Welcome to the Marketing in the Wild podcast. I’m Julia from Stratos Creative Marketing, where we are obsessed with finding real-life examples of the good, the bad, and sometimes wild, in marketing.
Julia: All right, everybody. I am here with my friend, Jill. Jill is another StoryBrand guide and you guys have gotten to meet a few of them. But Jill and I met via StoryBrand. We hung out at a recent guide retreat back in September, and I really enjoyed hanging out with her. So I asked her to come and talk about personality, especially in copywriting, because this is one of her sweet spots that she’s discovered. So Jill, tell us about yourself, where you live, your business, something about you.
Jill: Yeah. Hey, hey. Like Julia said, my name is Jill. I am in Roseville, California. So it’s just Northeast of Sacramento, pretty central. I own Felty Co. Creative copy. We write unforgettable messaging for websites, emails, and sometimes social media.
Julia: Yeah, they do.
Jill: So yeah, we really love copy with personality that just kind of brings the brand to life because without it, it can really fall flat and your brand can sound like everybody else out there. And so the importance of personality in your business is just so huge these days.
Julia: Totally. Yeah, Jill and I have gotten to work on some projects together before, and we were actually just talking about an industry that often sounds the same. And we’re not going to call it out, except that they sell houses usually. And I’m sure if you’re in the market to buy or sell a house, you’re realizing, okay, I have to weigh all of these people, how do I tell them apart? And I think that that’s one thing that’s really cool about using personality in copy because that is another way to tell somebody apart from their competitor. But before we get into that, Jill, how did you get into copywriting?
Jill: Yeah. It’s actually a kind of a funny story. So I was working for a national radio station and it was like my dream to work at this radio station. I was so excited about my job. I thought I was going to retire there. And I jumped around to a couple of different positions, found one in fundraising where I was managing a lot of direct mail campaigns, writing the letters for those campaigns, some of the letters, not all of them. But I really, really loved the writing aspect of it and getting to build these ideas in these stories and pull from different people’s experiences with our station. And that was my absolute favorite part of the job.
The project management side of it, I feel like I was not good at it, and I hope that other people would be like, no, Jill, you are fine! But that just wasn’t my strong suit. And as I was kind of going through this little job crisis toward the end there, I was like, is this what I really want to do? I was recruited by a station in Houston. They were like, “Hey, come do this job for us here, the same job.” We went out and I was offered the job, and then I realized like, oh, I, I don’t want to manage this. I really just want to write. And so I was like, well if I don’t wanna do this job in Houston, I don’t wanna do this job in Sacramento either. So that was when I quit my job and started Felty Co that same month in actually in January. We’re recording this in January and today is our business birthday.
Julia: Oh yay! Happy birthday!
Jill: Thanks, it’s been three years in business. So, yeah, that was kinda the beginning. And I’ve been writing in different aspects ever since our business started as a social media management agency and slowly morphed into the thing that I really love, which is words. And that’s really what I care about and what I love doing. And it does not feel like work when I get to create super fun messaging for my clients.
Julia: And this is what I love because I love that, in the world, there are a lot of humans who like to do a lot of different things because I personally am like words, yuck. And maybe that was stronger…it came up stronger than I thought it would. But I don’t get excited about that. And so I think that’s really cool. And that begs question, if a client or somebody who is listening was trying to decide, should I write for myself or should I hire a copywriter? What are some quick pointers that you would give them as they’re trying to make that decision? Because somebody could technically write for themselves.
Jill: Yeah, absolutely. And I don’t think that you can’t write for yourself. I think that there are people out there who are really strong writers who can absolutely write strong messaging for themselves if they’re given the right framework, something like the StoryBrand framework, they can develop something. But what I found recently with one of my clients who was actually a copywriter, she came to me and she said like, “I’m too close.” I think she used the specific idea that she was trying to read the label from the inside of the bottle sort of thing.
