Comparing Copy To A Fine Wine: When Is A Word Like A Wine Grape?
Copywriters spend an awful lot of time pouring over ideas, facts, research, and styles. We put in hours of hard work to get that one perfect message. Sometimes days and weeks pare down to one simple, yet glorious and effective sentence.
It's a bit like pouring wine.
That beautiful, liquid joy in your glass didn't get there quickly nor easily.
As I stare into my glass of Chinon Rosé and type between sips, I can't help but think of the comparisons. Both words and wines flow after a lengthy process of steps. Miss one, and you're likely to end up with something that isn't very palatable.
Look at the wine grape itself. So many varietals to choose from. Do you use a single type of grape, (let's use Cabernet Sauvignon as the example) for dynamic impact? Or do you blend it with other varietals (Merlot, Petit Verdot, Syrah) to bring out other characteristics?
When you write, the words you choose are much like those individual grape varietals. A single word can have a huge impact to your readers. But used with other supporting words (adjectives, adverbs, etc), it can change its meaning. It can reflect different feelings and expressions.
But good wine and good copy can't come about from tossing in a bunch of grapes or words into a bottle (or paragraph) and hoping for the best.
There's a basic template for making wine AND producing copy content. To do it well takes more than these steps, and it takes a lot of experience to get good at it. But in general, it takes 9 steps to get from start to finish:
Step 1: Planting (Researching Your Topic)
Wine doesn't magically appear in the bottle (no matter how much I wish it did). Once a varietal is selected, it needs to be planted in the right soil and climate. It needs the right pruning and the right care. It takes no less than 3 years before each vine produces the bunches of grapes needed for harvesting.
Researching your topic for copy is similar. It takes hours, days, sometimes weeks to find the right sources. It needs to be factual and reputable information. It needs to be relevant, timely, and easy to understand. It needs to fit with the needs and voice of your brand.
Step 2: Bud Break (Narrowing Your Topic)
Finally, the exciting day arrives when your vines develop buds and flowers. This is the first step to getting those spectacular berries that deliver your wine bliss.
But they're still fragile. Without paying attention, they can die before they ever get going.
Your content topic can die too if you don't take care. Unless you narrow and define your ideas and topic, it can spiral off into areas that create boredom and/or confusion.
Without focus, you could hit a block and have no idea what to write.
Your words, like those tiny grape buds, shrivel up into nothing.
No words...no grapes...no flow.
Step 3: Fruit Set ( Developing Your Outline)
Vines are producing, buds have broken, and now we finally have GRAPES! They're still not ready for the bottle yet. And there's still a chance things can go bad at this stage. Here's where you have to use proper canopy management so that they ripen but don't burn. They still are in danger of freezing. And not everything will have pollinated, so you won't get everything turning into a wine grape.
Developing your outline for copy is the same. You have to manage it so it makes sense and produces the best fruit. Too many words and topics? Too little to make it valuable? Does each block fit with your topic?
Step 4: Veraison (Creating Your First Draft)
During veraison, your grapes finally begin to ripen. This is the time winemakers strive to get the perfect balance between sugar and acidity.
Your first draft does the same thing. You finally have something to show for your work. Now it's time to get the right balance of words, ideas, interesting content, and a message that impacts.
Step 5: Harvest (Review)
The day has finally come! Your grapes are at their peak level of ripeness with sugar and acid levels (Brix). Most often the grapes are picked in the wee hours of the morning (think hours like 3am). Tired winemakers do this because they aren't ready for fermentation to take place.
Copywriters call their harvest "Review and edit." They have completed the first draft and can now finally submit it to their client or editors.
This often takes place in the wee hours of the morning as well (creativity and productivity don't follow a set schedule). They are tired (like winemakers) and know that this is yet another step to get to the finished product. Even if approved, there is still more work to be done.
Step 6: Crush/Press (Edit and Proofread)
Red wines go through "crush" (slower process) that leaves the juice in contact with the skins so it picks up the red color. White wines go through a "press", which squeezes the clear juice into vats away from the grape skins.
In both cases, the grapes have stems, seeds, and skins removed at the end so as not to leave chunks in your wine.
In copywriting, this is where you take any revisions your client or editor wants you to make and rework your content. Sentences get rewritten or moved around. You correct spelling and grammatical mistakes. Any unnecessary words and sentences...what we call filler and "fluff"...are removed. It's here where you streamline and write in a more efficient and dynamic way.
This can happen a few times before your client or editor signs off and approves your copy.
Step 7: Primary Fermentation (SEO Optimization and A/B Testing)
Long story short, this is where your grape sugars get introduced to yeast to create alcohol. It takes time and patience for the sugars to convert to the right alcohol percentages.
Fermentation is a lot like optimizing your written copy for search engines. There are certain keywords and phrases needed for each topic and industry. These words and phrases make you easier to find online in searches. The stronger your SEO, the faster your audience will find you.
This is also the time when you can do A/B testing. This is where you write two variations of your copy and see which one gets the most likes, sales conversions, etc.
By using A/B testing, you can figure out what sort of messaging your target demo responds to better. Once you know what works best, you can use it going forward with your marketing strategy for greater results.
Step 8: Malolactic Fermentation and Fining (Adding Pictures, Proofreading...again)
Malolactic fermentation is the process of changing malic acid into lactic acid. This process is used for nearly all red varietals and whites like Chardonnay. It changes the crisp, bright, "green apple" acidity into a creamy, buttery, smooth mouthfeel. It creates something softer and easier on the palate.
Fining happens to remove sediment and clear up the finished product before bottling. It makes it easier on the eye and more desirable to consumers.
Adding pictures to your copy and doing a final proofreading for subtle changes has the same effect. It makes the final product more appealing and easier for the reader to digest.
Step 9: Bottling, and Delivering the Final Product (Final Draft and Submission)
Once the winemaker has determined the wine is exactly where it needs to be, it gets bottled and delivered to you and me. Depending on how good of a job the winery team did with production and marketing, we may or may not buy. If they did it right, we'll likely be pouring it into our glasses, and they will be celebrating success.
So, too, goes your finished copy content. You post it on social media, submit your blog and article posts, deliver emails, and launch websites and sales pages. If you've done all the steps correctly, you'll see the results in sales conversions, clicks, and likes.
You also will get your chance to celebrate...perhaps by pouring a little wine into your glass.
~Sheral (Founder of C3 Specialties)