Digital Marketing

Understanding the 9 Major Types of Copywriting

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What we know as copywriting today is not altogether new. Copywriting is one of the oldest professions known in history.

Mark Tungate in his 2007 book Adland notes that there are promotional pamphlets found as far back as Pompeii promoting a new brothel in town. Tungate even noted that some cave drawings could be interpreted as promotional material.

Copywriting has evolved from cryptic images on a wall to messages shared all over the world. You can find copywriting just about everywhere you look.

But which types of copywriting should you pay attention to when creating your marketing campaign? Here are the nine major types and why they matter.

1. Marketing Copywriting

This is the type of copywriting that people are most familiar with. Marketing copywriting can be anything you see and hear that is promotional in nature.

Marketing copywriting includes:

  • Online display ads.
  • YouTube videos.
  • Radio commercials.
  • TV commercials.
  • Flyers.
  • Billboards.
  • Branded stickers.
  • Direct mail.

Marketing copywriting can come in the form of paid advertisements or traditional marketing assets. They are clear sales-driven pieces of content that have an obvious goal of trying to sell.

This Chanel banner ad tells the reader about a new product and entices a click by using an on-brand display. This ad isn’t actively telling the reader to take action. However, with the location of the banner at the top of the page, the brand recognition and advertising for a new product, the ad doesn’t need to give a call-to-action (CTA).

Marketing copywriting is a tried and true way to communicate new products to potential customers. You can use a targeted paid ad like this Chanel banner or reach a broader audience with a billboard or a radio commercial. As long as it is part of a marketing campaign, it is considered marketing copywriting.

2. Social Media Copywriting

There are many different social media platforms you can use to communicate with your audience. Doing research to find out where your customers are spending their time will help you write the right message for them.

Based on that research, you can tailor the voice and tone of your social media copywriting to speak to your audience effectively.

Smashburger is known to have funny, endearing social media posts because its audience is a younger generation of fast-casual diners who love great food. The restaurant’s posts almost always depict young families or people enjoying a Smashburger meal. The captions of these posts are light-hearted and include a relevant emoji.

Writing social media copy involves a few distinct elements because of its audience. Here are a few ways this type of copywriting is different:

  • Emojis are widely used and accepted.
  • An informal tone is more accepted.
  • Your copy is usually paired with a visual component.
  • You may be writing for paid ads across several platforms.
  • KPIs are measured differently on each platform.
  • Your ad will redirect to your website’s landing page directly.
  • Your copy should be brief.

Because of these key factors, focus on shareability and clearly show that you understand who your audience is when you’re writing copy for social media.

The structure of a social media post is also distinct. Whether or not they’re sponsored, most posts you’ve seen on social media have something visual like a picture, informational copy and promotional copy.

For Monday’s Facebook ad, the copy surrounding the brand’s picture directs the reader on several levels. First, the caption explains who the company is and what it’s selling. Next, it includes a CTA and website link. Monday also added a caption along the top of the ad that creatively describes its products.

Social media copy can be used for both B2B and B2C marketing strategies.

3. Brand Copywriting

Communicating what your brand represents is a big part of gaining recognition in your industry and connecting with customers. You can do that through writing with a specific image of your brand in mind. It can come in the form of a logo, theme song, phrase or a brand personality trait.

However, this image must resonate with your audience or else it will fall short. For brand copy to work, the customer needs to stay at the top of your mind. Are your customers the jingle-loving type like McDonald’s customers or the motivational commercial type like Nike’s? These questions can be mostly informed by your buyer personas.

Take Jerry from the show Rick and Morty:

via GIPHY

Jerry never understood the brands he tried to create for and slowly ended up being, well… Jerry.

While knowing your audience is helpful, however, you can gather feedback on your brand copy through a series of trials, such as:

  • Audience surveys.
  • Focus groups.
  • Blind testing.
  • A/B testing.

4. Direct Response Copywriting

Direct response copywriting is a type of communication that is compelling enough for the customer to take action. It is any form of copy that encourages the recipient to take an action right away.

Direct response copywriting can be used in:

  • Landing pages after clicking on an ad.
  • Open-ended emails.
  • Pop-ups.
  • Limited time offer explanations.

You’ll find here that Nuuly’s landing page has its logo, slogan and several CTAs that ask for an action. “Join Now” is the direct response button that will move the customer along in their sales process.

Oftentimes, as a customer scrolls through a website, a pop-up will appear before changing pages or exiting out. This is another form of direct response prompting them to stay on the page by signing up for something the company offers.

These are great ways to see more responses from your customers. Sometimes all a customer needs to purchase or download your eBook is the CTA button or form inviting them to do so.

5. Technical Copywriting

Technical copywriting is a piece of copy that aims to explain technology (like cloud-based technology) while selling a product (like IBM’s new Mono2Micro).

To sell a technical product, copywriters must first explain what it is, how it works and why customers should buy it instead of a competing product. Then, once the customer understands the product, they’re able to decide whether to buy or not.

Industries in the tech world are constantly changing and upgrading their products. Technical copywriting helps the business of tech progress.

This is a sales page for IBM’s Cloud Infrastructure. Compare this sales page to that of the clothing brands Nuuly or SunChild above. Neither of these brands includes FAQ sections for their products because clothes are easy to understand. To demonstrate the importance of IBM’s new cloud services, the customer will likely need more information on how the service addresses their needs before they make a purchase.