So feeling like she could not get her message right because she’s just too close to it. And so I think that that is oftentimes like what people run into, like they feel burnt out about writing for themselves because they just don’t know what to write. And so when you’re able to get a fresh perspective, get an outside person to come in and say like, “Oh, talk to me about these things. Tell me about your business.” You know that person’s going to say it differently than you would, especially if you’re an expert in your field and you’ve been doing this for so long, you know how to say what you do one way. And you’ve been saying it that way for so long, but that doesn’t mean it’s the clearest. That doesn’t mean that actually does your business justice, because in your head, yeah, totally a hundred percent. This makes sense. I know exactly what I’m saying, but it doesn’t mean the other person knows what you’re saying. So there’s a lot of value in just getting that outside perspective and getting somebody to read the label from the outside of the bottle sort of thing.
I think it’s a lot of it is perspective and asking the right questions. Then the other side of it is clarity and just figuring out how to write it. What do I say?
Julia: Yeah, this actually reminds me of a conversation that happened in our StoryBrand Slack channel that our good friend, Katie brought up about the difference between copywriting or copyright without the w and like copyright is like the C with like the circle where you have legal rights. Copywriting is like writing the copy or the words for whatever medium you’re going to use it on. And I think that there was a great conversation about how even the word copywriting with a w can be what we would call “insider language,” whereas marketers, you know what that is, but totally I would encourage like our audience, like if there’s probably insider language that you’re using that you don’t even realize that you’re using that then that’s where Jill is saying if you have an outside perspective, somebody can actually tell you, “Hey, actually, most people don’t use that word. They don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Jill: Right. And I think that, just with copywriting versus content writing, too, those are two very different things. And I think that most, most people would be like, oh, You know, it’s all the same, words are words. But one is meant for sales and conversions. The other is meant for engagement.
Julia: Blogs, social media, stuff like that.
Jill: Right, right. That’s the content side of things. So content creation.
Julia: Yeah. And somebody like Jill can do both of that. Both of those things. So let’s talk about why we’ve talked a little bit about why it’s important to put personality into copy, partially because it differentiates you from your competitors. Are there some other things that make it important to infuse your copy with a personality?
Jill: Oh, yeah, lots of reasons. And I think we touched on some a little bit at the beginning of this call, but there are millions and millions and millions of businesses out there, like millions and probably thousands that do what you do. Anybody can start a business these days. The barrier for entry is so low to have a platform. Like literally, all you have to do is sign up for an Instagram account or create a website, like the barrier for entry is so low. And so you have to do things to really set yourself apart.
The two things that I found that really helps set yourself apart is being able to identify who you’re talking to, like a niche. Identifying your niche and then talking in a way that sets you apart, that resonates with that niche. So like, who are you talking to? And what are you saying?
Those two things have to go together and they have to really resonate with the person that you’re talking to because there are just so many people out there, they’re bombarded with all of these ads. They’re bombarded with these messages from these businesses. And so the only way you’re going to be able to set yourself apart is to sound different and to be different and to talk to someone specific so that they can be like, “Oh, you’re talking to me. Like, I feel this in my soul.” So that doesn’t mean that it necessarily sounds like you, like, if you are a solopreneur, yeah. It’s very likely that it’s going to sound like you, you are the business.
But if you are a luxury business and you’re a mom who just kind of lives a normal life, but she wants to have this luxury business, that doesn’t necessarily mean that her voice is going to be the same as that brand voice. So creating a brand, a holistic brand, that includes copy, it includes the look of everything. Really we’ll set you apart because you’re targeting someone specific.
Julia: So can you give us some examples of what personality could look like in copy?
Jill: Totally, totally. So I was thinking about this and as I was like, I should come up with a really good example and all I could think of was bagels because I was hungry.
There’s no bagel shop here in town, which I’m really sad about. I wish there was. And I’m sure if anyone listens from like east coast, they’d be like, California, you’re not going to make good bagels. I’m sorry that I’m using this example, but you could say like, “Oh, we make the best bagels in town” or “We make the best donuts in town.” Sure that’s great. Or you could say something like “Caution, we’re not responsible for your bagel addiction.” Just turning it on its head and saying something different than what you’d normally say. Just say it in a different way. Think about all of the different ways and literally list out 20 ways you can say we make really fricking good bagels.
