- The voice of your brand sets the tone for all user interactions.
- Understand the difference between content and copy. Your brand’s voice can be different based on them but should still remain consistent.
Wynne Renz is the Brand Copy Lead at Miro, and she has worked at Etsy, Squarespace, Google, and InVision. She has a very clear and firm understanding that the web is a different animal when it comes to content creation and what (and how) brands want to communicate.
“What is content versus copy? I always think of content as a way to educate and inform, but copy is more about marketing and advertising. The best description I’ve heard about how to describe copywriting is that it’s writing for design. It’s not like writing a newspaper article—it’s writing to communicate a concept.”— Wynne Renz, Brand Copy Lead at Miro
In order for content and copy to be effective though, companies need to know what their voice is and what it says to consumers. The best brands understand their positioning in the marketplace and use their own voice to secure it. Not knowing what your brand voice is can be just as detrimental to your business as not having a clear business plan.
“Voice is really just a way for people to understand the personality of the brand, and when they interact with it, what the general vibe or feeling they’re going to get about what the brand is, what its possibilities are, what it stands for, and who it is in the world.”— Wynne Renz, Brand Copy Lead at Miro
Wynne’s theory is that voice attributes make the brand voice distinct. Without voice attributes, the brand voice is unclear, and customers will have no idea what your company is about or what it stands for.
“Voice attributes are the elements that make up the brand voice. For example, if you described a friend, you’d describe what they’re like, right? Maybe you have a list of five things to describe them by: They’re really friendly, they’re really authentic, they’re very real with you; maybe they’re funny or empathetic, or maybe they’re a little edgy, right? Those are attributes that act as a chorus and make up a brand voice. And brands that do it well are using that chorus consistently. It may bend or flex depending on who they’re speaking to, but it always remains consistent.”— Wynne Renz, Brand Copy Lead at Miro
Wynne developed her brand voice philosophy when she began writing TV pilots, scripts, and screenplays shortly after graduating from college. While she wrote scripts and screenplays, she worked at a yoga studio with a woman who was a namer, which wasn’t anything Wynne was familiar with at the time. She found out that, much as the name implies, namers name things—television shows, products, etc. She got a job at the woman’s naming shop, where she was paid a dollar a name and eventually got a job as a freelancer with Interbrand, who is responsible for naming Wi-Fi and Prozac.
“Naming is very much like copywriting, in that it combines a message and a tone. If we got a brief for product X, we were told what the client wanted to communicate with that product, and the name had to align with that. There are so many names out there that are actually kind of terrible for products, or they don’t make a lot of sense. The basic rule of thumb with names is that it has to be easy to see what the product is—see, write, say, and spell.”— Wynne Renz, Brand Copy Lead at Miro
Whether she’s writing copy, content, or naming products, Wynne believes in making sure that the writing is tactile and feels like a person wrote it while avoiding marketing speak, because no one wants to feel like they’re being sold to.
Links and Important Mentions
Stream Episode 31 now, or subscribe on your favorite podcast platform below.
Note: This transcript may contain some minor wording and formatting errors. Apologies in advance!
Todd Nienkerk: Welcome to The Future of Content. I’m your host, Todd Nienkerk. Every episode we explore content—its creation, management, and distribution—by talking with people who make content possible. Our goal is to learn from diverse perspectives and industries to become better creators. The Future of Content is brought to you by Four Kitchens. We build digital content experiences for ambitious organizations. Today, I’m joined by Wynne Renz, Brand Copy Lead at Miro, and we’re going to be talking about naming and copywriting for the web. Welcome to The Future of Content, Wynne.
Wynne Renz: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Todd Nienkerk: So, full disclosure, we have worked together in the past. You helped us with some homepage copywriting and messaging for the Four Kitchens website, and I learned a lot in that experience. And that’s why I wanted to invite you on this podcast, to talk about naming and copywriting and just how the web is a different animal when it comes to content creation and what you want to communicate. So thank you for being so gracious as to give us some time.
Wynne Renz: Yeah, yeah, I’m excited.
Todd Nienkerk: Well, let’s set the stage a little bit. What is brand content and brand writing, and what is Miro for people who are unfamiliar with that?
Wynne Renz: So I work at Miro. I’m the Brand Voice and Copy Lead, which means that I oversee the brand voice, the style, the messaging for a copy team. So we have a small copy team there, and it’s a writer for product marketing and brand and then also a writer for growth marketing. And we bring the brand voice to life across different deliverables like landing pages, emails, performance. And Miro is, in the simplest terms, an infinite online whiteboard and is a place for people to come together and collaborate and to solve problems so you can use different ready-made templates to solve problems. You can grab a community-made template, you can make your own template. But it’s really just a place for people to come up with ideas and to actually even launch products from that page.
