Idioms for Idiots: The Copywriter’s Guide to Common Phrases

In copywriting, one of the weapons I most often use is the idiom. Recognition, wittiness and brevity are usually achievable with the use of these common phrases. With the great power of the idiom, also comes great balance. One of my favorite tactics is to play with the words of an idiom so that it is brand/campaign-specific, but still recognizable as the idiom from which it originated. Here are a few examples:

The Best of Both Worlds

I have seen this idiom used countless times to communicate the amazing benefits of every product and minimalize the negatives. This idiom is especially useful if the positives and negatives of a product are well-known, such as in advertisements for SUV’s – the best of both worlds is the blend of sport and utility. In some cases, you can play around with the words such as in this ad below.copywriting-example-idioms-essential-oils

Go the Extra Mile

The positive associations with hard work and dedication can be seen using this popular phrase. For many brands, a feeling of “going the extra mile”, or taking extra effort purveys a promise of a good experience. I see this one as a great headline for any fashion based brand, as the world “mile” has an easy rhyme with “style”. The idiom is well-known enough that a headline “Go the extra style” has the easy recognition of the idiom’s meaning as well as a twist of clever wordplay.

Another great brand to integrate into this headline would be something like North Face, or any other durable clothing brand used by travelers to double the impact of the message and really… going the extra mile. Add some humor by integrating a product into the landscape.

go-the-extra-mile-north-face-ad-dessert go-the-extra-mile-north-face-ad-mountain

Cat Got your Tongue

Wonder or surprise can be an emotion harnessed through words, which gives you many options as a copywriter. The use of animals are great in copy, as long as they fit the brand and work in the context of the copy. You will find that using animals (like a cat) as a visual element brings an immediate (and easy-to-use) emotional appeal.

Any message that wants to convey wonder, like a museum or art gallery would be perfect for this idiom.

cat-got-your-tongue-versailles-tourism-ad

These are just some of my favorite idioms from the top of my head. When working with a brand, I like running through lists of idioms to find the ones that best match one of the keywords I am targeting. Looking for some other common phrases to use in ads? Let me know what yours are!

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