Copy vs. Content – two sides of the same coin? 

The difference between copy and content? One sells, the other tells. 

‘But which is which?!’ I hear you cry. Don’t panic, here’s our Rough Guide to…Words. (Spoiler: it’s not as fun as Rough Guide to Berlin but also won’t leave you feeling rough as a badger’s arse after too many pints of Berliner Weisse.)

Copy sells 

Think of copy as a salesperson, reeling customers in through ads, email marketing, landing pages and brochures, persuading them to act – whether that’s by placing an order, subscribing to a newsletter, or clicking a link to learn more. Copywriters put into words the value of a brand’s product, service, or solution in a way that addresses the customer’s pain point. Understanding their audience in this way means they can write words that resonate with them – often emotively – speaking directly to their struggles, offering a solution, and nudging them towards taking action. 

So which brands dish up great copy? As well as great campaign slogans like Nike’s ‘Run like a girl’, we’re talking Apple’s ‘Think Different’, McDonald’s ‘Lovin’ It’, ‘Should’ve Gone to Specsavers’, and ‘Have a break, have a Kit Kat’. And don’t forget KFC’s ‘FCK up’ ad when the fast-food chain ran out of chicken. Apologising and admitting the mistake with a tongue-in-cheek response turned a potential PR crisis into one of most recognisable marketing campaigns ever. But it’s more than a catchy slogan; it’s tone of voice, too. Oatly’s chatty copy has a self-depreciating element that the brand fully owns and consistently uses across all they do. Just like the sustained copywriting styles we see in campaigns like The Economist.

Content tells 

Content’s role, on the other hand, is to position brands as a helpful advisor. Gradually nurturing a trusted relationship with audiences by keeping them informed, offering some helpful advice, and ultimately helping to solve their problems – all while establishing credibility. It typically includes things like blogs, newsletters, white papers, podcasts and eBooks. Virtually any media that people can engage with – for the first time or as a loyal follower. After all, good content gives people a reason to visit your website, Instagram or YouTube feed again and again. And the more they interact with you, the more likely they are to turn to you when they’re ready to purchase the thing you sell. 

So, who does content well? Airbnb’s use of content on its website shows why it is so effective at getting people out of their own homes and into others. ‘The Whole Story’ from Whole Foods shares content about the brand’s operations, recipes and nutrition across several different channels; and click the Activism tab on Patagonia’s website and you’ll find an abundance of content that displays the brand’s commitment to bettering the environment.

Where the two intersect 

If content is anything a brand publishes, copy is content too, right? Not necessarily. However, where the two do meet is when a piece of content gently steps over the line and becomes a soft sell for your product or service. Jack Daniel’s London Underground’s long-form ads ask for the consumer’s time while spinning the tale of the brand’s rich history in the tone of a wise, old whiskey-maker. They’re about connecting, storytelling and brand building… with an invitation to share at the end, gently nudging a prospective customer into action. 

So, which do you need? 

As well as words, a great copywriter can work behind the scenes to define or reimagine your brand, including its tone of voice, then share your story across numerous channels, appealing to consumers’ emotions and influencing their purchasing intentions. Your content writer can then take up the baton and run with this to engage leads and nurture clients with long-form writing that adds value to the customer experience. Together, like avocado and toast, they’re the perfect combination. 

At 438, we’ve a knack for copy and content and are never lost for words. So, if you want to chat about the nuances between content and copy further, let’s grab a brew – we’ll bring the Kit Kats.