Todd Nienkerk: And this is not a plug at all, but we use Miro at Four Kitchens, we use it for a lot of things. I use it personally for any time I need to do a workflow diagram or a flowchart or something. And then we use it at the company leadership and planning level for all of our quarterly planning sessions. So we do like the Post-it Note exercises, voting on topics, and it does all kinds of things. So that’s just context for anybody who’s unfamiliar with Miro. But it’s something that I have a lot of experience using, and I love the concept of an infinite whiteboard because that’s exactly what it is. It just kind of does anything and goes on forever. Yes, but it’s very useful. Yeah. I get the brand voice and copywriting and all of that. There are probably some really unique challenges because Miro is really big and you can use it for all kinds of things. So in creating a brand voice, are you trying to narrow the scope of what it does so that people can grok it easily? Or do you kind of open it up so that people can use their imagination in this infinite whiteboard? Like, how do you strike that balance between trying to be, like, really specific to certain audiences versus being, well, the tool that can do anything?
Wynne Renz: Yeah. So I think when it comes down to and kind of to answer your question before, like what is content versus copy? So like content, I always think of it as a way to educate and inform. But copy is more to market and advertise. So it’s using brand voice. Which content does too using messaging, which content does too. But when we combine those two to create topics for just a different purpose. So when I came to Miro one of my goals there was to create an original brand voice for the company. And voice to me is really just a way for people to understand kind of just the personality of the brand, and when they interact with it, this is the more of the general vibe or feeling they’re going to get about what this brand is, what its possibilities are—kind of what it stands for and kind of who it is just in the world. So, you know, it’s really important to me that a brand voice just feels really alive. And, you know, “human” is a word that’s used a lot in brand voice attributes. But I actually think that’s kind of overdone.
Todd Nienkerk: Meaning something sounds quote, “human?”
Wynne Renz: Yeah.
Todd Nienkerk: What exactly does that mean? I think like as opposed to robotic?
Wynne Renz: Yeah. Well, I think it’s at this point, it’s gotten into a cheesy kind of vibe where it’s like, “Hey, buddy!” or “Hey, there!” like, you know, it feels a little cheesy.
Todd Nienkerk: Oh, it’s sort of inauthentic in the sense of like, yeah, a brand is talking to you as if it were a personal friend.
Wynne Renz: Yes. And I think it’s been so overdone at this point where it almost feels like marketing speak. So with creating a brand voice for— at least for Miro, like I was, I really just try to hire really talented writers and then say, like, how can you show how much you love writing in the work? And yes, we have these brand voice attributes that we bring to life. But really, you yourself are a talented writer and you’re going to funnel those attributes into copy. But it’s going to have a tactile feeling to it, and that’s always what I try to promote. Instead of saying like, “Hey, buddy!” or “Hey, there!”, or this sort of like non-robot— I don’t know, overly friendly conversational tone, it’s how can we write in a way where it feels like there was someone who’s a really good writer wrote this and that always has more of a stronger voice to it, I think. You know, but of course, we are following voice attributes. It’s not that we are writing in our own creative voice, but really, I do think it’s important to have a talented writer to be able to do that.
Todd Nienkerk: Help me understand what voice attributes are. Like some of this internal lingo that you have for writing copy; you mentioned, for example, voice attributes and how you define these and then use those to guide the copy that you’re writing. You also earlier mentioned some terms like growth marketing, and I forget what the other one was—
Wynne Renz: Performance, maybe?
Todd Nienkerk: Performance marketing? Yeah. Could you define some of those concepts for me?
Wynne Renz: Yeah. So voice attributes, those are more of the elements of what makes up a brand voice. So for example, if you were to describe a friend of yours like you’re going to meet your friend for coffee, you sit down. What are they like, right? Like, maybe you come up with a list of five things that they’re like. They’re really friendly. They’re really authentic. They’re really like, very real with you. Maybe they’re funny or empathetic. Maybe they’re a little edgy, right? So those are attributes that in whole as like a chorus, make up a brand voice. And brands that do it well are using that chorus consistently. It may bend or flex, depending on who they’re speaking to. So, for example, when I worked at Etsy, one of my roles was to help develop a brand voice for a wholesale marketplace we were creating. So it was Etsy Wholesale for professional sellers on the site as well as professional buyers. So like big box stores, places like Nordstrom. And we had to elevate the voice a little bit.
Todd Nienkerk: They buy through Etsy?
Wynne Renz: They do, yeah. With Etsy Wholesale. I think Etsy Wholesale has now, I don’t know if it’s in operation anymore, but at that time we were trying to create a market for high volume sellers and buyers. And so Nordstrom, Whole Foods would buy in volume. And so you’re kind of dealing with a different audience. You’re not dealing with one person buying a gift for somebody. You’re dealing with someone who’s spending a lot of money.
Todd Nienkerk: You’re dealing with Bentonville, Arkansas, and they want 3 million units, right?
