Copywriting stands as the interface between brands and their audiences. A well-crafted piece of copy has the power to resonate, persuade, and ultimately drive sales through desired actions. However, as we delve into this professional guide, let's underscore the grave consequences that await those who fall victim to these common copywriting pitfalls—ramifications that extend far beyond mere words on a page. But don't worry, as we bring the Eleven Commandments of Copywriting that you should follow while strategizing a marketing campaign.

1. Thou Shalt Not Neglect Thy Target Audience

Before the ink hits the paper or pixels on the screen, understanding the intricacies of your audience is paramount. Generic copy fails to strike a chord that resonates with individuals' needs and interests. It's the difference between casting a wide net and precision targeting.

One example of a campaign that instantly comes to my mind is Pepsi's 2017 "Live Bolder" ad campaign featuring Kendall Jenner. While I'm sure the people behind the campaign had noble intentions, and the stated message of the campaign was to promote universal peace and brotherhood, at its release, it got unprecedented backlash from all quarters. The campaign was accused of trivializing something as sensitive and complex as the Black Lives Matter movement. The primary failing, in my opinion, lay in their inability to understand their target audience, which was Generation Z. Instead of resonating with them, it antagonized them, and the campaign had to be taken down eventually.

2. Thou Shalt Not Overlook the Power of Taglines

The gateway to your content lies in the taglines—a critical component often underestimated. Clarity, creativity, and relevance must coalesce to captivate and convince your audience. A clear, concise, witty tagline is key to a successful advertising campaign.

Remember, a compelling headline is not just a garnish; it's the main course, enticing readers to indulge in the feast of your content.

KFC's "Unthink KFC" campaign, launched in 2009, aimed to hype up the newer healthier options (I know grilled chicken is not really much healthier than fried chicken, but such is the world of advertisement) they offered by exhorting the consumers to not just think of KFC as an iconic fried chicken restaurant but also an option for healthier food. Contrary to what they thought, the "Unthink KFC" tagline just ended up hurting KFC's brand. It was neither relatable nor remarkable. Furthermore they also failed to deliver on the promised free chicken for the coupons they issued.

3. Thou Shalt Establish a Clear Value Proposition

Imagine wandering through a marketplace where vendors mumble about their wares, perplexing you about their products' benefits. This scenario is analogous to unclear value propositions in copywriting. Communicate succinctly and persuasively—the 'what's in it for me' should be glaringly obvious.

Observe the masters of clear value propositions; they convert, not confuse.

An example of a commercial campaign that was put down by a lack of a clear value proposition in copywriting is the launch of Microsoft’s Windows Vista in 2007. Windows Vista was meant to be a major improvement on its predecessor, Windows XP, as it came with new features and increased security.
However, messaging during the advertising of Windows Vista failed to convey an appealing and easily understandable value proposition to users. Messages were confusing, and the merits of upgrading were not well communicated. Among these were slogans such as ‘The ‘Wow’ Starts Now’, and ‘Clear, Confident, Connected’. These are, however, ineffective taglines since they do not show what practical benefits or improvements users can expect from this new operating system.
This lack of clear value propositions resulted in confusion among customers who never knew why they had to upgrade their computers to Windows Vista. Furthermore, some people found out that their devices did not work properly with this new operating system, thus resulting in a further decrease in value perceived by them.

4. Thou Shalt Not Ignore the Importance of Proofreading

Polished copywriting is of utmost importance in the field. Any typographical mistakes or grammatical blunders will impair trustworthiness and weaken trust. A proofread is exactly what differentiates between an amateurish copy and a professional one.

In the eyes of your audience, a well-proofed copy is not a luxury; it's an expectation.

KFC's "Finger lickin' good" is an iconic tagline that had worked for the fried chicken franchise for years but when they first launched in China, they accidentally translated it to "Eat your fingers off!" I don't know about you, but I would not be too keen to visit a restaurant that turned my eating experience into a scene straight out of a Hollywood horror movie.

5. Thou Shalt Not Lack Clarity in Messaging

Readers are prone to lose interest if your copy is a labyrinth of various complex ideas, each pulling in another direction. Simplify language, eliminate unnecessary jargon, and make your principal message as clear as daylight. The more straightforward your communication, the more profound its impact.

Remember, confusion is the antithesis of persuasion.

6. Thou Shalt Not Disregard SEO Best Practices

Visibility is paramount in the world of advertising. Integrating SEO seamlessly into your copy ensures your message reaches its intended audience. Ignoring SEO best practices is like whispering in a crowded room—your voice gets lost in the clamour. It's not to say that you have to be loud to get noticed, but SEO makes you audible to people you specifically want to reach out to in the room.

Strategically place your words where the world can see and hear them.

7. Thou Shalt Not Overuse Jargon and Technical Language

The allure of industry jargon can be tempting, but it comes at a cost—alienating your audience. Strike a balance by translating complex terms into accessible explanations. Your copy should enlighten, not mystify.

Remember, clarity triumphs over complexity.

8. Thou Shalt Not Neglect the Emotional Connection

Beyond features and benefits, emotional resonance is the secret sauce of compelling copy. Understand the emotional drivers of your audience and infuse your copy with the power to move. An emotional connection ensures your message transcends the transactional.

In the world of copywriting, feelings matter as much as facts.

9. Thou Shalt Not Ignore Analytics and Data

In the data-driven era, decisions without analytics are like navigating uncharted waters blindfolded. Leverage analytics to refine your copy—observe what resonates and adjust accordingly. The data is not just numbers; it's your compass to success.

Let analytics be the north star guiding your copywriting voyage.

10. Thou Shalt Not Neglect a Call to Action (CTA)

Your copy is a narrative with a purpose; every story needs a conclusion. A strong, compelling CTA is the punctuation that signals the end. Neglecting this vital element leaves your readers adrift, unsure of where to go next.

Craft your CTAs with precision; it's the roadmap to conversion.

11. Thou Shalt Not Ignore Thy Competition:

We, as copywriters, must keenly follow what narratives the competitors are setting so that we can effectively counter their narrative with a narrative of our own. Knowing where our brand should stand regarding the competitors is very important. Also, if we know our competitors well we can be proactive in our messaging instead of reactive.

Keep your friends close. Keep your competitors closer.


In the competitive world of copywriting, these eleven mistakes always lurk in the corner as potential missteps. As we recap our journey through the minefield of copywriting, we must recognize that mistakes are not just landmines but opportunities for refinement.

So, let this be an encouragement to continually refine and optimize your copywriting strategies using these eleven commandments. Continuous learning and staying abreast of industry trends will help you become a better copywriter. Happy writing!

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