And it could be that. But saying it in any other way than “We make good bagels.” is adding personality or like start just listing off a bunch of things or just talking to people like, “Oh, we make good bagels. Oh, we make great bagels. Oh, our bagels are awesome.” Like, no, those aren’t necessarily great examples, but just saying it in different ways and then writing it down 20, 30, 40 ways to say this thing, and then nail down five that you think are incredible. And start kind of infusing those into your website, on your Instagram, you know, and all of these different places. Because those are the things that will really set you apart. There should also be some sort of thematic…
Julia: Yeah, there should be like some through-line through all of your messaging.
Jill: Exactly. Yeah. And so if your tagline is “Caution, we’re not responsible for your bagel addiction” then everything should be talking about how addictive your bagels are. Like the theme is “We make addictive bagels.”
Julia: Totally. I am thinking, even going back to what you said before, you also have to know who your audiences, because if you’re saying, “Caution. We’re not responsible for your bagel addiction.” Well, bagels are hard also because they really could be for anybody, we really pegged ourselves at a hole right here. But I’m thinking, maybe like zoom backward, like skincare for a 30-year old woman is gonna look different than for a 60-year-old woman. Or even like, maybe let’s take it even further, like 20 gen Z, you could use like these “Caution” kind of edgy messaging if you wanted to per se. Whereas like a 60 to 70-year-old woman might be like, “I’m sorry, what?”
Jill: Yeah. She might be totally put off by that.
Julia: And so that’s where I can see how you said, like, you have to know what are you saying but then who are you saying it to?
Jill: Exactly. Yeah. And I think skincare is actually a really, really wonderful example because I’m currently working with a medspa. And she wants to be really intentional about not targeting the anti-aging necessarily, but the preventative side of things. So making sure that you have a skincare regimen that fits your lifestyle. So you don’t have like a 30-step skincare routine every morning, you have a five-step or one-step one, if that’s really what you need. So yeah, one step please. So she’s very intentional. Exactly what you were saying, what would we say for her about being very natural looking, very understated. If you’re doing injectables or Botox that it’s not going to look over done. You’re never going to look over done. Whereas that’s a very different language than a different client who would say that you want to look like, I don’t even know the world.
Julia: A model, you could look like a model.
Jill: Yeah. Or like a very firm focused on anti-aging side of things. Like that’s not necessarily going to be her. And we didn’t even use the anti-aging language in her brand messaging at all, because that’s just not who she wants to target, but it’s a huge aspect of med spas, if you go to any other med spa website, it’s just not going to be her.
Julia: And that’s the thing is that there are those of us who would prefer that. And then there are those of us who would not prefer that. And so I think, I feel like, and Jill, you can tell me right or wrong. If you’re going to do this, you almost have to be okay with not reaching everybody. Like you have to okay with that because your personality, whether it’s your personal personality, cause you’re a solopreneur, or your brand personality, it’s not like it’s going to offend people, but it won’t ttract everybody. It’s going to attract the right people, but not everybody.
Jill: Yeah. I think that’s so true. And I mean, to be honest, from my perspective, you don’t want to be a brand for everybody because then you are just speaking into the void and hoping that somebody catches on and grabs it. And I think that’s where words fall flat for a lot of people is they’re trying so hard to reach as many people as possible, rather than focusing on the one thing that they do really, really well. Or the personality that then like creates this cultural statement or, you know, for your brand, so that it really attracts those people that are going to be your best clients or your best customers.
If you’re missing out on those people because you’re trying to reach everybody, then you’re missing out on a lot of opportunity, I think. yYou needed to just step in and own it.
Julia: I think that’s really important. So you mentioned writing 20 headlines that say the same thing in different ways. That might be one way to infuse personality into your copy. You mentioned also using that in all of your copy, like having that through line, making sure all of your other messages are connected to it. Are there any other ways that you infuse personality into copy for your clients?