Wynne Renz: Exactly. So you have to have the same authentic Etsy-ness, but I had to have more of a professional tone to create confidence in that transaction. So anyway, yeah, the way that it works is those attributes work in chorus together, but they can flex depending on the audience. And growth marketing is really the way that we get you to the website. Like it’s SEO, it’s paid ads, you know, it’s acquisition landing pages, and one of our writers does writing for that. So her style of writing is very different than, say, what someone on our brand would write for brand or write for product. Brand and product is speaking more to that customer really directly. And like, how can when you get on that Miro board, what are you going to do? What are you going to get out of it? You know, performance does that too; it does speak about what you’re going to do and where you’re going to get out of it, but it has is a bit of a more of like a targeted way of speaking to a specific type of user really directly and then, of course, you know, putting those ads in places where they’ll see them.
Todd Nienkerk: Mm-Hmm. Got it. OK. And so the notion of growth in this case would be like growing a customer base.
Wynne Renz: Yeah, so it’s user base. Yep. So it’s how do we get more people right? Like, Yeah. And then when they get there, we might do more like performance marketing, writing.
Todd Nienkerk: And what is that? How is that different from growth marketing?
Wynne Renz: I’m impressed that I can tell you about these things. So product marketing— That’s what you asked, right? What is product marketing?
Todd Nienkerk: Performance marketing.
Wynne Renz: Oh sorry. Performance marketing is paid ads really an acquisition, landing pages? And then once we get them, we might say, like, do more product marketing. It’s all product marketing, though, at the end of the day.
Todd Nienkerk: So it sounds like a great way for people to sit around and use words.
Wynne Renz: Yeah, yeah, for sure. And you know, I’ve learned a lot from our performance marketing writer. I think she’s brought a lot to the team with regards to— You know, like there’s places like I would edit out like, let’s not say “Miro” a lot, like why are we saying “Miro” all the time? Like, let’s use this real estate for something else? And she would advocate, “No. We need to say in this context because people don’t know and like, we need to get the word out there,” and all that.
Todd Nienkerk: I see. So it’s really leaning into the product itself and not necessarily identifying pain points and needs that then lead you to the product.
Wynne Renz: It’s that, too. It’s just like you might have a little bit less— Let’s call it like a little bit less of a sophisticated writing style and performance because you are trying to even to just meet like SEO and things like that, too.
Todd Nienkerk: Oh, right. You just want people to like, in a second-and-a-half, understand what’s going on and click the link. Yeah, OK. Yeah, that totally makes sense.
There’s something about your work history that I’d like to touch on before we go too much further. So you’ve been a writer for a very long time. You wrote pilots and screenplays in LA You then moved on to copywriting, but specifically naming. Naming is this industry that just fascinates me. Of course, it exists. But the idea that there are agencies and people who specialize in simply like, “We have a product and it needs a name.” And there’s a lot of thought and a lot of research and a lot of work that goes into that. Can you tell me a little bit more about your history in naming as a creative form and as a form of writing? And like, what is that process like? What makes a good name?
Wynne Renz: Yeah. So naming, yeah. So I’ll kind of start at the beginning. So after I graduated from college, I graduated with a degree in television writing. So TV, video production, and writing, and I studied how to write TV pilots and scripts and screenplays. And I moved out to LA, actually with my school. And we have this program called the LA Program, so we all moved out together and we lived in the Oakwood Apartments, which is like, there’s actually a Netflix documentary on these apartments because they’re known for child actors. So a lot of child actors grew up in— Like people come in and bring their kids there for pilot season. So we were like seniors at college and we all moved out and we had internships as well. So that was like part of our school work. And so when we moved out there, you know, yeah, we’re living in these weird kind of dormitory-style places in— I think it was in Burbank. But like with all these child actors everywhere. So I was interning at Comedy Central at the time. I really was into comedy, and just always I was always just interested in storytelling, period. Like I love comedy for its like, ability to just truth tell, and it’s like an absolutely gorgeous art form.
And so that’s what I was doing then and then when I graduated, I was working as an assistant for different executives. And then I was like, “You know what? It’s actually not recommended to work in the entertainment industry if you want to be a writer.” You are not really respected by basically executives or people who would read your work if you’re like an assistant. So I stopped being an assistant and I actually worked at a yoga studio, so I worked at a front desk of a yoga studio for three years while I worked on scripts and like just my own writing projects, and there was another person at the yoga studio. Her name is Quinn, and she told me she was a Namer. And I said, like I said to her, I said, “If you ever leave your job, I want your job.” And she said, “OK, why don’t you just start doing it then?” And so she gave me some work. So she had her own little naming shop. And it still exists. It’s called Fussfactory, and she gave me my first naming job, which was hard to remember exactly what it was, but like she, she did a lot of naming for reality TV shows—so like, Discovery Channel, TLC would be just constantly churning out new shows, and they needed names like they just needed. It just tells you, like how not kind of creative that world is. They just needed a list of names, right? Like to consider for these shows so—
Todd Nienkerk: I desperately want to rattle off a lot of the TLC shows that my wife and I watched constantly. But I’ll withhold.
