young people can walk or cycle to work is now mainstream and seen as a marked shift from previous generations.” Health is a huge priority for millennials and if their precious leisure time is spent working out, it better be worth it.

What do consumers look to when they have a free minute? In the queue, before bed, during the ads – straight to their smartphones. As Campaign put it: “One of today’s great paradoxes is that mobile technology makes life more efficient and productive, yet it generates enough distraction so it seems there is less free time.” Brands need to capitalise on this by making sure their website is slick and mobile ready. Even the tourism industry has turned ‘mobile first’ as more consumers are not only shopping from their smartphone, but they’re booking holidays too. (Yes, this probably means late at night in bed). Every step of the customer journey in booking travel must guarantee connectivity to allow a good dollop of social bragging. According to Campaign: “Facebook reports the second most shared activity as being a ’travelled to’ event.”

As for hospitality, leisure time doesn’t necessarily mean eating out; now supermarket brands have made it acceptable to eat in. M&S does this well with their hugely popular £10 dine-in deal. The way people consume entertainment has changed too; the rise of Netflix means on-demand TV is the chosen format, rather than passively flicking through channels and therefore wasting valuable time.

What’s the best way to make dollar from downtime? Most importantly, make sure your content fits the consumers’ needs and desires. According to Campaign: “Millennials use cell phones for moments of relief, so brands should consider making their messaging short and snackable.” Whilst they’re scoring their social scrolling hit, if you can shave minutes off, they’ll love you for it. It’s also about timing; see how food brands capitalise on pre-lunch hunger pangs with mouthwatering recipes, whilst fitness brands bombard consumers with inspiring workout videos first thing.

In a world where we’re scrambling for more seconds, leisure time is an opportunity for brands to swoop in to act as help, not a hindrance. People are forever looking for ways to live, shop and work more efficiently, and now is a great time for brands to monopolise on the addiction to mobile whilst maintaining integrity through relevant content and a worthwhile product.

My piece for SUITCASE magazine: Back to the Source of Beauty in Bordeaux

SUITCASE magazine is one of my favourite travel publications, so I was honoured when the editor asked if I would review Les Sources de Caudalie for them last month. It was also my first time travelling by Eurostar (very cool) and I had my first ever facial (very fancy). I used to live in France (twice) so it was great to be back. God I miss those baguettes.

You can read the piece here. Every single photo used is one of my own (pretty chuffed about that).

 

Reigning Premium Supreme

Believe it or not, people are willing to pay for premium. But there’s no magic tricks or hypnotism involved to prise cash out of hands – it’s just down to basic marketing techniques. Snazzy logos, brand values and piggybacking are examples of how businesses crawl up the premium ladder, but there are simpler ways.

It may sound obvious, but a high price equals a premium product. The price tag is a quick way for customers to judge the quality without too much research. Before Starbucks swooped into the world of coffee, a cuppa joe would cost a quarter of their going price. How do Starbucks get away with it? Although their coffee is far from revolutionary, the higher price tag makes it appear a cut above the rest. Consumers love the brand, it’s globally recognisable and people are happy to pay more for the Starbucks experience. Each coffee shop’s interior is slick and the fancy Italian terms ‘grande’ and ‘venti’ attract the more culturally aware coffee lover. In the same way, Grey Goose vodka charge 60% more than the household brand Smirnoff for essentially a colourless, tasteless alcohol. Other than the arty logo, what differentiates Grey Goose from the others? Through an almost placebo effect, consumers seem to prefer the taste of a product if they’ve spent more; they feel obliged to enjoy something if they’ve winced whilst paying for it.

Let’s be honest; people do judge books by their covers, and it’s the same with brands. A good logo is key, but through relentless repetition a brand should also be recognised for its colour palette, shape or even its concept. Some examples? Chanel, Veuve Clicquot, Mercedes… We know you’re picturing them right now.

Another strategy is to build the perception of a brand’s superiority to justify the high prices. Through product development and new technology, brands can beat competitors by demonstrating how they can provide something a little better. For cleaning products, this may mean developing a ‘three-in-one’ solution or a product scientifically proven to last longer than cheaper alternatives. Premium also means tapping into your audience and knowing what the word means to them. Nowadays, consumers are willing to pay more for organic produce or a brand that shouts about their eco-friendly credentials, or a business that supports a charity or the local economy. For some customers, aligning values is a unique type of luxury.

