Why copywriting and design are like cheese and wine (and how to pair them perfectly)

For us copywriters, it’s all about the words.

It’s crafting everything from headlines to body text to call-to-actions, in order to engage the reader and persuade them to buy. However, while we might not like to admit it, even the most effective copy doesn’t do all the work alone.

Yes, designers, you can take some credit, too. Whether on a brochure, advert, website or a piece of direct mail, copy effectiveness relies on the graphical layout and elements that surround it.

Because of this, marketing copy and design must work as a complementary pair, a bit like, well, um, cheese and wine. Okay, while my analogy is definitely an insight into what I like consume, I think it describes the relationship pretty well…

The perfect accompaniment

Let’s say that wine is the design (hey, it rhymes) and cheese is the copy. Now wine and cheese are both delicious on their own, but pair them well and one really brings out the other. This is exactly what should happen with copy and design.

Imagine enjoying a cold Sauvignon Blanc with a fresh, tangy goats cheese. Or, an aged creamy blue with a plummy Merlot. Salivating yet? Well, in marketing communications you want to get that same reaction from your customers.

One sip, one bite

Getting this reaction is in part down to how copy and design are consumed.

When you eat cheese and wine you’re not supposed to devour a bottle then fill your face, or vice versa. Instead you’re meant to enjoy them one sip, one bite, one sip, one bite, as you do each brings out the flavour notes of the other.

This is exactly how customers are meant to consume copy and design; to take them in one look, one read, one look, one read. The graphics and layout should direct the reader to the words starting with the headline, while the words should bring out the story of the graphics and images.

From unpalatable to ineffective

A mismatch in wine and cheese can pretty ‘meh’. The same goes for copy and design. Despite this, it’s amazing how many people don’t actually take the time to consider how the two work together.

So often graphic designers and copywriters are kept separate. One gets creative with the feel and layout, while the other gets busy with the words.  Even when working to the same brief, this often results in a confused piece which won’t have your customers coming back for more.

Expensive plonk and plastic cheese

In addition, quite often people will pay out the big bucks for someone to design their website, but then just throw the words together on the page themselves or hire a two-bob writer instead of a professional copywriter who can help them get it right.

But when it comes to copy and design it’s important you don’t splash on one and scrimp on the other. It’s like buying an expensive Shiraz and then serving it with a piece of plastic cheese.

Getting that perfect pairing 

So getting your copy and design working together is pretty crucial to success, but what do you have to do to get it right?

Here’s my smorgasbord of advice…

  • Be a design/copy connoisseur – just as foodies know their cheese and wine pairings, marketers should know what copy works with what design elements. Pay attention to what successful brands are doing and keep up with the latest trends.
  • Know your brand qualities – what do you want your business to look and feel like? How you can communicate this through your words and graphics? Once you know your unique business ‘flavour’ i.e. your tone of voice and brand colours, layout and style, you can align your design and copy.
  • Stay on the same plate – this means getting everyone involved together in the beginning to run through and agree on some initial ideas. You should then meet on a daily or weekly basis depending on the project, to ensure everything ties together.
  • Do a taste test first – once you have your copy and design, put it all together and see if it works? Is the design directing people to the important copy? Are the images in sync with the words? Does the copy give meaning to the design? If it’s not working try something else.
  • Ask for consumer feedback – just like taste testings in the supermarket, once you’ve sent out your piece, make sure you pay attention to the feedback. If you’re not seeing action try something else, your matching might be off.

Follow these tips and you stand the best chance of creating a mouthwatering aka customer-winning combination.

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