Wynne Renz: Yeah. So I mean, I’m sure, like Quinn has worked on some of those, right? Like, I don’t know, she had an incredible shop right where it was just her and like a couple of other people, so she would pay me a dollar, a name. I came up with 100 names, so I would get like $100. And so that to me, it was like, really amazing. I was like, this name is worth a dollar. Like, that’s all. Come on. So from there—
Todd Nienkerk: This is the strangest thing I’ve ever heard. Keep going.
Wynne Renz: So then, you know, she would take my name and put it in the queue, right? And then, you know, use it in her presentation or whatnot. So I don’t think any of my names ever got picked, which is very common in naming. It’s just sort of like you’re putting a lot of content out there hoping it works trademark-wise, or like someone picks it. So from there, I was like, OK, well, what is this like this thing, this like writing thing that’s kind of more this business writing. And from there, I got some more freelance gigs with mostly naming and then also some copywriting. So I started as a freelance namer with Interbrand, which is a really big naming shop. And it was out of New York. And, you know, they name things that are, like, completely ubiquitous now. Like they named Wi-Fi, for example. Like, that was actually a name it needed to be named at one point. Like Prozac, like basically all this stuff that we live with every day, they named. So I was freelancing for them. Also coming up with hundreds and hundreds of names for things. Like, I remember just working all night on those things and, you know, coming up with a massive list of names for them. And again, it’s really volume. They just need a lot of volume. And so—
Todd Nienkerk: And how many of these names are like real languages and how many are sort of contrived? You know, they evoke a feeling or they sound like the combination of a couple of other words or, yeah—
Wynne Renz: So I can kind of tell you how naming works. I mean, like. So a lot of people think naming is sort of this thing where it’s like, “Oh, well, that’s a cool name. I could come up with that.” And so they kind of go to a whiteboard and they come up with some ideas and they just like to explore words.
Really, naming, which is very much like copywriting as well, is combining a message and a tone. And so, you know, the brief I would get is like, “We’re naming X. And the client really wants it to communicate this.” So for example, if you take a name like Prozac, it’s like pro positivity, right? And then Zach and like Z, words are really popular for pharmaceuticals. So it kind of like— I’m not sure exactly. Yeah, it’s like Zs and an Xs.
Todd Nienkerk: I think like “Zyrtec.”
Wynne Renz: It’s because it feels technical, like it has kind of a technology to it, right? There’s trust in that. Yeah. So actually, Interbrand, I named a lot of like medical devices, which was really weird. Oh, wow. So there’s just I mean, it’s kind of remarkable how much naming business there is, and it’s just gotten harder and harder because of the internet. Everyone wants a pure dot com and everything, so it’s super hard to name.
Todd Nienkerk: Interesting thing about naming that’s just sort of occurring to me here: You studied writing for television and I went to film school. But I also studied psychology. And there are all these stories—these case studies that you hear about like language and the relationship between language and communication in the brain and thought and the ability to think.
And one of the most interesting things that I learned in those years was, we have this notion that language expresses our thoughts. But within the world of psychology and neurology, it’s the opposite—it’s language builds our thoughts. Language is the scaffolding on which thoughts are created, and if you do not possess language, you do not possess thought. And that’s something that they’ve arrived at this conclusion because of the very, you know, unfortunate and rare cases of people who either because of a learning disability or abuse or something, never gained the language and came across language later in life. But there was one case study in particular where somebody was really trying to work with this adult—probably, like a late teen or 20-something adult—who just didn’t seem to possess language, and the way they made the breakthrough was pointing at a piece of furniture. I think it was a table and just saying the name of that thing over and over again until it finally clicked to this person that that thing is that sound and that everything has a sound. Everything has a name. And that’s when this person, when the flywheel started to turn on language acquisition.
So I’m telling the story because naming could very well be at the core of language, the ability to identify that everything has a name and an identity and a place and a message and a tone and like all of this stuff, is just so foundational to human communication and psychology. So of course, there are people who do nothing but name things all day long because you have to convey so much in just like one or two words, right?
Wynne Renz: Yeah. Yeah, it’s. I think what’s so interesting is there’s so many names out there that are actually kind of terrible for a product like, or they just don’t really make a lot of sense. For example, Apple, right? But I think the way that our brains work and kind of to your point, is like, it starts to blend. I mean, like the essence of your mother or your father starts to blend with the word “mother” and “father”—you don’t even think about what you’re calling that anymore. You just see them as this identity in your life and this sort of source of whatever in your life. And so there are a lot of names that are really kind of unusual and you know, don’t make a lot of logical sense. I mean, like “Microsoft” makes lots of nice logical sense, but something like “Apple” doesn’t and why don’t we question those, you know, like weird names? But yes, you have to say one or two things in the name. I mean, there are some basic rules of thumb, you know, it has to be easy to see what is. It’s like see, write, say, and spell. And then there’s, of course, like if you’re going to go global, there’s all these sorts of linguistic challenges like, there was some example I can’t remember the name of the car. There was some car. It’s like a famous example of a name.
