Using “Reverse Camouflage” in your Copy

Have you ever found yourself in the position of writing copy for an ad or web site and just not quite sure what to say? Have you ever started writing, then go back and read what you wrote and thought, “oh YUCK!”

I don’t know about you, but it happens to me a lot. I get enthusiastic about something I’m writing about and I end up sounding overly sales-y, like a pushy car salesman who has commission-breath. I go back and read it and think, “did I really write THAT?!?” So I edit and re-edit and I’m never quite happy with the way it sounds.

Well, perhaps the reason I was so disgusted was I wasn’t using inverted camouflage–I wasn’t defining what we’re NOT.

I ran across a real thought-provoking blog this morning from Jeff Sexton at FutureNow. He pointed out how effective campaigns that clearly define what you’re NOT (e.g., the boundaries of your capabilities) can be. Jeff calls it “reverse camouflage.”  To quote Jeff:

In the picture above, notice how the legs present a solid silhouette and are easily identified, while the man’s upper body camouflage breaks up his silhouette and blurs his edges into the background of trees and snow.  As a result, it’s much harder to make out his his torso and arms.

Like our eyes, our minds also depend on edges and silhouettes.  We define by giving parameters, mentally grasping a concept by its boundaries.  Without the “edges” of contrasting reference points, a concept or term remains ambiguous at best.

That’s why grabbing after an “infinite” market and seeking to be all things to all people ends up camouflaging one’s brand and messaging; without contrast it all just blurs into the background.

Reading this for me what like a new awakening. No wonder I’m having such a hard time writing–I’m trying to be all things to all people! When you do that, you end up sounding artificial and unbelievable.

Go read his post–he has some really good things to say.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a lot of copy I have to go rewrite …

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