Creating a Conversational Brand with Nick Usborne

nick usborne on brand

“Bad writing can undermine everything you’re trying to do.” As someone who started out as a marketing copywriter and who still spends a lot of time today teaching business writing and writing books, I couldn’t wait to talk to copywriting and web writing expert Nick Usborne about how the words we use help us build better brands. We discussed this and much more this week on the On Brand podcast.

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About Nick Usborne

Nick Usborne is an online copywriter and trainer who wrote his first website in 1995. When his book, Net Words, was published by McGraw-Hill in 2002, it was one of the very first to address the new profession of writing for the web. After writing web copy for nearly two decades, Nick began teaching companies and organizations how to write better websites. A few years later, he began converting his corporate training materials into courses and programs for freelance writers and copywriters. Today, Nick continues to immerse himself in teaching the craft of conversational copywriting.

Having worked with clients like Citibank, Apple, Reuters, WebEx, and New York Times, Nick has seen it all in the world of copywriting — and he knows what works. He’s earned 15 awards in direct response marketing — both in Europe and North America — and he’s worked as an advisor and consultant to various startups — primarily in online consumer product sales. He’s spoken at numerous online marketing conferences, as well as conducted in-house seminars and training sessions for companies like Yahoo!, Novartis Pharma, John Deere, Walt Disney Attractions, and more.

Nick lives in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, where he’s not always sitting in front of a keyboard. When he’s not working, and if the weather is being kind, he can often be seen enjoying the outdoors via kayak or bike. In the winter he’s out on his cross-country skis most days.

Episode Highlights

“A lot of writing is unnecessarily clever.” Especially in marketing. Nick notes that when you make your marketing copy too complex and clever, you put distance between your brand and your customer. “Customers connect with brands that sound accessible.”

Why is clear and concise writing so hard? “We’ve had it educated out of us in grammar school, university, and god help you if you’ve been to a business school. You end up writing in a way no one can understand.”

How has writing for the web changed brand building? “Before, companies had more control of the brand,” says Nick. “Today the brand is the experience people have with the brand.” But, because of the web, we can also listen to our customers more than we could before.

What brand has made Nick smile recently? Nick shared the story of Ernest Packaging Solutions. In spite of their use of the word ‘solutions’ (“It should be banned in marketing other than for chemical companies”), the company makes their customers smile by making unconventional things like surfboards out of cardboard boxes. If a cardboard box company can make their customers smile, you can too!

To learn more, check out the special page Nick made for listeners of the show at

As We Wrap …

Did you hear something you liked on this episode or another? Do you have a question you’d like our guests to answer? Let me know on Twitter using the hashtag #OnBrandPodcast and you may just hear your thoughts here on the show.

On Brand is sponsored by my book Brand NowDiscover the seven dynamics to help your brand stand out in our crowded, distracted world. Order now and get special digital extras. Learn more.

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Until next week, I’ll see you on the Internet!