Senior Brand Marketing Manager at Penguin Random House UK
At the start of the year, Ladybird Books approached Sonder & Tell with a dream brief. In 2021, a year that’s been particularly challenging for...
In conversation with
Senior Creative Copywriter at WeTransfer
We spoke with Robyn Collinge, fellow Wordsmith and Senior Creative Copywriter at WeTransfer, to gain insight into the company’s brand strategy and how it is reflected in their writing. With a job where no two days are the same, Robyn emphasises the importance of having creativity as the driving force to unify everything they do, which might be the reason why WeTransfer is the first brand that comes to mind when most of us want to share something. We discuss B2B and B2C, the power of digital advertising done the WeTransfer way, and breaking down business jargon. It’s all in a day’s work (and play).
I guess you could argue it began when I was little and me and my two best pals were so obsessed with the Animal Ark book series (a very niche throwback) we would write our own little stories based in the same world. Fanfiction if you will?
But the more romantic answer is that my writing career started when I moved to Paris at the age of 19. I started a blog to keep my friends and family up to date with the things I was doing and general quips about French culture. I fell in love with the cadence of writing and the catharsis of expressing my thoughts, but mostly with making people laugh at my tales and tribulations.
From there, after fulfilling my rite of passage working in hospitality, I found myself interning at a design studio in Amsterdam which is where I came across the term “copywriting” and wholeheartedly threw myself into the craft. The rest, someone smart once said, is history.
My absolute favourite thing about my job, both at WeTransfer and throughout my copywriting career, is the variety. Literally every day is different.
As a senior creative copywriter at WeTransfer I look after most of our brand comms—that’s anything from writing big billboards and video spots, to developing and maintaining our tone of voice.
The rest of my time is spent working with the WePresent team. If you’re unfamiliar, WePresent is WeTransfer’s digital arts and editorial platform that champions a whole range of art and artists, from the undiscovered to the truly exceptional—we even won an Oscar last year for the short film “The Long Goodbye” we commissioned with Riz Ahmed! I mostly support the team with copywriting across various digital platforms and physical activations. A real pinch-me moment was in 2021 when I worked on an immersive exhibition with Marina Abramović and got to meet (and receive life advice from!) the icon herself.
We know around 70% of the 80 million people who use our service every month identify as creatives and those people are the reason we do what we do. Our goal is to make file-sharing a simpler, more seamless experience, and if we can make someone smile or spark an idea in them along the way, then even better.
I guess the B2B angle comes into it with our advertising model. A lot of people don’t realise but WeTransfer makes around half of its income from working with brands like Netflix, Gucci, Oatly, adidas, Spotify, and more—but it’s not traditional advertising. We use the backgrounds on wetransfer.com to serve big, beautiful, full-bleed ads, all designed and built by our in-house creative studio. They’ve created everything from interactive visual worlds to entire games all within the wallpaper space.
But whether it’s building products to serve our audience or working with brands to craft top tier advertisements, creativity tends to be the driving force that ties everything together. We’re a company that was founded fundamentally by creatives for creatives, which is also why we give away 30% of our advertising real estate to support artists we admire and causes we care about—from climate change to mental health—giving back where we can to the community that keeps up going.
“As users we don’t care about WHAT you’re offering, chances are there’s 17 other businesses in the market offering a very close variation of the same thing. No, we want to know WHY we should choose you.”
We’re in a unique position where people only actually use our products when they have something to send. So unless we manage to catch you at the precise moment you have a large file that you don’t know how to send, there’s not much point in us shoving our product in people’s faces. Our challenge is to make sure we’re the first brand that comes to mind when people do actually have something to share. And that means having a solid brand positioning.
The phrase “we deal in big ideas” actually comes from our mission statement, which is to be behind every great idea. WeTransfer exists to bring your ideas to life. To get your important designs, videos, pdfs, pitch decks to where they need to be in as beautifully simple a way as possible. And when you recognise the blood, sweat, and (literal) tears that often go into a piece of creative work, it’s hard not to tap into that emotion and create a brand story around it.
Another thing that helps solidify our positioning is getting to know the people who use our tools. Every year we open up a survey, asking thousands of creatives about what makes them tick. We then publish our findings in the annual WeTransfer Ideas Report, where over the years we’ve uncovered insightful nuggets about everything from boozing to burnout.
Understanding the creative process and the things that often get in the way of it has helped us develop some really insightful brand campaigns over the years.
In 2019 we urged people to step away from their screens after our Ideas Report found creatives are far more likely to get their ideas from offline experiences like travel, galleries, and being in nature. In 2020 we encouraged people to challenge the notion of doubt and instead use it as a superpower to spark new ways of thinking. Last year we celebrated the journey of an idea as it grows from concept to reality, and how the tools you use can be a key player in that.
My biggest ick has to be acronyms. In tech and product-focused organisations they are thrown around like confetti and I firmly believe nobody actually knows what they stand for. Actually a couple of years ago I had to write a bio for our new CPTO, so like a normal person I first had to Google what on earth their title stood for. The first result I was served was Cooked Peeled Tails On, alongside an image of some delicious-looking shrimp.
I’m also a huge advocate for writing like you speak. There’s this misconception about writing, and communicating in general, that using complex sentences makes you sound smarter. But I’d argue it’s the complete opposite. By using jargon (and acronyms!) in your copy all you’re doing is alienating a large percentage of your audience. Writing in words people actually use, and in the manner they actually use them, makes your brand more accessible. Which is why at WeTransfer we’ll opt for terms like “people” over “users,” “stories” over “content,” and use call-to-actions like “Yes please!” and “Tell me more.”
I think a lot of B2B companies are guilty of falling into the trap of the “hero complex.” They think the best way to sell their product is to make it the main focus of their comms, to write feature-driven copy that waxes lyrical about how good this functionality is or that subscription tier is.
But as users we don’t care about WHAT you’re offering, chances are there’s 17 other businesses in the market offering a very close variation of the same thing. No, we want to know WHY we should choose you.
Obviously a great way to do this is to build a solid brand, to add emotion and storytelling and all the things Sonder & Tell is so delightfully brilliant at. But on a basic level, if you don’t have those resources available to you or you’re just starting out, then tell me WHY your product is going to change my life.
Will it save me time? Will it make doing [x] less of a chore? Will it help me to earn or save money? Pinpoint the problem you’re solving for people and write your copy from that point of view. Less “we do [x]” and “we believe [y],” and more “say goodbye to your problems with [x]” or “sign up to [y] and never do this super annoying chore you hate doing again.”
I always think Vimeo and Spotify put out great stuff and there’s an app called Descript that has one of the best product demo videos I’ve seen.
Other than that I tend to take inspiration from categories outside the tech space. The Palace Skateboard product descriptions are iconic, as well Vacation Inc’s Instagram captions. I also adore every single thing that comes out of Loaf, Ace+Tate, and Liquid Death.
SIMULATE is another genius one, and a great example of building a brand as if your product belongs to a completely different category. In this case it’s a meat-substitute that takes cues from the tech world, for example each iteration of their NUGGS is documented on their site in a changelog complete with release notes.
Finally, I’m very into the total shaking up of the women’s health and wellness space over the past few years. Brands like Ohne, Estrid, Dame, and Daye are finally injecting some humour, honesty, compassion, and tribe-building into periods, sex toys, and shaving.
Senior Brand Marketing Manager at Penguin Random House UK
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