All copy has a purpose…
You’re either conveying information, or trying to motivate someone to do something.
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…which impacts the way we write.
The writing process is a series of choices. Which words do you use? What’s the quickest way to make the point? Is this joke even funny? A good choice is usually one made with clear intentions. The guidelines in this section aim to give you the context and info that you need in order to make good choices, and have your copy come out sounding like Burton.
Great copy communicates in a way that connects with audiences on a personal level. In order to do that, we have to write as though Burton is a person. Think of the way you talk with your best friend. Casual, conversational, human. That’s the way we should talk with our audience when we write as Burton.
Voice & Tone
Voice and Tone are the tools we use to express our brand’s personality in our copy. They make you say, “That sounds like Burton.”
Voice: The key elements of the brand’s personality, perspective, and point of view. This is what Burton sounds like.
- This does not change from one message to the next. It’s who we are, what we believe in, and how we talk.
- Comes through in the language we use, its delivery, and the point of view that we speak from.
- Consider voice as the what.
Tone: The emotional inflections applied to the voice. This is how we adjust to fit the situation.
- This changes and influences which elements of the voice come through loudest based on the objective of the message.
- Consider tone as the how.
The Burton voice is an expression of who we are, based on our purpose, our brand identity, and our DNA. We can boil our brand voice down to six key elements.
Introducing: The Voice Tool
Think of this as your copywriting spice rack. It gives you all the different ingredients you might want to include in your copy depending on the flavor you want to achieve.
That said, the universal key elements should ring true in every piece of Burton copy you write, whether it’s a fun ad or a gritty call to action. This is how we ensure that all of our messages consistently sound like Burton.
You’ll notice a handful of additional elements. They’re here to give you some optional ingredients to add to your copy based on the tone you’d like to achieve. You might choose to add a little bit of one, and a lot of another. In this way, you can finesse the voice in a more specific direction while remaining on-brand.
Pro tip: After you’ve written your first draft, read it through and check to make sure it reflects each of the universal key elements.
The Universal Key Elements
We are riders, and riders at heart, driven to get after it year-round in every aspect of our lives. We create outside the lines, challenge conventions, and thrive on a heightened connection between body, mind, and the world around us.
We are who we are. We do what we do. We don’t try to say or sound like anything that isn’t true to us.
Conversational/Casual/Easygoing. We aren’t marketers or salespeople, we’re just people.
We fight for our sport, people and planet, and we communicate from that place of care, determination, and boldness.
We bring the spirit of riding to life 365, which means we thrive on the unconventional approach, and find ways to apply this way of thinking to our communications.
Having as much fun as possible
This is our guiding ethos. It’s the freedom to do what makes you happy, choose your own line and create moments of joy everywhere you are.
Additional Guiding Elements
Friendly & Confident
Welcoming and self assured, we speak with enthusiasm and an outgoing spirit.
Empowering & Inspiring
We are driven, ambitious, motivated, and engaged. We don’t dwell on the challenge. We celebrate the journey.
Inclusive & Inviting
We want to bring in like-minded individuals no matter who they are. We speak to everyone as though they are equal and welcome.
We challenge the status quo/things that are typically taken seriously. For the sake of having more fun, we apply an unexpected spin in order to provoke and entertain.
We’re not afraid to make a statement. Unapologetic. Impactful. Confident. Direct. Honest.
We speak like we know what we’re talking about, from the perspective of knowledgeable and experienced snowboarders.
Tone is all about tuning the voice to fit the context and objective of your message.
- When talking to about climate change in order to motivate people to action, you may want to turn up the boldness, reliability, empowerment, and inclusiveness.
- When talking about preparing to send kids back to school, the focus might be on fun, playfulness, friendliness, and reliability.
- When writing about snowboarding in order to evoke a feeling of freedom, try focusing on fun, inspiration, and maybe a little positive irreverence.
These examples are not rigid. It’s up to you to choose the best way to convey each message. Just remember to maintain the key elements of our brand voice so that the message stays “Burton.”
Think about how many ads, emails, posts, and messages your brain gets bombarded with every day. Are they all worth your time? People make split-second decisions to either read or ignore any message coming from a brand. These decisions are made based on their perception of whether or not that message will somehow add value to their life.
So, we craft every message to amplify the audience’s perceived value, and make it the kind of conversation that they might want to have. We call this style of writing consumer-centric.
- Knowing the specific audience for every message.
- Speaking with the audience, not at them or over them.
- Speaking as a real person to real people, rather than a salesperson to a customer.
- Wasting no time. Cutting right to the part that helps the reader.
The Big Picture on Voice and Tone
Remember who we are. Refer back to the intro of this guide book. We have guts. We have history. We are riders (and riders at heart). We have a vision for the future, and we push towards it with unapologetic conviction.
Some people will not resonate with our brand. That’s okay! Don’t dilute the brand voice down to safe, generic, common-speak in order to please everyone. The reality is, you’ll never please everyone. So, stay true to who we are.
Voice & Tone Summary
- The voice is the way our brand talks based on its personality and point of view.
- The tone is the way we apply adjust our delivery based on the objectives of the message.
- Keep messaging consumer-centric by speaking with the audience about how we will help them or add value to their life.