Too much choice can be overwhelming, so these days simplicity can also mean luxury. New research revealed 62% of consumers will pay more for a simple experience. Supermarket brand Aldi offers a simple shopping experience without presenting complicated promotions. This means customers don’t have to dilly dally by choosing between seven different types of butter. The idea is that customers can finish their weekly shop in under 30 minutes. Time is a luxury and Aldi understands this – they have empathy for the customer and they want to make life easier.

Brand partnerships are also a fantastic way to reinforce a premium label. When Singapore Airlines commissioned BMW to redesign their cabins they immediately became associated with the staple luxury brand. This way, Singapore Airlines capitalised on their partner’s already solid reputation.

Unlike mass brands, premium brands are more interested in honing in on a specific group through focused marketing. This reinforces the idea that the customer belongs to an elite group and the brand becomes a status symbol. A good example of this Ferrari who rarely take out huge advertising campaigns, but they sponsor the Grand Prix instead, targeting a select few.

All in all, through marketing initiatives, a premium brand should constantly remind the consumer of their original promise when they signed up in the first place, whether that’s ease, quality, prestige or a memorable experience.

Storytelling with VR

VR is the shiny new toy of the marketing world. All kinds of brands have experimented from food to fashion to travel, so it’s by no means limited to tech geeks. In a world where we’ve seen it all, this is a jazzy new way for brands to dazzle consumers and show they’re ahead of the game. Boiled down, VR is essentially another storytelling tool, but due to high costs, there’s even more pressure for the narrative to be effective.

A recent study found that people are more likely to buy from brands that use virtual reality. Primarily, this is because people like brands who have the balls to give it a go. A Greenlight VR survey revealed 71% of people thought VR makes brands seem “forward-thinking and modern.”

So when does this work best? For high-end products or experiences that seem almost unattainable: enter aspirational VR. Travelling is personal, often emotional, and damn expensive, so it’s no surprise that planes, trains and automobiles have been some of the first to play with VR. The average consumer may never afford to drive a Mercedes along Pacific Coast Highway or fly business class on a United Airlines flight, so these brands gave them the opportunity to do so. Marriott has also been dabbling in VR where users were enveloped by full-body experiences, including a sprinkling of water from the Hawaiian coast. VR provides consumers with a titillating taste of luxury without the price tag. If it’s done right, VR can awaken something in the most stingy of customers and they’ll be itching to try it for real.

Brands also use VR to present another dimension to their company. For fashion lovers, Topshop’s ‘Catwalk Experience’ gave consumers the chance to watch from the front row with the industry’s elite. This takes the fashion label beyond a new Saturday night outfit into an unforgettable experience; once the dress has worn out, the memory will remain. With TOMS, for every product purchased they help a person in need, but it’s hard to get this message across through a pair of shoes. So, through VR, users could travel to a remote village in Peru and witness one of TOMS ‘giving trips’. This really pulled on the heartstrings and was a reminder that a TOMs purchase is also an act of altruism.

VR is also a great way to show that a brand has a sense of humour (regardless of whether they even need the PR). Ikea’s virtual kitchen meant that users could poke around someone else’s home (a voyeur’s dream) and also have a go at slinging meatballs. Whereas Oreo created an animated ‘Wonder Vault’ that took users through a Willy Wonka style land full of gushing milk rivers and chocolate canyons. Why? It doesn’t even matter – both went viral.

It’s also important to remember that VR can be wonderfully creative as an art form beyond the ridiculous and plain absurd. Last year, Somerset House worked with Icelandic singer Bjork to curate an exhibition around her new album. Users were treated to a 360-degree Bjork immersion as she danced around each viewer. In one room, users were plunged into the dark pink depths of Bjork’s mouth, where her pulsating vocal chords and tongue undulated above.

The overarching goal of VR is to provide an empathic experience so consumers can really ‘feel’ a brand in a tangible way. For any brands looking into VR, remember quality is of the utmost importance; the stunt won’t work if the VR doesn’t feel authentic. Brands can’t cut corners with VR – they need to spend the cash. Something else to consider is distribution as these experiences require consumers turning up to an event, or at the very least, downloading an app. Getting the word out is more important than ever, and the experience has to be enticing enough to convince an RSVP or the click of a ‘download’. Brands have to shout loud and make access to the experience as easy as possible. I mean, without an eager audience ready to delve into the world of VR, what’s the point?