Coffee Copywriting – The Perks of Persuasion

As a copywriter / marketing type, it naturally follows that I frequent coffee shops with alarming regularity.  Whilst this affords me a much needed caffeine-injection on a daily basis, it also hands me the opportunity to see first-hand a variety of internal recruitment advertising employed by various coffee shops.

In Costa Coffee this morning, I took my place in the queue alongside the ranks of pre-caffeinated, suited zombies, when this great piece of copy caught my eye:

Clean, simple and not over-complicated: this strapline is much like the Americano I ordered upon reaching the till.  ‘Thrills (not spills)’ is a fantastic piece of copy that plays on a famous phrase connoting excitement, as well as tying in nicely with coffee and the job itself – ‘no spills’ (which is more than can be said for the unfortunate Robert Green).

Examples of copy written for products, goods or services will often be some of the most creative, effective and impressive writing out there, but at the end of the day, its purpose is simply to convince someone to purchase a commodity.

Conversely, when writing copy for recruitment, you are dealing with a much more complicated commodity – people.  As part of your writing remit, you are in fact asking them to invest in a much more long-term relationship than simply buying an, ultimately disposable, product.  With this premise in mind, it naturally follows that recruitment copy should be even more evocative, appealing and creative than advertising copy for consumer goods – so why isn’t it?

So many recruitment ads are tired, clichéd, introspective and show little signs of any significant creative input, or indeed, genuine call-to-action appeal.  As surprising as this is, there’s no denying that this is still the typical modus operandi of several recruitment copywriters – which is why those switched-on to the intricacies of this market will inevitably succeed while others flounder.

Costa Coffee should be lauded for some clever, appealing and imaginative copy.  This well written piece of advertising illustrates how businesses employing persuasive copy instantly connect with their target audiences, which will always result in huge perks for their recruitment campaigns – as well as their brands.


7 responses to “Coffee Copywriting – The Perks of Persuasion

  1. As a recruitment writer (amongst other things) I would say that I don’t have a modus operandi, it is down to the brief and budget for each individual assignment. Costa Coffee are creative (I should know, I have written recruitment copy for them and their parent company, Whitbread on many occasions) but there is a huge difference between what you can do within the confines of an online job board post or small local press ad and say a panel in one of their outlets.

    To talk about copy that is”tired, clichéd, introspective and shows little signs of any significant creative input”, or say “there’s no denying that this is still the typical modus operandi of several recruitment copywriters” is a very sweeping generalisation indeed. Maybe the tired copy wasn’t written by a copywriter. Maybe the cliches were inserted by the employer. Maybe it didn’t have any creative input at all As I say, you can only be as good as the brief and the budget allow.

  2. Hi Alasdair

    Thanks for your comments. I completely agree with you re. brief constraints – I should know! However, I can see why you have got the impression that I am using a sweeping generalisation. When stating that tired, clichéd and unimaginative copy is the modus operandi of several recruitment copywriters, I meant this to refer to those who write recruitment copy – copywriters or writing rookies alike. It seems I did not make this point clearly in my post.

    Less effective copy could well have been written by an employer rather than a copywriter. The point I wish to make is that this example grabbed me as an illustration of good copywriting – and highlights how those investing in skilled, properly briefed copywriters will ultimately reap far more rewards than those not recognising the niche requirements of this channel.

  3. Sadly, no matter how often they read the message, many recruiters fail to grasp the need for creativity. I’ve written about it here


    …and here

    ..but the penny doesn’t seem to drop.

    Admittedly not everyone can afford a full blown creative campaign, but it’s still possible to paint a decent picture, add a bit of allure and do a good sell of a role and an organisation using words alone. Unfortunately though, too many people don’t bother.

  4. As a writer who’s been working mostly in recruitment marketing for the last 15 years – and for some great specialist rec ad agencies who champion creativity at every opportunity, I agree with the article overall, and I share Alasdair’s frustrations.
    The difficulty with recruitment ads is that they’re mostly invisible unless you’re looking for a job. So I think perhaps the writer hasn’t seen the huge strides that these rec marketing agencies and creatives are making – gives a good taster.
    Couple of points I’d question though: Are people the commodity? Isn’t the job the commodity? And with that in mind, aren’t we selling people a workstyle that goes along with the lifestyle products and services the product shops creativificating (made-up word) until their eyeballs bleed? So is part of the problem here separating recruitment advertising out from every other kind? When it would all be better for everybody (and creatively) if we were able to join the dots and look at rec ad as part of an organisation’s bigger marketing picture?
    And about that line, it is nice. And clearly impactful.
    But is it legal, decent, honest and truthful? I’d imagine working in a coffee shop, where the kind of protective clothing you get is a cotton apron, not a helmet with thunderbolts on, would be more about spills than thrills. 😉

  5. Thanks for your comments Lou. In answer to your questions, I’d say that yes, you’re right: the job is indeed the commodity, not the person – I think this is due in my part to not having consumed enough coffee when I wrote the post first thing this morning! Many recruitment campaigns have to sell an entire employer brand at the point of purchase, in the case of Costa Coffee.

    Increasingly, Social Media is being implemented more frequently for recruitment campaigns and employer branding, but in the retail space especially, we still have the age-old ‘join our team’, branded recruitment posters. The point I intended to make was that when writing copy for recruitment, we have to persuade people to commit to a much more in-depth and long-term relationship / transaction – ‘commit to working here’ rather than ‘buy this cup of coffee’. Bearing this in mine, so many of the aforementioned retail examples are, in my humble opinion, not that inspiring!

    I fully appreciate Alasdair’s comments that these may have been penned by non-copywriters / non-marketing types, e.g. by HR people or internal recruiters. I fully understand that this may be directly due to budget constraints or an ill-informed brief – perhaps I didn’t make this point clearly enough in the post.

    In a nutshell, what I really intended to say was that I saw this ad this morning and thought it to be a great example of engaging, effective copy that clearly is trying to convey a fun image of the company as an employer, and achieving this through some simple but effective copy. As Lou says, the reality of this premise may be questionable, but from a copy perspective, it’s a solid example of well thought-out copywriting.

  6. I found recruitment advertising a challenge, but it produced one of my best taglines. We had just landed one of the nation’s largest convenient store chains called Kangaroo. It was (before gas margins crashed) a great place to latch onto a growing company and make some real money. Systemwide. The line: Bound for Greatness. We developed a range of residual communications around this tagline. It worked. Then gas margins tanked, they laid off tons of people and they’re still scrambling to keep their heads above water. That’s how it goes, sometimes.

  7. Being Kangaroo, I imagine that their employees took a leap of faith anyway. I’ll get my coat!

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