Thought Bournemouth was just another picture-postcard seaside resort? Beneath its sandy facade, the former Victorian beach holiday destination is undergoing yet another, more fascinating reinvention – as the landscape for the UK’s current fastest-growing digital industry (yep, even faster than London), which is now worth in excess of £350million. Silicon Beach, Bournemouth’s hugely successful conference celebrating the local and national digital industry returned to the beach for the sixth time this year, but this time with a protege in tow – Copy Cabana, a conference to celebrate ‘the life linguistic’ and copywriting in all of its diverse and beautiful forms.

I was lucky enough to attend (by way of a more than 700-mile round trip, no less) and be in the audience for talks by some of the most inspiring, creative and even revolutionary voices from the realm of copywriting. Along with my very own Copy Cabana stick of rock, I flew back up north with their words ringing in my ears and there were so many quotes from the speakers that are just too golden to keep to myself – so whether you’re a writer yourself or just captivated by wonderful wordsmithery, here are ten thoughts from Copy Cabana 2016 that I (and you should) feel inspired by.

“Never ever, if you’re a client, hire a dog and then bark yourself.” – Drayton Bird

You wouldn’t expect anything less than powerful words from a man who has been called ‘the Godfather of direct marketing’, but former Worldwide Creative Director and Vice Chairman of Ogilvy & Mather, Drayton Bird, provided this nail-on-the-head statement which raised an audible reaction from everyone in the room.

That’s because we’ve all experienced it in some capacity – being hired for our expertise, only to find that the client wants to play ‘copywriter’ too, and suddenly we’re little more than just the editor.

It’s so wonderful when clients take an interest in the creative process, but it’s even more wonderful when they sit back and allow the magic to happen – magic that they’ve assigned often considerable budget to!

“Just because no-one else is doing it, doesn’t mean it can’t be done.” – Hayley Redman

I’ve written for the Silverbean blog before about my absolute ADORATION for the Innocent tone of voice, so needless to say that Hayley Redman, Innocent’s Senior Writer, was the speaker that I was looking forward to hearing most.

She shared just some of the secrets from Fruit Towers that have made Innocent’s tone of voice the one that everyone wants to emulate, for everything from fridges to lettuce packaging (yes, really), including how it was created in the first place. The founders of Innocent knew that they needed to find a way to cut through the noise of the (often extremely bland) drinks market to get noticed, so they took a risk with a cheeky, clever, yet wonderfully down-to-earth tone of voice that was like no other brand – and the rest, as the saying goes, is bananas.

Your tone of voice should be exactly that: yours.

Never underestimate the power of Plain English – Debbie Coats

If there’s one thing that I absolutely detest in copywriting, it’s unnecessarily florid, elaborate and obscure language.

I’m a firm believer that writing doesn’t need to be extravagant to hold power, and that there are places where simple is not only beautiful, but absolutely essential – such as the sphere of medical information, as Debbie Coats, Clinical Information Manager at Cancer Research UK, made astoundingly clear during her captivating talk at Copy Cabana.

Currently managing the unenviable task of rewriting every single page on their website to be simpler, clearer, more reassuring and even empowering to cancer patients and those around them, Debbie knew that Plain English was the only way to go.

Out, is confusing medical terminology (such as ‘oesophagus’), to be replaced by clear and simple words and phrases (‘food pipe’) that enable those in stressful, upsetting and even frightening situations to find the information that they really need, and understand it right away, because “you can’t un-read that type of information”.

“You don’t need permission to change your tone of voice.” – Nicole Dempster

Brands evolve to stay fresh and relevant, and so should your tone of voice. Nicole Dempster, Head of Internal Communications at ITV recognised that staff communication within the whole of ITV and its brands was stale and overly corporate, so she implicated an overhaul to make it friendlier, fresher, and in line with how ITV viewers saw the brand from the outside world.

There was no permission needed to do this – it was a natural step that every brand should take when your tone of voice simply doesn’t feel right. If you’re not on board with it, how could your customers ever be?

“Don’t fight the brand…It’s easier to go with it and push it, than to fight it.” – Miles Carter

As one of the creators of the extraordinarily successful John Lewis ‘Man on the Moon’ Christmas campaign, as well as acclaimed campaigns for equally protected brands such as Mulberry, it’s fair to say that Miles Carter, Creative Partner at Adam&EveDDB knows his brands inside-out. He also understands that brands can sometimes be a little difficult to work with creatively, especially heritage brands for which it’s an understandable risk to try something new.