Todd Nienkerk: Oh, the Chevy Nova.
Wynne Renz: Yeah, it does not go. Or something?
Todd Nienkerk: Yeah, I have that. So yeah. So ‘nova’ in Spanish means “it doesn’t go.” Yeah. But I have heard, I’ve heard that that’s actually a bit apocryphal or something, but it’s still like, let’s take it at face value. Let’s assume it’s true. That is an excellent example of not doing your research. And you know, oh, “the car that doesn’t go.” Yeah, yeah, that’s a good name.
Wynne Renz: I think it’s kind of remarkable, like I was just thinking how Facebook got the name Meta. And I’m like, How did they even do that? Like they must have just spent a lot of money on that, and I guess they didn’t 100 percent get the name. I guess there’s someone else who knows their name, but it’s to me that’s remarkable. I just think, like any, any company that gets a name now at all, that’s like a real word or anything is just pretty major.
Todd Nienkerk: Yeah. And I assume that the complexity there is just simply that like trademark law. Like, it’s just really hard to trademark just a normal word in any kind of space.
Wynne Renz: Mm-hmm. Yeah. And the thing is, the real word is the best in some sense. I mean, it’s like it’s just it’s just the easiest, it’s the most clear.
But yeah, I mean, I learned so much about naming at Interbrand and just going through hundreds, and I mean, literally probably thousands of different names and, you know. Of course, you want to avoid like the Greek stuff and like all that because it starts, it does start to recycle itself, but right? But yeah, it’s an interesting little ecosystem of words and terms that sort of blend together, and it can start to make you go a little crazy when you do naming because it is so it’s just a small little story and it’s it is blending that like a teeny tiny concept with a tone and making sure it works and makes sense.
Todd Nienkerk: Yeah. Well, let’s take a short break, and when we return, we will talk with Wynne about what makes copywriting good.
Todd Nienkerk: Hello, hello. We’ll get back to the episode in just a moment. But I wanted to quickly tell you a little bit about Four Kitchens. You probably know that Four Kitchens creates websites, but we do so much more than that. Our team of Web Chefs can help you make better use of your content, scale your web team and create world-class digital experiences. More importantly, we get results. We’ve helped media companies streamline their streaming platforms. We’ve helped public broadcasters increase donations, and we’ve helped universities enroll more students. So to find out more about how Four Kitchens could help you, visit us at fourkitchens.com. Now back to the episode.
Todd Nienkerk: Welcome back to The Future of Content. Our guest today is Wynne Renz, Brand Voice and Copy Lead at Miro and we’re talking about what makes good copywriting and particularly for the web. So Wynne, what is good copywriting for the web? I’ve heard you say in the past that you can’t be conceptual in writing for the web, and I’m curious, what does it mean to be conceptual, and how does that not work on the web?
Wynne Renz: Yeah. So I almost kind of want to rephrase that. I think like. Ideally, we should be conceptual in the form of the user experience communicates the message. So writing for the web as it— And I’m not talking about blog posts or social media, and I’m talking about landing pages. Let’s just maybe focus on landing pages for this discussion. But so landing pages are a narrative and they do have a beginning and an end that eventually does end because the page ends. So there are limitations on the page, right? There is like the frame of the screen, there’s the scroll, there’s the above, the fold, which is like as you, you know, it’s what we would call a hero section, which is that like main, that really main block at the very top below the URL, that and the navigation that basically says everything you need to know about—what is going to happen, what that page is about, what that company is about. Really their core positioning, right? Like what is this thing that is really the only thing, in my opinion, that matters on a page unless you’re doing something really unique with the rest of the page.
I think most people kind of scan and just move through it, so you’re going to get people at that moment at that hero. But when I’m talking about like, you can’t be conceptual, I think like. I think at this stage that copyrighting is in for landing pages, at least, is it is very modular. It’s like, here’s a headline, here’s a subline, here’s a button with some text on it. And you know that that button text is going to take you to another page, and that page may also have the same kind of layout. So there isn’t a lot of room for, say, let’s say like you’re thinking how copywriting originated or, you know, it’s kind of it’s more original form was— You know, really the work that really stood out and that won awards was really conceptual. It’s like, you know, like Absolut ads or the Volkswagen ads, you know, really things that had this image that said something and it didn’t have a lot of text didn’t tell you stuff.
Todd Nienkerk: So this would be like when you say the Volkswagen ad, this would be like the famous lemon ad. What was it? The ’60s where it just said— You would remember—
Wynne Renz: Yeah, just said something like, I think you just said ‘lemon’ on it. But like, well, like those were the that’s when, like the copywriter and the art director were like one, you know, they really like blended. And the best description I’ve heard about how to describe copywriting is that it’s writing for design. So it’s not writing as like a newspaper article or like a piece, really. It’s writing to communicate a concept. So it is conceptual in a sense, where you can have a headline with like two words in a period between them and you create, and you’re basically like communicating two concepts. And it is conceptual in the sense that the design and the copy are working off each other. You don’t want to do like a see/say thing where you’re saying something and then you show it.