6. Public Relations Copywriting

Through a uniform structure and journalistic voice, public relations copywriting aims to inform media publications and the public with a pointed directive of promoting a business, product or service. It’s often written by a public relations specialist. They write about an event from their organization and share the copy with several different media outlets.

Public relations copywriting can be found on sites like PR Newswire, but the same story could be shared through news outlets and radio shows if it gets picked up. It works to form a relationship with the public and organizations in a direct communication medium via news media organizations.

The audience for a press release is specific to B2B reach like:

  • A journalist looking for leads.
  • An entrepreneur looking to invest.
  • A business owner doing research.

Although customers will eventually get the information in the press release, press releases are typically written for B2B marketing.

7. Thought Leadership Copywriting

Thought leadership copywriting comes in many forms but is usually from a prominent figure in an industry. If a top health care executive came out with an article recommending the public to adopt a new type of personal care practice, that article would be known as thought leadership copywriting.

This type of copywriting can be written for B2C markets as well. For example, New York Times opinion articles are written by writers who use the well-known news medium to communicate their thoughts on a particular issue. It amplifies their opinions on said issue and gains authority as an expert on that topic.

While thought leadership copywriting isn’t selling a product, it is urging readers to believe in a particular subject.

8. SEO Copywriting

SEO copywriting involves optimizing copy using keywords and phrases for search engines to more easily discover the copy and list it as a top result. A sales page can be optimized for a search engine results page (SERP) if done correctly.

This page from SEMrush includes SEO copywriting that is selling the company’s products and services while using keyphrases to optimize the page for a top SERP spot.

9. Email Copywriting

Among the many reasons to use email marketing, writing great email copy is the one of best ways to directly connect with your most targeted audience. There are many methods for writing great email copy that works with your marketing campaigns and your customers.

Email copywriting includes:

  • A great subject line.
  • A thoughtful preview sentence.
  • An intro sentence for the body of your email.
  • A compelling CTA.

This email from Wanderlust is promoting the company’s meditation webinar. The subject line for this email is “Don’t hesitate, meditate!” It’s an attention-grabbing subject line that is sure to stand out in the sea of emails for anyone’s inbox.

The image included in the email has the title of the webinar, the duration of the challenge and the host’s name. Following the key information is another eye-catching headline that urges subscribers to keep reading.

Email copy can be both educational, as with newsletters and roundups, or more sales-oriented in nature, like a direct response or free trial promotion.

B2B email copy is a little different from B2C in a few ways:

  • Write for a logical buying process vs. emotional.
  • Build a personal relationship with the subscriber.
  • Open up the email to engage in conversations.
  • Utilize more industry terminology.

Here is a sales email from Square 2. The email’s headline tells you exactly what they’re selling and the opening line connects with the customer’s HubSpot pain points. Square 2 offers a 1:1 session with the CMO plus a bonus for signing up.

There is no graphic or catchy headliner because B2B email copy aims to get to the point quickly.

Businesses go through a longer buying process because they need to consider budgets and how the purchase will affect their business. To which, a B2B copywriter should engage subscribers on a more logical basis to support an argument for making the purchase. This includes why the price of the product is justified, how it will help their business and the ways this collaboration could be leveraged in the future.

Wanderlust’s email uses an emotional angle to connect with their subscribers where Square 2 dives right into why, logically, you should sign up for the 1:1 session.

People who subscribe to your email list are some of your most valued prospects. They subscribe because they want to stay informed on your business’ new products and services. Writing email copy can be muddled with trials and errors, but direct communication with your subscribers is invaluable.

Becoming a Successful Copywriter

Writing copy is a creative and fun process for connecting with your audience and promoting your organization’s products and services. A copywriter is someone who knows the most about their buyers. While not every piece you write has to be as iconic as a brothel promo from 70’s AD Pompeii, it should make every effort to speak to the people who like your product.

If you think you don’t have any copywriting experience, you might be surprised that you do. Think of the times you’ve written a cover letter, emailed someone asking if they want to go on a trip with you or sent a text urging a friend to try a new facial cream you got that actually helped.

Copywriting involves making a case for something that you want people to buy into, in a way they can get on board with. Your cover letter has a formal tone and supporting arguments for why you should be hired. Meanwhile, a text to your friend about your new cream will be more laid back and personal.

When you write copy, keep in mind that you’re writing for whoever is reading it, not necessarily the business you’re working with.

In Ann Handley’s 2014 book Everybody Writes, she says writing is “part habit, part knowledge of some fundamental rules, and part giving a damn.” You don’t have to be a Pulitzer Prize winner to write great copy; you just have to step into the shoes of who you’re writing for and practice speaking to them.

Some skills a great copywriter has are:

  • Empathy for the reader.
  • Research-based writing skills.
  • Ability to take criticism.
  • Capacity to write the same thing in different ways.
  • Knowledge of grammar rules.
  • Drive to practice writing almost every day.

A great way to get started is as a freelance copywriter or asking your department leader to take on a few writing projects. Any way you can receive direct feedback is helpful to learn where you can grow as you build a writing portfolio.

And, as Handley says, it’s all about getting your hands moving to the point where “the typing becomes writing.”

On the other hand, you could always hire a copywriter or outsource one to fill your needs. An experienced writer could make all the difference in your marketing campaign if you’re looking for great results, fast.