Copy

Having been fascinated by ecommerce for some years now, I tend to follow brands and stores that excite me. 

One of these is Whisky River Soap Co, an amazing example of how ordinary products can be made special through great copywriting. 

Their products include soaps, candles and stationery. When said this way, it sounds utterly ordinary. 

Take their “First World Phobias” collection for example. It’s a range of soy candles with different scents and features names like Burn Away Guacophobia (the fear of missing the two-minute window of a ripe avocado). 

Now, I’m not saying that all brands have to write in the same irreverent way. 

One of the keys to great copywriting, I think, is knowing one’s audience ie. who are you selling to? 

And it’s also about knowing yourself ie. who are you and why do you exist? 

The struggle to appeal to the masses results in a watering down of one’s brand identity. 

Like the story of the father and son with the donkey, if you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one, including yourself. 

Having a good product should be a given, not a USP. The question is, how can you go further? 

Irrelevant

“Do the work. Be happy with that. Everything else is irrelevant.”

This was the last line in the Oct 3 issue of the Daily Stoic newsletter. It was a reminder that it’s the work that matters, not so much the awards or prizes it could win. 

The start of the newsletter highlighted a quote by Nassim Taleb: “Hard work will get you a professorship or a BMW. You need both work and luck for a Booker, a Nobel, or a private jet.”

Hard work, great work is not always rewarded. There’s a little bit of luck — being at the right place, at the right time — at play as well. 

But without the work, all the luck in the world won’t be able to help. 

The Daily Stoic newsletter reminds me that the distinction lies in knowing what’s up to me, and what’s out of my hands. 

“Pioneering new research in science—that’s up to us. Being recognised for that work (e.g. winning a Nobel) is not.

“Writing a prize-worthy piece of literature—up to us. That’s time in front of the keyboard. That’s up to our genius. Being named as a finalist for the Booker Prize is not.”

Striving for rewards is all good. But at the end of the day, if there were no rewards to be had, the work is all I have. 

“Be happy with that. Everything else is irrelevant.”

Reading

When I think about all the books I haven’t read, I feel a sense of despair. Although some people say that I read a lot, the truth is, what I’ve read is a drop in the ocean of what’s out there. 

Every year, more and more books come out. And I have whole lists of books from various genres — classics, business, personal development — that I’ve yet to make a dent in. 

It’s such a futile venture — trying to read as much as I can before I die. Even if I’m able to read 200 books a year, and I live till 100, that’s only about 14,000 books. 

Despite having known this for about 10 years now, I still haven’t come to terms with the fact that there’s so much I will never read. 

But it’s yet another reminder that my time on this earth is short, that there’s only so much I can accomplish. 

It’s a reminder to appreciate the books that I do have an opportunity to encounter. A reminder to not finish the books that I don’t enjoy, that I read out of a sense of obligation. 

I guess it’s the same for everything else in life. 

Showrunner

Since I’ve been writing a bit more about cocktails lately — online publications and my own newsletter — someone actually wrote to me, “You should host your own cocktail travel series.”

And I’ll admit that TV is something I have been considering. But it’s also something that I know nothing about. 

According to an article in Marketing Showrunners, structure is a vital component of any great TV show. 

“Every show knows its episode “rundown,” the unique format that makes its episodes work,” writes Jay Acunzo in the article.  

“Every showrunner knows how to use this structure to create better work, not only repeating the same format, but playing with it and innovating with a purpose, in tiny ways, to keep the content fresh.”

Although “the format” is something that people “don’t see”, it’s what makes a TV show stand out. At the same time, it provides writers a framework to fill out. 

Acunzo suggests an exercise that one can use to understand the structure of TV shows. He calls it “extraction”. 

“Grab a notebook and a pen, and go watch your favorite show — the one you want to model yours after. 

“See if you can’t find the underlying structure of a given episode. Try to “extract” their format,” he writes.

He adds that a showrunner’s job is to get the audience from start to finish. But first, we need to know where to start. 

Memories

I recently rediscovered an old blog that I used to read. 

I started reading it, I think, about 10 years ago, whilst I was still in uni (age giveaway) and fascinated by erotic fiction. 

It’s been years since I last visited the blog. How’d I rediscover it? I received a newsletter. 

After all these years, I’m still using the email that I signed up on her website with. 

That’s another benefit of building an email list. You have an “in” with your potential audience. You’re able “retain” them for years, provided they’re still interested in your content. 

And it’s why I love subscribing to email. Every time I log into it, there’s always something new, something interesting to discover. 

My email inbox is like a time machine — taking me back to times when I was delighted by other things. It’s a way for me to see how my interest in things have changed. 

Occasionally, it’s a way for me to dive back into things I was once interested in but have left by the wayside because of time constraints. And perhaps I have time in the now to pick them up again. 

It’s more insightful than memories on Facebook. 

Noshings #2

Another week, another list of links. Mostly product development and design related.

I came across beautiful graphic on the change in usage share of Internet browsers from 1996-2019. It also shows that when it comes to business / innovation, you don’t always have to be the first to do something. You just need to do it better. I also found myself loving the quote at the end ie. “data is beautiful”. 

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know that I love newsletters. Email Love is a collection of landing pages for email newsletters. It’s a wonderful resource for design inspiration, as well as for HTML templates specific for email sign-ups.

Another website for design inspiration – humans.fyi. This website features homepage website designs. The people whose websites are listed are web designers/developers or makers. Besides being a design inspiration, it’s another great way to discover interesting people to follow. 

For those looking to develop content-focused products, Nieman Lab’s article on how those under 35 use news apps is insightful. No surprise, Instagram was the primary app used. The only news app that made it to the top 25 used list was Reddit. The sample size for this study was pretty small though — 20 people between the ages of 18-35. 

When it comes to fundraising, there are some things that venture capitalists/builders look for. Early stage VC Parul Singh has a checklist that’s helpful for those looking to raise money for their seed rounds. 

Social

In an article in The New York Times, writer Mike Isaac writes about a “new social network that isn’t new at all”. 

This social network is an email newsletter. 

“Every week or so, I blast it out to a few thousand people who have signed up to read my musings. Some of them email back, occasionally leading to a thoughtful conversation,” Isaac writes. 

This is exactly what I’ve been loving about newsletters. It’s a great start to more meaningful conversations. 

I currently use Substack for my newsletter on cocktails but there are other tools like Revue that make it easy to create, send and receive payment for your content. 

Apparently, there are writers who earn more than six figures in revenue through their newsletters by creating content for an audience that’s willing to pay for it. 

Isaac uses Substack as well and says this about how newsletters are different from the typical social media tools:

“In contrast to what happens if I quit Facebook or Twitter, I can keep my fans — an ample email subscriber list — if I decide to leave Substack’s service.

The beauty of an email newsletter is that it could be a one-man business. It’s a great way to turn your passion into something that could generate some revenue. 

It’s not something that’s meant for the masses.