But I do think like there I have yet to really 100 percent see a website that is trying to achieve a business goal, which is to get you to convert, to be more like, let’s say, like more 60 percent conceptual, than like, you know, leaning more towards the conceptual side, like, it’s not really an art piece, right? It’s trying to actually say something and get you to move through. So it’s not, as you know, you don’t have as many liberties as, say, like in a print ad or something.
Todd Nienkerk: So would it be safe to say just and this is maybe a blunt way to put it, maybe over-generalizing, but the notion of like conceptual advertising or marketing or copy is that you’re trying to sort of make a statement that makes people stop and think about the statement itself, and maybe it becomes a conversation piece unto itself, like the 1984 Apple ad. Which is like, what does that really have to do with personal computers at the end of the day, you know, like a riff on Orwell’s 1984 and a woman wearing jogging shorts comes out with a sledgehammer and throws it—that is just something that gets people talking and that wins advertising awards. Would that be considered conceptual as opposed to a landing page for Apple that says Our new MacBookPro is really great, and here’s why. And you should buy one.
Wynne Renz: Yeah, I think it’s like to me, it’s like there’s sort of a hierarchy of messaging which is like, you know, you got to do like those really big conceptual ads say, like in a Super Bowl campaign that’s getting that positioning across. But in like this really kind of like a great story or more artistic way or creative way of communicating positioning.
However, like when you go like you’ll watch that Apple ad, it is saying something, it’s saying revolutionary, right? Like, but then it kind of when you go to the page— Like a really cool exercise we would do when I was Interbrand as we would take a brand and we would actually kind of break down, like what are its messages, and what you would find is that a lot of really successful brands are basically just hitting the same message over and over and over again, no matter what they’re talking about. So every time you hear from— Every time you go to a page, like the Apple landing page, whether they’re talking about the watch or, you know, a laptop or an app or whatever, it is kind of trying to spin it to you that it’s revolutionary, right? It’s always saying, “This is going to break the mold. This is incredible. Take a look at this.” And so it does a good job with like a thread through on that. But yeah, I mean, I guess if you were going to define conceptual, maybe in different like, you know, degrees, it is still communicating a concept on a page, it does, you know, you are going to get a brief that says, like, we want this landing page to really say this. But like, you can probably be a little bit more literal on those landing pages than you probably wouldn’t like a TV ad.
Todd Nienkerk: Got it. OK, well, what are some examples then of brands that you feel have especially good copywriting and why?
Wynne Renz: Yeah, I think, one that, here at least in the Netherlands and I think, you know, in the U.S. as well— When I was back there, people were drinking more oat milk. But here, I don’t know why, but people drink a lot of oat milk. And as you know, Oatly has really great copy. I think they just don’t care. They’re just like, “We’re going to hire some kind of creative weirdos, and we’re just going to have them write whatever they want, and it’s going to be great.” I think, in that sense, it’s, you know, they take that “human” you want to like.
But the problem with saying, “Our voice is human,” is like the moment you say it, it kind of stops being human because you’re not actually— You’re trying too hard. You know, like it’s just you’re trying to be something that you already are. And it’s just like, just do the thing. Just write, like you would like on Slack or like in a text message or whatever like just be more free. So I think their brand allows them remarkably to be more free. And also because, like, milk is kind of just this standard thing. It’s like you can kind of do anything. And like, what are you going to say about oat milk? OK, well, I’ll just be a little bit more wild. So I really like them.
There is a brand actually or a tech company that a friend of mine showed me recently. I believe it’s like, yeah, Fibery. So they’re just, like, really wonderfully irreverent. And I also love how they’re arranging the copy on the page. So they have this— They’re not doing the “headline, subline, CTA” thing. They’re doing these sort of, you know, putting everything in the center and having like a smaller text and then a bigger text, then a smaller text. So it creates a sort of visual like poem-type feeling like cut and paste. So they’re really great. I mean, they have a line like, you know, “We’ve miserably spent four years of our lives and are still ashamed of the result,” about what they’ve been working on. So I kind of— Again, so this is kind of what I mean by what I encourage the writers I work with at Miro to do is like, really show that you had fun with the work, you know, and then the other person is like, kind of you kind of catch the other person off guard. They go, “Oh, this was actually written by somebody. And I wonder who that person is like. They must be kind of cool.”
Todd Nienkerk: I’m on the Fibery website right now. Yeah. Towards the bottom, there’s this little— There’s one line, kind of a medium-sized text, that just says, “All this content is for you, not for SEO.” And then in parentheses: “Doesn’t work anyway.” Which is, yeah, totally irreverent.
