Copy and content: What’s the difference, and can they work in harmony?

By Michelle Keefe
Reading through a direct response campaign, a consumer likely won’t notice the differences between copy and content. It’s all writing, and it’s all trying to pitch a product. But a copywriter knows that one cannot succeed without the other. The differences between the two might be slight, but they’re worth exploring, especially if you’re trying to establish marketing goals for a successful direct marketing campaign.
In marketing, content is information people search for. If a consumer is in the market for a car, a copywriter should include valuable, product-specific facts in the messaging. Content for an automotive campaign might list statistics on fuel economy, vehicle size and built-in technology. Readers will spend time with content if the information satisfies their interest in a product. Content generates interest when it focuses on consumer needs and preferences.
Copy, on the other hand, engages the consumer in a more creative way and often appeals to the emotions. If a product deals with consumer safety, the copy might take on a frank, parental tone to underscore the benefits of a product and persuade the target to act. Copy is meant to be persuasive. It goes a step beyond content by cleverly engaging the target with pointed messaging. A smart marketer will establish marketing goals for copy and content in the concept development phase to guide the direction of the writing.
A marriage between art and data.
Copywriters can take some cues from novelists and journalists when developing copy and content. Novelists are driven in part by the desire to capture attention and mesmerize their readers, and journalists make it their business to objectively inform the public. Engaging consumers on multiple levels through messaging is key to a successful marketing campaign.
To highlight the distinctions between copy and content, let’s examine a successful direct mail campaign for Consumers Energy, a leading electricity and natural gas utility in Michigan.
Michigan residents are no strangers to extreme weather. They get hit with lake-effect conditions that can push their furnace, air conditioning and other appliances to the breaking point. It’s a story they know all too well.
In this case, the job of the copywriter is to frame the need for a reliable appliance service plan for Michigan homeowners in a creative and compelling way.

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