Is defensive web content ever a good idea?

Posted on January 15, 2020

 

A few years ago, the vehicle sales website WeBuyAnyCar.com broke advertising convention by openly admitting that you might get more money for your car if you sell it somewhere else. The ads argued that sale price isn’t everything, and that many car owners just want a quick and easy way to sell their motor for a fair price.

As the campaign has developed, the company has become less overt with the message, but continues to stress the idea that time is money, now with morning TV host Phillip Schofield as its ambassador and the slogan ‘So Quick. So Simple. So Schofield.’

Having a celebrity endorsing your brand is a big advantage, but immediately pointing out a weakness with your product or service is a risky game. Should SMEs consider it, or is there a danger that doing so is just starting off on the back foot?

I generally encourage our writers not to bring criticisms of a client’s services into copy, even if they go on to dispel them. This is because it can give the content a defensive tone and introduce a doubt into the reader’s mind that wasn’t previously there.

As an example, imagine you run a website that sells tablet computers. You might think of writing something like the below:

“Some people argue that as smartphones are becoming more sophisticated, tablets have had their heyday. However, innovative models are being introduced all the time, and the modern tablet is better suited to long periods of word processing and internet browsing than even top-of-the-range mobile phones.”

So, you’ve acknowledged a potential criticism and provided an argument against it, but shouldn’t you have at least waited for the criticism to be made first? Any businessperson should be prepared to answer a criticism or reservation about what they offer, but in this case, the company would have brought the criticism upon itself. Whoever ended up on your website probably would be searching for tablet computers, so why make them doubt whether they want one? Wait for them to express any concerns first.

In taking the unorthodox approach it has, perhaps WeBuyAnyCar.com realised that “you can get more if you sell privately” was something everybody was saying and thinking about the service. By addressing the elephant in the room rather than evading it, maybe it’s an example of a company using honesty and transparency in advertising in a hope of persuading people who cannot see beyond the most obvious flaw.

For that reason, it may be a tactic to consider within industries that attract regular bad publicity, such as payday loans, to show that they accept the criticism but believe there are pros that outweigh the cons. If you can afford for Phillip Schofield to be the face of it, all the better!

John Murray

Content Team Leader at Engage Web
John works for Engage Web as a Content Team Leader and regularly contributes to the website and programmes of his beloved Chester F.C.

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