Wynne Renz: Right? Yeah, it’s irreverent, but it’s honest, too, you know, we’ve had the internet forever. It’s like, you know, I think kind of the human voice thing is like, is that everyone’s a copywriter now, you know, everyone has social media, everyone has Instagram, they’re all writing captions. So it’s like human voices. Just you almost just have to. You can’t try anymore. You just have to be who you are while also embodying the brand voice. So it’s hard.
Todd Nienkerk: There was another example that you mentioned, which was The New York Times. What about their copyrighting really, I don’t know, speaks to you?
Wynne Renz: Yeah. So I mean, The New York Times is like kind of an incredible success story, of course, like with how they got out ahead of the internet and we’re able to take advantage of its formats to, you know, kind of succeed as a newspaper, even though I know that they’ve had challenges along the way.
But so they really went out digital pretty quickly, comparatively, so like. I think what kind of happened there is they’ve become such a go-to for real-time information. And I think in the past, when Trump was president and people were having, you know, there was a lot of reactions to things he was saying and what was going on like, you know, they kind of saw themselves as like, OK, well, there’s information being put out that may be seen as dishonest, we are actually on the opposite side of that. “We are truth, but it costs.” It costs. It’s not just free. It’s not just like out there in the open. So yeah, they had that great line of something. I think it was like “Truth that comes at a cost,” like for a subscription ad. So they’ve really positioned themselves inside of the culture as you know, whether or not you like The New York Times and you think that they’re honest or good reporting, I think that they found a good way to position themselves as you know, we have these great personalities, as like our in our editorial team and like where we are credible voice and you can count on us. But it did feel like their advertising has felt a bit like The Economist in some ways like it’s just got this nice edge to it.
Todd Nienkerk: Hmm. Well, let’s wrap with this. What is your approach to writing for brands? What are the things that you try to do in your daily work and what you would suggest to other people who need to write effective copy for brands?
Wynne Renz: Yeah, I think I mean, I think I’ve talked a lot about making sure that the writing feels tactile and it feels like a real person wrote it. I think it’s also really important to have writing standards.
You know, at Miro, we have really strong standards that we’ve put together with regards to a really robust voice guideline that includes our voice attributes, but also what that even looks like across different materials. So a writer can come in and go, “Oh, I know what this is. I know how to write successfully for this brand because I can look at, like, what are the best-in-class examples.”
We also have a really strong style guide. Something I didn’t add with writing for the web is like you can really play with, like how you use punctuation, and like how you case things, and you don’t really have to follow the same rules as, say, you would like in a newspaper. Like, if you’re writing for a newspaper that has these like really strong sort of style guides, right? You can be a bit more playful. So I think it’s important to have strong resources when writing for a brand.
I think just overall, just keeping an eye out for sounding like you’re marketing to somebody. You know, people are just going to close that down like they don’t, nobody wants that anymore. Nobody wants to feel like they’re being sold to. And it’s just, you know, we’re always being sold to.
Todd Nienkerk: What’s an example of some copy that feels like marketing speak? Like what’s an example of something that’s sort of like obvious and classic that that just doesn’t work at all, but you still see because people still rely on these like, you know, potentially old hacks?
Wynne Renz: Yeah, I’m trying to think like, I feel like. I think just like using buzz words and like you feel like if you sound like you’re, I don’t know, using kind of the latest lingo with your industry. Try to— I was— So one of my roles at Miro is looking at the writer’s work and to and looking at it kind of from a distance. And kind of getting kind of like a sweeping picture of it and being like, OK, what’s not working? And like, are there words that we need to change? Is there a rearrangement of the sentence? But just keeping an eye out for, I mean, even just exclamation points is a good way to do it. But just sort of cheesy, I don’t know, language that feels, you know, snappy in the moment or word choices, that feel snappy in the moment, but they just they just don’t— Yeah, I guess “cheesy” is the right word. Or if you feel like you’ve heard it before,
Todd Nienkerk: Maybe something like, you know, “best-in-class edutainment”—like that kind of stuff?
Wynne Renz: Yeah. OK. So I think like something I think is always good to be mindful of, as a copywriter is like. So the thing is, is like, I always kind of relate copywriting to like, say, I was like, this is like not a very humble thing to say, but it’s like the best example. So it’s like, I love creative writing. I love just generally creative writing. So it’s like, say, someone who’s like in a rock band, but then they go into a studio and they maybe record a jingle or like they’re using their skill in a very specific way for advertising.