Jill: Yeah. Oftentimes I’ll ask a question during discovery calls that’s similar to like, if your brand was a celebrity, who would it be? Or, gosh now I’m blanking on what it’s called, but like brand characteristics, this idea of like brand characteristics and there’s 12 different types of characters in stories and your brand kind of falls naturally into one of these characteristics.
And I think dentifying what you are in these things like, “Okay, I really love the way that Kristen Bell sounds. I want to really lean into her voice and her humor and kind of the way she carries herself.” So that’s what I want my brand to kind of feel like or the vibe I want to give off.
Or I’ve had a couple of guy clients recently, like Ryan Reynolds, everything that Ryan Reynolds does, I want to be. Which is great. Cause he’s a fantastic, marketing genius and he’s so funny. And I think he seems very approachable. And so guys are attracted to like that. He’s also very attractive. So I think it’s easy for guys to be like, yes, him. I want to be like him. My aspirational identity is Ryan Reynolds. Absolutely. So I think if you have that kind of person or that ideal, or even if you have very clear like value statements about your brand, like you want to be a magical brand, that feels very light, airy, like those sorts of things. If you have those character traits, those ideals that you want to hang on to, use that and use that as fuel for everything that you say.
So whether it’s like a character in a movie or like, I think Spider-Man is a great one. I just watched Spiderman No Way Home, like two weeks ago. I think what’s great about that movie is that he’s very true to himself throughout the entire movie. And so that’s a great example of like, no matter what, he did the right thing. So no matter what, we are going to display generosity in our copy, no matter what, we’re going to display humor. We’re going to be sarcastic. We’re going to be light-hearted. We’re going to be joyful. So all of those character traits, outline them, bring them together. And kind of use them as a little bit of a filter to look through all of your copy through like, is this generous?
If we say that we are a generous brand, does this sound generous? Does this sound compassionate? Does this sound joyful or, you know, same thing with this Ryan Reynolds thing, does this sound silly or sarcastic or dry? Would Ryan Reynolds say this? And so using that as that filter between like characters, character traits, or your value statements, using all of those things to kind of filter through your copy.
Julia: And I think you saying this just makes me realize that it’s also a continual process. Like it’s not like a one time deal. And so, for those of you listening, that could be either encouraging or discouraging. But like, for me, it’s encouraging just because Stratos has been around for four years, we have changed a ton since then. And just like human personalities can change, we can start tweaking some of those things and if we have that filter, we can measure old stuff with that filter and then tweak it instead of feeling like we have to start over from scratch. I mean, sometimes it may require starting over from scratch, but sometimes it might not.
Jill: Especially if you’re going through a rebrand or if you haven’t looked at these things in two to five years, it’s always just a good idea to think about it again, like, which is part of the reason why in the messaging guides that I deliver, I started doing a specific voice section. So you can keep coming back to this. Yes, you may know your brand message by heart. You may be able to spout off your core values and your actual like brand story by heart, you might memorize those things. But when it comes to like your brand voice, this might be something that you constantly have to come back to and make sure that like, everything you’re doing is in line with this brand voice and everything you’re doing is in line with your brand story.
And I think that bringing those together in one deliverable, as far as what I’m doing now, just helps, especially the small businesses who are writing their own copy, who are going to develop their own website, who are going to write their own social media posts. Like it just gives that much more fuel to the fire to write well.
Julia: And if you’re not writing for yourself, if you have that, then you can give it to your contractors or your agency or your employees. And I have found that it’s super helpful for our clients, because then if they have an employee who’s writing something that they’re like, what in the world? You’ll have this document to go back to and be like, “Remember this was our voice!” And so it kind of helps hold everybody accountable to making sure that the voice and personality sustains.
Julia: So tell me, do you have any favorite examples of personality and copy that either you have written or that you have seen?
