Writing copy for signage is more like putting together the pieces of a puzzle than other types of writing. It involves arranging carefully selected words into a headline that will attract readers’ attention, communicate a message to them, and prompt them to take an action – all within a finite space.
Experienced copywriters know that shorter does not mean easier. In fact, the opposite is true. Writing copy that accomplishes all the tasks mentioned above, within a few phrases or words, can be challenging.
The following five tips can help you write headlines that stand out on your signage and other marketing collateral. Use them to make a big impact with a small number of words.
1. Use numbers to grab attention immediately and to make a bold statement.
“50-70% off – this week only!” “The world’s #1 rated washer and dryer are here.” Numbers take up less space than words that reflect the same values, making them faster for readers to understand. The numbers give each headline a confident tone that is hard to ignore.
In general, writers use numbers like 5, 10, 25 and so on. However, sometimes a really obscure number like 17 or 38 can catch people’s attention, too.
2. Make an impactful promise to your readers that they will value.
For example, promise to teach them a new skill or allow them to try something brand-new. “Learn to code in one month” is a bold promise that will capture readers’ attention. A compelling promise can turn a browser into a reader. Just make sure you deliver on those promises.
3. Use repetition and parallelism to give your slogans a punchy, catchy factor.
Use the same words more than once (repetition), or express the same idea in reverse (parallelism). Retailmotion cites the following two slogans as examples:
- Repetition used by Orange: “The future’s bright. The future’s Orange.”
- Parallelism used by WINS Radio: “You give us 22 minutes, we’ll give you the world.”
Both of these examples are short in length, but long in effectiveness. Like a song, they have words that are used more than once, lending them a sort of rhyme and rhythm that makes them easier to remember.
4. Pose a provocative question.
When you ask a question, you are involving your readers directly. Resist asking questions that are too clever, random, or easy to answer. Instead, pose a question that relates to a major benefit of your product or service. It must prod the reader to answer, or at least make them want to learn more. For example:
- What’s in your wallet?
- Is your dog getting the nutrients he needs?
- Where’s the beef?
- Got milk?
5. Use metaphors, humor and puns.
These will help your sign to stand out from the clutter of advertising readers face each day. Poetry endures for a reason, and a metaphorical tagline can channel some of that creativity. Again, Retailmotion offers a useful example: “Every drop is like a ray of sunshine for the soul” might work for an orange juice manufacturer because it takes an everyday product and describes it poetically.
Retaildoc.com also has a few funny examples, like a local farmer’s market / garden center whose sign reads, “Pot Dealer” one week, and “Weed Problem?” the next.
Puns, light sarcasm and humor work the same way as metaphors in helping a message stick with your audience. Experiment to find fun ways to get your unique message across on signage. And if you need help with branding strategy or ad copywriting, get in touch with Marstudio, your one-stop-shop for powerful marketing.