The thing is, once you step into kind of a new space that isn’t your creative space, kind of in the same way that you would step into a school or work, you’re suddenly, “I’m writing an email now,” or “I’m writing something for work.” And so you kind of get into this mindset of, ‘I’m writing this’. So you become a little serious and you. And the problem is with that is that you, I think the default is you go into marketing speak to keep it safe. Yeah, you go, “This is going to work.” It feels like I’ve read this before. This feels really good and natural. How you’re supposed to talk. Is this how I’m supposed to, like, write something? Well. And the thing is, this is just like, Yeah, sure, you could do that. But like, you need to kind of crack that open a little bit. Something I try to do with, let’s just say, writing a line of copy is—and this is just a writer thing—is just through revision is where you get the good stuff. So like you write, the thing you’re like, “I need to say this, this is what it says.” And maybe even you get a brief and they go, We want you to say this and you go, OK, cool, I’m just going to say that you like, put it on the page. You’re like, “This is it.” But then you start to tweak it. So like, once you have the thing down that you need to say, then maybe you add the voice and write like, you know, you start to like, play with the dials on it and like, kind of play around with it. And that’s when you can start to get to something that’s more original while still keeping the message.
Todd Nienkerk: It’s interesting to hear that your first step is to take what’s in the brief where somebody has sat down and thought about this is what I want to say. But I want you to say it differently. Yes, that’s the starting point. It’s I mean, how many times I can’t tell you how many times in my line of work where we’re thinking about like ways to communicate stuff to clients or to team members or whatever, particularly at the leadership level where we’ll be in a call and somebody will be like, all right, well, you know, our proposal needs to say that this, this, this and this and then somebody’s like, “Just write that—exactly like what you just said. Write that down, put it in the proposal. It’s pretty much good to go.” And then, of course, the person, it’s like, OK, what did I just like? They almost immediately forget a little bit of it. And then as their fingers are moving across the keyboard, they start to edit themselves. And then it turns into like, proposal speak, you know, like that? I see that happen a couple of times a week, at least, but it’s so interesting that we have this tendency when trying to think about how to craft how you’re saying something, whether it’s copyrighting or a proposal or a blog post or whatever, that the first thing that comes out of your mouth, that’s like, I need to explain what I want to have said. What I want to be saying is pretty good because it’s like how you’re thinking and how you’re talking to somebody else. And then like, if we had just like recorded that if we had just like, transcribe that. That would be a pretty good starting point, right?
Wynne Renz: Yeah. So I mean, I think where I’m coming from there is like if you’re working with, say, like a product marketing manager and they have this like brief, that’s an objective of how they need to communicate a product. They’re like, this is the thing this is this is like why it’s great these are the benefits of the thing, this is how it works.
So then they come to a copywriter and it’s like, oh, great, now I’m going to give them this stuff. And they’re going to put their spin on it, and that’s not good because, you know, it is a digital product. It has a specific benefit, it is, it has a hard-hitting thing, so it’s like, OK, I’m going to take I’m going to put down like, you know, you have to put down the stuff that has to be there. But then how can you make sure it keeps its integrity while you’re also just like maybe adding some voice elements to it?
So I’ve come across many times working with a PMM—a product marketing manager—or even an engineer where they need to say something about the technical aspects of something. And there’s really no other way to say it, except how it actually is. Or else you’re going to confuse people, and it’s just not going to be actually as impactful.
Todd Nienkerk: You might oversimplify, or you might mislead accidentally, yeah.
Wynne Renz: But, you know, as a writer, you need to also sell that in so you can work with them to really unpack what is the big meaning behind this thing? What is like the big kind of like what’s like, you know, if we were to look at it from a distance, like, what does it mean for someone when they use this, you know, like with Apple products, it’s, what I think is so amazing is they never really went into this space of, I don’t know— I mean, I’m sure on some of their products they do, but like they were never they didn’t go niche at all like, they were, it was just really almost like about the family and how the family can create a beautiful photo album or in the family can create, you know, you can do you can like, take beautiful photos of your life and, you know, all these things. So they made it super basic for basic life. And so that’s like, if you look at it from a distance. Those are like, that’s like the big-picture benefit. And, you know, there’s a lot of like human truths to all this stuff. And how do you capture that while also delivering like the tech stuff and the basic bullets? But like I, you know, a really like kind of quick technique I do is like, sometimes you’ll come to a point with a conversation with a product marketing manager and they’ll be like, “Everything you’ve given me is not the thing. I just needed to say this.” And you’re like, “OK, cool, I’ll just have it say that.” And then you have it say that. And then maybe you add a little line at the end. That’s not even part of that line that adds a little like sprinkle. Like, I think that’s a good trick.
Todd Nienkerk: Oh, interesting.
Wynne Renz: Well, just a little dash.
Todd Nienkerk: Yes, let’s leave it there. There’s yeah, there’s a lot we— I feel like we could keep going forever, but this has been super interesting. The world of copyrighting is just so unique and having to convey so much in such a small space is really it’s, you know, art and science. It’s really something. So thank you again, Wynne, for joining us today. How can listeners reach out to you if they’re interested or learn more about what you do?
Wynne Renz: Yeah. So yeah, I work at Miro, miro.com. You can also find me on LinkedIn, and my website is wynnerenz.com. So, yeah, you can check out some of the past work I’ve done there for other brands, too. Mostly I’ve worked for tech companies, so kind of helping them get their voice out there online.
Todd Nienkerk: Well, thank you so, so much, Wynne.
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