Monday, 9 January 2012

A B2C cup of tea

Sometimes, when I meet people they offer me a cup of tea.  It’s simple but it makes me instantly warm to them.  This is odd because I prefer coffee.  

It tells me something personal about them (that they have tea) and the mere fact that they offer it to me lets me know that my happiness is important to them.  No matter what they’re about to say, I’m listening because I want to appease them in return.  I’m not saying I’ll do anything.  But almost.  So am I being tricked?

Well most of the time no.  The other day when Jake, my old flatmate, gave me a cup of tea he was just being friendly.  And the same goes for the endless cups of tea I’ve received from my girlfriend.  But why does the hairdresser always offer me a cup?  

Well, offering a cup of tea is an instantly recognisable friendly gesture in this country.  It’s a useful way to get customers onside.

But how is this related to copywriting?

Well, B2C copy doesn’t always jump straight in with an offer or a product.  Quite often there will be a friendly sentence, or even paragraph, preceding.  This is the readers’ cup of tea – it builds rapport, shows personality and creates a sense of trust.  Copy for ads or virals often follows this strategy, sometimes virtually ignoring the product or service being sold until the end. 

And it’s not just words that help us do this.  Take this recent (and very popular) TV advert for John Lewis for example.  The build up is a series of clips following a child getting more and more excited for Christmas. Then, only at the end do we learn the selling message, ‘for gifts you can’t wait to give’. 

Whilst the Hairdresser’s weapon of mass seduction is a nice cuppa, ours may come in many forms. And it’s a copywiter’s job to think about the overall customer experience when beginning any piece.

Whether we use words on their own or with imagery, we always need to give our customers what they want. A friendly intro won’t sell without benefits, just like a cup of tea is no use without a good haircut.  So whilst we can take our time to get to the big reveal, when we get there the USPs need to be clear.  A confused customer is rarely a happy customer after all.