I did a daft thing on the weekend.
I drove into the city for dinner. Drove; not walked, not rode, not Uber'd.
It's Adelaide! I reasoned. There's always a park - as per the rules of country towns masquerading as capital cities.
But, during peak Fringe festivities AND at the precise moment Adelaide's blood sugar was collectively dropping (around 7:35pm) parks were impossible to come by.
After slow-drip driving my way ‘round the CBD six times in succession - seething and starving - I finally found a park within hiking distance from where I needed to be.
I *thought* it was a park.
I desperately wanted it to be a park.
Other cars were parked there!
But it wasn't a park, because there stood a sign that explicitly said so.
‘NO STOPPING. TOW-AWAY ZONE’
It was a special, event-edition sign with arrows pointing in either direction to dissuade hopeful puller-upperers like me.
Surely that sign didn't apply to me.
Me? Catie Payne?
It would have said something more specific like:
'Seriously Catie, this ain't what you think it is. Nope. Not a chance. Read it and weep, sister. Try the next block over.'
But all it said was 'Tow-away zone' with a couple of arrows.
The message was so ho-hum, so generic, so lacking in personal relevance that for a moment, it didn't compute.
Are you SURE, sign?
You don't sound very convincing.
So I decided to ignore it.
I hopped out, bleep-locked my car, walked 40 meters… visualized a $300 impound fee fluttering on the windshield, sighed, and turned my hungry torso the hell around.
Slithering behind the wheel and reversing in a rubbery huff, I gave the sign a sign of my own and kept driving.
Eventually I found a legal park, but not before I'd had some semi-relevant thoughts on marketing and communications.
Here’s where the anecdote is relevant to you and your biz.
I didn’t respect the TOW AWAY ZONE sign because it was so impersonal and boring.
In fact, I was poised to defy it.
And your online readers do the same thing.
They’re so jaded with commands, calls-to-action and sales cliches that they’ve morphed into petulant brats, ignoring whatever hackneyed phrases you throw at them.
Bland messages no longer cut through.
Beige words carry zero potency and punch.
They want ORIGINAL, SPECIFIC, HONEST, SIT-UP-AND-LISTEN WORDS.
They crave empathy and emotion and stories about your embarrassing incontinence (and how you solved it with those yogic breathing exercises).
They want to be educated, entertained - or both.
Not told that they’re parked in a tow away zone.
Where’s the poetry in that?
Whether it's a street sign or your brand tagline, overused phrases bounce right off the psyche and become totally ineffective.
Instead, choose to side-step the same same and:
→ Upend cliches.
→ Address the reader directly using words like HEY, YOU!
→ Be funny.
→ Be personal.
→ Get irreverent.
→ Push your tongue firmly into a cheek pocket and let your readers in on the joke.
→ Avoid industry buzzwords like a festering fibroid.
→ Tell stories, ask questions, start a goddamn conversation.
→ Ask - is my copy a tow-away zone?
Now, park your ass on a seat and write with unshackled originality.