Lean Copywriting

The Lean Branding process consists of strategy, messaging and design. Of these three, messaging and copywriting is often the hardest to apply lean principles to. Language can be very subjective, so judging how best to create copy in a fast-paced environment is not easy. There are a few lessons I’ve learned from creating copy to help express a refreshed brand position.

Copy and messaging is where your brand comes to life in the written word. People are visual creatures, but language is still one of the most powerful ways to communicate and persuade. In almost every industry copy and messaging is a vital part of bringing the brand to life.

Continuously improving your messages

These days you can use Google AdWords and A/B testing to iterate and improve your copywriting as you go. The thing that I see go wrong with using digital tools to improve copy is that the tests we run aren’t often fed back into the strategy. The key to using digital advertising as a testing and learning tool for copy is to input the lessons back into the strategy so that they can be captured and then repeated.

I see too many startups making the same mistakes with communication over and over again with the marketing team learning the same lessons over and over again and not capturing the information somewhere that the rest of the team can learn from.

The essence of lean branding is continuous improvement. So instead of locking-down copy changes as permanent, I prefer to try and keep my options open to make small incremental improvements to copy and messaging as we learn more from the marketplace about what people want from us.

Just-in-time Messaging

Just in time branding means creating only as much collateral as you need, just before you need it. In practice, this means creating the basic templates in advance, and only generating as much physical collateral as you need.

For example, you might print 50 business cards before going to an event rather than printing 5,000 business cards because they seem cheaper per-card. What most people don’t realise is that even though 50 cards may be on a per-unit basis more expensive than 5,000 cards, the total cost of 5,000 cards is still more expensive. Particularly when you take into account the fact that if you print 5,000 cards you will have to store 5,000 cards, you will have to look at 5,000 cards in the storage unit every time you walk past the cabinet and, most importantly, you will be locked into the same copy and messaging for the next 5,000 people that you interact with.

Always print the minimum number of items that you can possibly get away with any one given time. This keeps your options open to change and improve your copywriting over time.

Faster Copy Approval

I’ve found that when a piece of copy takes a long time to get approved and involves a lot of consultation then it’s tempting to avoid changing it for fear of restarting an endless cycle of feedback. By contrast, when things move from idea to execution quickly then it’s also more likely that people will feel safe to make frequent improvements over time.

Lean Brand Messaging

Lean principles such as iteration, agility and collaboration can all be applied to the copy and message creation process. In fact, I would argue that applying lean methods to your brand messaging is just as important as applying them to any other part of your business. The words you use to describe your business create a large part of the perceptions that your audience has of your business. Your words matter.