Seven simple rules

For making your brand sing

Searching back through my pretentious black moleskin, I found some notes on the essential elements of good songwriting*. Although obviously created for songsmiths, I believe they’re relevant to any writing that aims to engage.

When you’re close to a product or brand, it can be all too easy to eulogise its many wonderful features at length. And all too easy to forget that most people simply don’t care as much as you do.

To register in their busy lives, never mind encourage them to part with their hard-earned money, you have to first grab their attention. Then, and this is the real trick, hold it long enough to get your message across.

In their search for the perfect hit, this is something successful songwriters contend with all the time. So, with only minimal use of a metaphorical shoe horn, I’ve reworked the elements of good songwriting to apply to writing for brands:

  1. Economy – you don’t have long, so get to the point quickly and succinctly. And don’t be tempted to overcomplicate things just because you can.
  2. Imagery – painting a picture in your audience’s minds dramatically aids their understanding and can be very handy when creating emotional hooks.
  3. Prosody – the ‘appropriate marriage of words and music’ to you and me. Make sure the piece works as a whole, with the words mirroring the tone of the visuals and vice versa.
  4. Universality – write about big, common themes that everyone can relate to. This is why love and loss are so prevalent in popular music.
  5. Originality – no one wants to hear something that’s been done (better) a hundred times before. But it’s all about balance; don’t be so out there that you scare your audience off.
  6. Repetition – if you have a hook, use it. Much like in advertising, the best songs repeat particularly catchy phrases, melodies and lyrics to get inside the listener’s head.
  7. Repetition – geddit? This one’s so important it’s in twice.
Of course, many of the finest songs play fast and loose with these elements, but they might just kick start the creativity of anyone with writer’s block. And it’s much easier to break the rules if you know them.

* These have been identified and discussed in several places, including by Joe Bennet.


Post by

Tom Hurrell