- Own it! Don’t dilute the brand voice down to safe, generic, common-speak in order to appeal to everyone.
Tools & Examples
The Burton Style Guide
All the nerdy technical stuff, like where to put the commas, how to capitalize Test-I-Cool, the correct way to format dates, use em dashes, and so much more!
The Burton Style Guide is a critical tool in ensuring consistency throughout all of our copy, and making sure our game is tight (read: professional). Keep this tool close, and refer to it every time you proofread copy.
The 5 Steps to Copywriting
Trust the process. Follow these five steps:
- Get to know Burton’s purpose, history, guidelines, voice & tone, and style guide like your favorite run at your home mountain.
- Gather all the info:
- What is the message/objective?
- Who is the audience?
- Any other helpful details, like character counts, or things to mention?
- Write your first draft.
- Get it all out there. Write it the way you’d want to see it. Take risks.
- Edit your first draft.
- Refer to the INTERROGATE YOUR COPY tool.
- Send it to someone else for review before publishing.
Interrogate your Copy
Once you’ve written a rough draft, ask these questions:
- Does this copy reflect the key elements of our brand voice?
- Would a real person say this in a casual conversation?
- Have you referenced the brand style guide to check the technical elements(commas, capitalization, number formatting, etc.)?
- Have you read it out loud?
- Has someone else read it?
- Has it been edited to amplify impact?(Could you use less words to say the same thing?)
- Does it serve the customer? Does it give them something they will value?
Other important questions to consider:
- Is it: generalizing, generic, cliché, or soft? (If so, change it up.)
- If making a potentially offensive joke, is it worth it? Are you punching down, or up?(Never punch down.) More info in the FAQ section.
- Would another brand say this, or have they already? (Even for the smallest message, choose a fresh line.)
Exercise: Dos and Don’ts
The conversation of “do” and “don’t” often boils down to what separates good, engaging writing from bad writing. That’s great, but this is about staying true to our brand voice, and being as consumer-centric as possible.
Here are some “do” and “don’t” examples that highlight one message that could be said by any brand, and one that’s uniquely Burton.
Why it works: Engaging the audience directly, calling out “the white stuff” because in our minds, every season exists in relation to winter, still carrying excitement because we’re always down for a good time.
Why it works: That first option is boring! The audience’s question is always, “Why should I care?” This DO example answers by tugging on the emotions of any parent with a deep question: “Is this all worth it?” It also cuts right to the part that will help them: In this case, well-earned advice from parents who’ve been through it all.
Why it works: Any brand that makes rain jackets could say something like “Rain happens,” or “Weather any storm.” Burton isn’t any brand, and this isn’t any storm. Attention grabbing, and emotional, this DO option gives the audience something unexpected, and plays with the imagery to tell a story that the audience can imagine themselves in. This causes them to think and feel something compelling, which increases the likelihood that they’ll care and respond.
Is Burton a brand that uses swear words?
Fuck yeah. After all, Jake and Donna have been seen flashing their middle fingers in public for years, setting a clear example for keeping it real. That said, we only utilize “spicy language” when it adds value and impact that would otherwise be missing, and always with consideration of the context and audience.
For example, the phrase, “because we give a damn,” doesn’t punch as hard when you remove the spicy last word. In some cases, we might even make it even spicier by saying, “because we give a shit.” However, we’d think twice about putting it on display in our flagship stores, where little kids will definitely see it.
In short: Yes, but with purpose, consideration, and restraint.
Is Burton really all about being irreverent? And what does that even mean?
Irreverence is a huge part of Jake and Donna’s vision for Burton. But the definition of “irreverent” is often interpreted subjectively. To Burton, it’s about not taking things too seriously, challenging the status quo, and finding positive ways to poke fun at conventional wisdom.
For example, Jake always did an annual “white glove” inspection of our Burlington Headquarters before the sales meetings brought lots of visitors into the building. It was about looking our best and giving a good impression. This might have felt intense and serious had it not been for the way Jake carried out the inspections: dressed in drag.
Note: We do not engage in negativity, or juvenile humor. It’s not about fart jokes and being rude. It’s about choosing our own line, being provocative, and having as much fun as possible.
How do I know if a joke I’m writing is safe for our audience?
The things we consider in regards to whether or not a joke is appropriate for us or not come down to: who will be offended, is it really worth it, and is it punching up or down?
What’s punching up or down? When you’re poking fun at a something (or someone) in a stable position of power, privilege, or acceptance, that’s punching up. When you’re making a joke at the expense of someone who’s at a disadvantage, or something not commonly accepted or supported, that’s punching down. Burton does not punch down, and we only punch up after careful consideration.
When in doubt, get a few second opinions, and aim to keep it fun and positive. Consider who it might harm, and whether it’s worth it.
I’m not a copywriter, but my boss trusts me to write whatever our team needs. Do I really need to align to all this?
Yes! It is critical for any and all expressions of our brand to be aligned with these guidelines in order to ensure consistency. Global Marketing Creative is available to support content creators to ensure this standard is met.
Do we use the oxford comma? How should I capitalize GORE-TEX? How do we format dates?
All the nerdy technical stuff (grammar, punctuation, formatting, etc.) can be found in the Burton Style Guide.