His best piece of advice during his talk at Copy Cabana was to embrace the brand, understand its tone of voice from the inside and respect it, and then push its boundaries, rather than trying to wrestle the brand into something that it’s not.

Below is a great example of how he did this for Mulberry in the fantastic #WinChristmas campaign – it turns out that a great sense of humour has been hiding in their exquisite handbags all along, and they just needed the right person to come along and unpack it.

“Find those little pieces of magic everywhere that you can.” – Hayley Redman

Another nugget of genius from Hayley Redman, which further explains why the Innocent tone of voice works – it’s omnipresent in the world of Innocent, and there is never an opportunity missed to add a touch of Innocent magic. From the Innocent bottles having ‘Enjoy Before’ dates rather than boring old ‘Best Before’s, to the witty signs around Fruit Towers, Hayley explained how Innocent’s tone of voice is stunningly consistent at every touchpoint that both customers and staff have with the brand.

They even put friendly notes into their boxes for the supermarket staff who will be receiving and unpacking the Innocent drinks deliveries – which is just another reason why despite how so many brands are trying to ‘be Innocent’, they still are, and probably always will be, leading the way.

“You should have strategy [so that] you can rationalise your work.” – Pete Cain

When writing content for clients, in any context and for any platform, inevitably you’ll be challenged at at some stage of the process and often with some rather difficult questions. The one that we all dread the most: ‘Why?’.

As the delightfully sweary Pete Cain (who was responsible for the unforgettable Carling ‘Love Football’ advert, no less) so eloquently puts it, “All these *beep* are trying to *beep* your writing”, so having a strategy to support and rationalise your creative process (such as Silverbean’s rock-solid Useful Content strategy) is essential.

I wholeheartedly agree!

“Is it in yet?” – Miles Carter

I’ll be clear: the ‘it’ that Miles was talking about is ‘emotion in your writing’, so get your minds out of the gutters, okay? Miles quite rightly stated that when writing any type of copy, this is the question you should always be asking yourself as it’s the quickest way to get people to like your writing, whether the emotion you’re trying to insert (ahem) is happiness, sadness, excitement, fear, or anything in between. But whatever your desired emotion, you should never use death to evoke it. It’s an easy, but ultimately cheap way to create emotion that’s best left alone.

Understanding the etymology of words can help you to choose the right ones – Caitlin Breeze

If you’re as captivated by the etymology of language as I am, you’ll be fascinated to learn that understanding the difference between Germanic and Latinate words can be essential to choosing the right tone for your writing.

According to the effervescent Caitlin Breeze, the youngest ever board member of D&AD and something of a linguistic historian, Germanic words tend to be used most often in advertising as they’re more immediate and dynamic (e.g. anger, big, business, speak), whereas Latinate words (e.g. advantage, recommendation, profession, loyalty) are more authoritative and help to build trust and a sense of expertise, which is more appropriate for longer-form copy and content.

So, now you know.

Never underestimate the power of clever copy in revitalising a brand – Mark Beard

The final, and most surprisingly riveting talk of Copy Cabana 2016 came from Mark Beard, Senior Vice President of Digital Media and Content Strategy at The Economist, and who was central to creating a Shorty Award-winning Display campaign for the newspaper that helped them to reach a whole new audience of potential subscribers, all thanks to its astoundingly smart and razor-sharp copy that enticed people onto the site.

Display adverts aren’t always the first places that would come to mind for a creative campaign (the limited space is just one reason why) but with 9,500 new subscribers to The Economist in just 12 weeks, Mark showed us that there are no boundaries for powerful and provocative copy.

Next year at Copy Cabana 2016, I’d like to see an even greater focus on digital copywriting and content, as it did feel very traditional advertising and offline-focused (which admittedly, I did expect). But having pulled off such a seamless and endlessly fascinating event in its first year, I’m excited to see which speakers are brought to the beach for Copy Cabana 2017 – and I might just have to grab myself a seat (or even a deckchair) in the audience for another year.

If, like our Vicky, you’ve been inspired by the learnings of Copy Cabana and want to up your content game, you need to download our Useful Content Checklist…