The road to compelling copy

07.12.2012 | 7 Kommentare

Heute ein Beitrag von Ben Davidson:

As an Englishman living in Germany, I’ve noticed a vast difference in marketing styles between the two countries. Sometimes, German companies’ marketing leaves a bit to be desired, with copy that is functional without being fascinating.

The carsharing case study

German firm Stadtmobil and US-based Zipcar are both market leaders and offer near-identical carsharing services. But their websites could scarcely be more different. The contrast is remarkable, and not only in terms of the texts. The visuals and usability of the sites are worlds apart.

The most striking thing is the sheer amount of text on the Stadtmobil site. And when you work up the courage to read the copy, the language is dull and sterile – it doesn’t forge a connection with the reader. The same cannot be said of Zipcar. Their site has its own personality, cool images and a sprinkling of humour. It drives you to find out more.

Picking a style that reflects the service?

Note the friendly tone of voice – it’s all part the cool, fun brand identity. There is a distinctly informal feel: phrases like “We’re easy”, and “The doors will unlock, and it’s all yours!” see to that. Zipcar explains why a car club is a great idea, linking these reasons to real-life situations. In contrast, Stadtmobil simply lists potential benefits. It’s not terrible, but it doesn’t reach out to the reader or inspire them to sign up.

Consumer friendly or eco friendly?

There is another fundamental difference between the two brands. Stadtmobil emphasises the eco-friendly aspect of the shared-car model, saying how good it is for the PLANET. Zipcar say how good it is for YOU. Ok, they acknowledge the green benefits, but the real focus is on the user. This opens them up to a wider audience. Have a look at how Zipcar compares itself to conventional car rental:

So who is in the driving seat?
What I like about the Zipcar site is that all the pages have the same tone of voice, and project a consistent brand image. Light-hearted, engaging and informative copy helps make a boring task seem fun! It presents the service in a fresh and exciting way, using this persona to draw you in. And personality is a key ingredient, as people are far more likely to buy into a brand they identify with. While Stadtmobil is stuck on the hard shoulder, Zipcar is streets ahead.

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7 Kommentare

  1. Tomarenko Fachübersetzungen

    Thanks for the post, Ben. Considering both are different companies, it is hardly a big surprise they look/sound/address the audience differently. I would espect major differences in their corporate cultures, too. It would be great to have a comparison like this for two local (English vs. German) sites of one and the same company. The classic examples are probably automotive (remember "freude am fahren" vs. "the ultimate driving machine").

    Valerij (after spending a couple of hours with "Ogilvy on Advertising" on his own blog)

  2. Ben

    Hi Valerij, we're big fans of "Ogilvy on Advertising" too, it's a great book. You're right about the different corporate cultures – that is definitely a factor here – but I think there's also a strong cultural element to it. British/American advertising campaigns are often cheekier and more upbeat than their German equivalents. In many ways, you could put it down to marketers playing to their audience, but I think German brands are missing a trick. By taking a few small risks here and there, they may find they could open up a whole new world of opportunities.

    Thanks for the comment,

  3. my_Bad

    Dieser Kommentar wurde vom Autor entfernt.

  4. my_Bad

    I translate a lot of marketing material for a software company. And when compared to competitors texts ours are definitely far too word heavy. For the English translations, we run direct comparisons to get into the look and feel of the current product. This helps a lot to get into the style groove before translating. It often puts me in a difficult position, however, as my translation will (on occasion at least) drift into the realm of additions/subtractions/"improvements" so that we can stay competitive – at least in terms of English marketing material. The trouble is, as a translator this is a line that you don't cross. The marketing team are aware of these issues, but it seems some habits are hard to break.

    Ultimately, I think that it boils down to the way German is used and the very formal use of passive and stiff language for many everyday situations. It still shocks me to this day, to read letters from Behörden and to have to wade (literally) through terribly formal German. What is needed is something like the Plain English Campaign. I don't think this would go far enough though. It seems to be rooted very deep, probably starting in school. Some of the texts I get from my colleagues are outrageous! They have real problems writing informally, or to put it anther way, for a wider audience. Which to my mind at least, is something that seems to occur less frequently in English.

  5. Ben

    Hi my_Bad,

    The point you make about informal writing is an interesting one. Communication between co-workers (even people who share an office) is often very formal in Germany. It’s no wonder that this attitude trickles down into marketing texts. It leads to problems for translators of marketing materials (like us) when clients are unaware of the difference in marketing styles in the US/UK and Germany. But hey, it’s all part of the challenge!

    Thanks for commenting,

  6. Librarian

    Does anyone watch Tele5 from time to time? They have recently come up with what I think is a rather witty series of adverts for their movie schedule over the holidays.
    They say, for instance, "Der größte Schrott zum Fest", and "Diese Filme haben Sie nicht verdient – wir zeigen sie Ihnen trotzdem". I like this kind of not taking themselves too seriously. Of course it is very silly, but refreshingly different to what you see on other channels.
    Have a look at the trailer here, if you like:

  7. Saiful Islam Patwary

    Riding with the Car Trailers are always be a fun. You can stop anywhere and camp everywhere. That's why i always take my trailer while going out for a long distance.


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