Great fashion campaigns sometimes seem to need no words. Does this mean fashion brands can just skip copywriting as a whole? That’s hardly the case.
Do fashion brands really need copywriting?
Fashion is a visual field, no doubt about that. Fashion campaigns usually consist of gorgeous visuals, with little to no words. Even agencies tend to be cut out, as the Maison’s creative director is usually in charge of the creativity.
Copywriting might seem the least of worries: after all, wordless ads conquer premium media space and leverage the sheer power of images.
A different idea of copywriting
In order to answer the opening question, we need to expand the common idea of copywriting: fashion doesn’t usually give us the chance to just “write an ad”. Which makes sense: rational messages are of little use in communicating such a visual product.
And yet, a copywriter will be needed, as long as we look at copywriting from a broader point of view. Not just the ad, but the words and concepts that can help the brand stand out.
Hidden words: fashion narratives
One trend we’ve been seeing in the last years is that of fashion brands trying to establish narratives. These underlying structures link different campaign subjects and offer a deeper perspective for the audience to explore. Some bright examples of this tendency come from the work of Alessandro Michele for Gucci, or from the latest creative ventures of Balenciaga.
Can fashion brands write their narrative by themselves? Absolutely. Can copywriting help? For sure: approaching the narrative in a more strategic way can not just make the campaign a success, but set the foundation for the following waves of communication.
The work of a copywriter will be that of crafting the narrative, inventing the storyline and plot it for the future. Most of the words will be invisible to the onlooker, and yet they will shape the way the brand communicates.
Capturing the opportunities of digital
The almost total absence of copy from fashion ads is especially seen on traditional media like print and outdoor, which are meant to be watched passively.
Digital, though, is different. As an interactive media, it needs copy and microcopy in order to engage the viewer/reader and guide her through a series of choices and actions.
Sadly, this part is sometimes overlooked by fashion brands, that end up pairing world-class images with a boring, run-of-the-mill copy. This is a shame, considering there are so many pieces of copy that could help build the brand, even in subtle ways. Website copy, CTAs, newsletters, social statuses: these apparently humble pieces of writing are a good part of the customer experience online.
Writing them with intention can make a difference.
Conclusions: weaving it all together with tone of voice
What we often see in the communication of fashion brands is a radical disconnect between high-level communication (often dreamed up by the maison creative team) and smaller pieces of copy that are left as an afterthought. These are often the work of different teams, and it shows.
Making it all work together is a copywriter’s job, as it’s mostly a matter of defining a tone of voice (see the tone of voice Sublimio created for Frontman). This is not a familiar concept for fashion, because tone of voice guidelines are meant to be long-lived, while fashion thrives on novelty.
And yet, fashion brands should consider working with a copywriter in order to secure their tone of voice: it won’t prevent the brand from reinventing itself season after season, but it will help build brand value through time.
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