Can’t see the message for the tone.

Posted on January 14, 2016 By

A man goes into a bank to open an account for his teenage daughter.

No it’s not a joke. That’s what I was doing last week when I went into Lloyds.

I was in a hurry. There was a big queue. So I thought I’d take a leaflet and come back later. But which leaflet? The one titled ‘Excited’, or ‘Elated’, or ‘Smarter’, or, for heavens sake, ‘Snug’?

None of them said Accounts for Young People, or something similar – which would have been helpful. After some frustrating searching through the small type at the top of each leaflet I found the one I needed.

Why do Lloyds feel the need to smother their leaflets in tone rather than a more prosaic description?

I’m sure the list of adjectives meets the tone of voice guidelines. They probably score well against a checklist of values. But are they fit for purpose?

Sometimes in a bid to be clever, we miss the bleeding obvious.

The copywriters’ job isn’t just to find the choicest word (I’m sure someone was chuffed to get ‘snug’ on the front page).

The copywriter’s job is to put themselves in the shoes of the customer and think – what’s their mindset at the point of purchase?

Sometimes in the boardroom you have to be the person that says ‘Love the word ‘elated’ but is it really going to help our customer – or will it leave them deflated?’

As a set, the leaflets have a cosy tonal quality that may make customers queuing by the display feel better about Lloyds (I doubt it).

But they’re not written for the person dashing into a bank to get information while their car is parked on a double yellow who might actually be the customer that takes up the offer if only they can find the right leaflet quickly enough to avoid getting ticket.

And that’s not funny.

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This post was written by Richard Spencer