Jill: Yeah. I’m really proud of, I partnered with Morether Creative Agency in Texas to write Bulldog Auto Detailing, their website. And I think it’s really wonderful and it represented them well. They are one of the, Hey, I want to sound like Ryan Reynolds guys, but I think it leaned on their voice more than it even leaned on his because they’re funny, they’re dry. They’re a little cheeky. And when you’re talking about cars, you’re talkingto a group of people who really, really care about their car. Because we’re talking about intense detailing that they’re doing, like paint, like everything.
And so we had to really focus about on those people who, not only those people that have super-duper nice cars and that are going to keep them clean, like are taking them to a show or whatever, but we’re talking to the dads that have Cheerio’s ground into the carpet. And this was their car and now the kids have ruined it, what do they do? And so we kind of tapped into both of those things and it was kind of a dance a little bit. Like your car should be absolutely sexy and also it should turn heads. It should be so clean and pristine. I think we wrote something along the lines of like, “It’s the envy of the cul-de-sac” or something like that.
Julia: So like still playing on that father figure, like you still have to be a dad, but at least your car could be something that is like your special thing.
Jill: Yes. For these guys, before they had kids, their car was their baby, sort of thing. So it was like the thing that they really cared about. And then another example I didn’t write, but I wish I did because I look at it and I’m just, “Ugh, it’s so good.” is Tushy!
Julia: Yes, we talk about that one all the time!
Jill: Because it’s just so freaking good.
Julia: So tell our listeners what Tushy is.
Jill: Yes. Tushy is a bidet attachment for your toilet. I mean, people are so, I mean, bathroom humor and just the fact that people are so like uncomfortable when talking about things like a bidet or anything about a toilet. And what Tushy does is they really make it super approachable because they lean into the fact that it’s awkward or that people feel that it’s awkward. And so they use a lot of butt puns, a lot of like posterior sort of language. And it’s just stinkin’ good.
Julia: It’s so funny. Like if you’re listening, I would go to their Instagram. Their Instagram is like really good.
Jill: Go to their Instagram, go to their website, read every word, because it’s a wonderful example of personality in copy.
Julia: And they’re going to alienate the people who do not want this. And then they’re going to attract the people who think it’s hilarious.
Jill: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. And people who have never thought, they lower the bar sort of thing. I guess that’s probably not the right phrasing for it. But, people who would never have thought about a bidet, they make it so approachable for the fact that like, oh, like, this is a great idea. Like, why haven’t we done this before? Why haven’t I ever gotten one? Because they educate very well, but then on the flip side, their copy is just so, so engaging and funny. And it sells very well.
Julia: It totally does. On the flip side, have you seen any where it falls flat? Like copy that is missing personality.
Jill: Okay, so during the pandemic, my husband and I really got into a couple of YouTube creators. We feel like we were late to the game in YouTube, but we started watching a couple of very specific YouTube creators. And you know, as you’re watching all of these YouTube, because we don’t pay for YouTube or whatever, we get the ads. So fine, that’s great.
These ads are so bad. So I have two specific examples, because Target does these very, very well. But you’re probably going to say, oh, but they’re target. They’re huge. Target does great things in five seconds. So if you feel like you need to really figure out what to do in five seconds, look at Target. They’re wonderful.I have two really bad examples though. And, to be honest, I can’t even tell you who they are because I don’t know.
Julia: And that’s like the whole point is, if we remember an ad, but we don’t know who it was from, then the ad is wasted.
Jill: Oh, my gosh. That’s a huge red flag. So there was one guy, he was talking at the camera and somebody was wrapping an RV in saran wrap. And I think they’re trying to be funny, that’s my assumption, but I don’t know what the ad was for. Maybe because I wasn’t listening because I was so distracted by what the heck was this guy doing? Wrapping his RV in saran wrap? I don’t understand.
Julia: Jill, you don’t do that all the time?
Jill: So I don’t wrap our RV in saran wrap. I don’t. I don’t know what the point was. I don’t know. I don’t know. I’m assuming it’s some sort of RV protection, some sort of like water…I don’t know. Water proofing maybe? I don’t know!
