Economics Copywriter Singapore

This is a condensed / adapted version of the article ‘Simply Economics: The Number Value of Copywriting’ from the ‘Journal of Copywriting (Singapore) 2014’ produced and published by Quantico Communications LLP.

Economics studies human behaviour. As economists, we examine the impact of our choices on what to produce, how to produce, and for whom to produce. Because we have scarcity in our world (just about every commodity is in limited supply) we need to make choices. Households decide what to buy and firms decide what to produce. And when we buy or produce a commodity, we usually sacrifice another — the opportunity cost of our choices. We take the products of our choices and transact with the rest of the world in the hopes of getting richer — not just with money but with experiences.

That about sums up, quite simplistically, what economics is. It’s also fairly easy to understand. What isn’t immediately apparent is the relationship between economics and copywriting. On the surface, one may begin to appreciate that both deal with selling. Copywriting is, after all, a sales function. Just like economics, copywriting is also an inquiry into, and a response to, human behaviour. When a resource is scarce, the value of that resource rises because demand exceeds supply. In fact, whenever supply is short (but not too short) demand rises and the value increases.

It’s a principle we’re all familiar with, yet much of the world tends to overlook the value of words as a commodity. Perhaps because words appear to be a limitless resource, we tend to use them freely. Like the environment, when we don’t treat something as a commodity we tend to use it willy-nilly and that causes problems. Ask yourself, why is the environment managed so badly? Several economists will argue that because we do not treat the environment as a scarce commodity (or have just begun to) the environment is taken for granted.

Without going too deeply into the idea of environmental economics and carbon credit trading, lets examine the idea of limitless resources. Words are treated as limitless resources and so, in natural human behaviour, we tend not to take much interest in them, but rather the copywriters, authors, scribes, and poets. These people are a limited resource because there are plenty of writers but not that many great ones.

So what then makes a good copywriter great? Quite simply, a lot of things, one of the most important being the economy of words. Less is more? Actually, in economics terms, less is more valuable. And the same goes for copywriting. Following the natural behaviour of human beings, a quick, quality product (though never cheap) is a commodity that will forever be valued highly. Interestingly, a fast, superior quality product usually takes a lot of time to produce, but we’ll get to that in another article.

“Copywriting, like economics, is a science that studies art.” (source: Arjun Khara, Quantico Copywriter Singapore) Copywriting is creating something of esoteric value through an applicable science, in this case economics. To drive great copywriting we need a scarcity of words and an abundance of meaning. To achieve this, treat words as an input that can be changed (variable input), and treat intended meaning as a fixed output. Now consider the concept of returns to scale (mildly altered for this scenario). Up to a point, every worker added to a factory results in a more than proportional increase in efficiency (increasing returns to scale), up to a specific point where there are too many workers (who get in each other’s way) and then each new worker results in a decrease in productivity (decreasing returns to scale).

The more words you add the more efficient your meaning becomes (increasing returns to scale), that is until you put in a word too many, and then the meaning starts to lose its efficiency. If there are one too many words, each is getting in the other’s way and ‘productivity’ (clear meaning) starts to get sacrificed. But if you find the sweet spot on your curve you have the perfect combination of words (workers) to output the best possible meaning (productivity). In other words, you have yourself a message. And that message is perfectly clear. There’s no room for misinterpretation and adding or reducing any word basically kills the purity of the equation. The next time you’re trying to create a tagline or a slogan, try finding the copywriting sweet spot by moving the number of words up or down to find the perfect combination that yields maximum productivity — just one, clear message. When you find it you’ll know the feeling — that’s the economics of copywriting.