Back in 2007, Pixar released a movie that was based on probably its weirdest concept yet. Forget talking toys, insects, fish and cars; this one was about rats cooking. I’ll assume you’ve seen Ratatouille (you have had 13 years) so I’ll delicately slice to the chase. In the film, the famous Chef Gusteau has a motto: Anyone Can Cook. It’s a simple belief that Remi, our four-legged hero, proceeds to prove over the subsequent 110 minutes.
But can anyone write? And by “write” I don’t simply mean stringing words together with the vaguest nod to the rules of grammar and punctuation; I mean using language to engage, inform, entertain and (lest we forget we’re in the business of selling) persuade in such a way that its meaning is absorbed and remembered.
My answer is no, but many would disagree, maybe including your good self. In fact, everybody fancies themselves as a bit of a wordsmith these days. I type, therefore I am a writer. This is unsurprising. We all have a keyboard of some sort with us 24/7, and few of us can resist the urge to clatter the keys on any given subject and treat the world to our opinions.
Unfortunately, the words that pour forth from our laptops, tablets and phones are not always particularly interesting. And even if you do have the ability to come up with brilliant ideas or understand very technical material, it doesn’t necessarily follow that you’ll also have the ability to express yourself with equal brilliance. In fact, seriously important thoughts can find themselves strangled at birth if they’re poorly expressed. (For a terrifying example, read the section on Death by PowerPoint in the excellent Why Business People Speak Like Idiots by Brian Fugere, Chelsea Hardaway and Job Warshawsky.)
So, when brands head out into the marketplace to sell their (effectively identical) wares to an increasingly knowledgeable audience, how can they ensure their versions stand out? How can they make them more memorable? The answer, of course, is to hand the problem to the people whose job is to solve such problems: the creatives.
Of course, you could have a go yourself, but consider this. Given the bland soup of banality that’s out there, what’s to be gained from simply contributing more of the same when, with a few well-chosen words and a unique turn of phrase, you could give your product a better chance of rising to the surface? If you’re a fan of Mad Men, one word should spring to mind here – “Toasted”. Go on, say something different.
Be more rumble strip
So, while we may disagree over the assertion that anyone can write, hopefully we can agree there is something to learn from rumble strips. Yes, rumble strips – those lumpy bits at the side of the road that go durrurrurrurrurrurr when you stray from the straight and narrow.
Because when you’re in a vanilla world where everything looks and sounds the same, we all need something to wake us up.