Julia: It sounds like they were both missing like clarity in terms of like what their message was, but then also personality because they were trying to be funny, but it just wasn’t landing.
Jill: Yes, it wasn’t landing because they were trying to be funny at the cost of clarity. And so it was super confusing. And it was one where you could skip after five seconds or whatever. And so it came on so often and I still don’t know because every time I click, skip, skip, skip, skip, skip. And then at one point we could just say, please don’t show me this ad anymore because it’s too repetitive. At one point we just did that because we saw it all the time. And sometimes I wonder, like how much are these people paying for these bad ads? Because YouTube ads are not cheap.
Julia: Not only just the YouTube spend, but also they had to create the ad too.
Jill: Yes! The other example of a bad one is, again, don’t know what it was for. There were no words. I think it’s a furniture brand because I saw two ads from them. Neither of them were super clear about what they offered. The only reason I think it’s a furniture ad is because I think they were furniture parts. I think it was like a deconstructed bed put into like this really fun pattern on the cement floor and they zoomed up. But there were, there were no words and I don’t that one was a five-second ad, that you had to watch all the way through.
But if you have five seconds, then you need to do one of two things. You have to be either super clear as to what you are offering and say it upfront. Or you need to have a really, really, really good hook that gets me to stick around. And I think that’s true for most ads. Like not just YouTube ads that I can skip, like anything, any social media posts, any website. Yeah, exactly. Either you need to be very, very clear, which I think is number one. Be clear. And then if you have a chance to throw in a hook, then put that into add that personality. But like don’t do personality at the expense of clarity. Cause those are the two that recently I was like, oh my gosh, these are so bad. I cannot believe people are paying for this.
Julia: Our good friend Donald Miller says, “Clarity sells. Cute and clever does that.” And I think that if you have clarity, then you can stack clever and cute on it, if you are able to. But don’t do clever, cute instead of clear.
Jill: Yes. And our other copywriter friend, Jessie Congleton, she would say the same thing. Like she is known for very, very phenomenal copy with personality.
Julia: If you need a sassy copywriter, you’ve got to go find Jessie.
Jill: Oh she’s fantastic. But yeah, she would say the same thing. Don’t be playful at the expense of clarity, for sure.
Julia: And I think that even with these examples you gave us, I would encourage all of our listeners, to start watching commercials with the lens of what personality are they trying to come out?
Because you might find that you’re attracted to something and then not attracted to something else. Recently, we even had a conversation with a bunch of marketers about how much swearing is okay in your copy. And that’s something that’s a very personal decision for you and your brand, because again, you’re going to alienate some people and attract other people, and there’s nothing wrong with it. But you have to make a personal decision. And so I think that that’s what’s really important, but I think that people can practice seeing personality by looking at ads and then also asking yourself, did they sacrifice clarity for personality? Cause if they did, that was dumb.
Jill: It’s dumb and a waste of so much money. I cannot imagine the money this RV guy is spending!
Julia: And time and your customer’s attention. Cause again, like Jill said, in these commercials, you only have five seconds to hook people in. So if you don’t do that, you’re wasting your people’s time and your awareness.
Jill. Thank you, thank you, thank you for joining us. If people want to learn more from you, where can they find you?
Jill: Totally. We are at felty.co, is our website, .co, not .com and our Instagram is @felty.co
Julia: If I were you, I would go follow their Instagram. Their Instagram is, first of all, beautiful. Second of all, you can see the personality coming through it. They’ve done a really good job.
Jill: We talk about coffee a lot, and that is one of our core values, is just coffee.
Julia: I love it. I love it. So all that to say, any of you coffee lovers, you’ll find a fellow addict, maybe, at the felty.co Instagram.
All right, everybody, we’ll tune in next week. Have a great one.
Friends, thanks for tuning into this week’s podcast episode. I am so glad that you have. If you’ve enjoyed it as much as we have, I just ask you to subscribe so you know each time we have a new episode coming out.
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