In this blog series, Pepper Group copywriter Brian Sonderegger explores messaging conveyed in unexpected places and how interconnected messaging can be found everywhere in our everyday lives. It’s a big world out there, and Brian is trying to make sense of it.

Part Two: From Blueprint to Text: Comparing Copywriting to Architecture

Look around you. Can you see any buildings where you are? Right now, I see the coffee shop on the corner, the townhomes down the street, and the train station just an earshot away from the office. We’re surrounded by subtle and stark architecture, bright colors and soft angled roofs. As a kid, I’d visit my grandparents in Columbus, Indiana, a remarkable town known for its unique architecture. I also had a roommate in college who loved architecture and would point out Queen Anne-style homes and minimalist buildings. He would remark on how, as an art form, masterful architecture is unique in that it’s primarily functional yet also visually satisfying. Marketing is similar in that way. We are bombarded daily with thousands of messages with the primary goal of convincing us of something, whether it’s to buy a product, click a link or view an article. But the most memorable ads are often those with figurative jagged edges, curved foundations, or ornate details. No cookie-cutter copy convinces consumers to click (say that 10 times, fast).

Although my extent as an amateur architect is building subpar homes in Minecraft, I still appreciate the art form and recognize how architecture serves as a powerful communication medium ... just like marketing copy, sort of.

Both Prioritize Function and Usability

In both architecture and copywriting, there’s a strong emphasis on the needs of the audience. Usually, functionality and usability take precedence over aesthetics in both disciplines (although it never hurts to have a visual appeal, too). Buildings are meticulously designed to serve their intended purpose, whether holding office space or housing apartments. The architectural design focuses on creating a user-friendly and efficient environment equipped with essential features and amenities. Similarly, copywriting is intended to meet the reader’s expectations and requirements, whether delivering information, promoting a product or inspiring action. The commitment to fulfilling a consumer need ultimately enhances the user experience in the same way a building, at its most basic level, serves a particular purpose.

Both Require Context

Context is crucial; architects must consider the physical and cultural environment—such as climate, topography and footprints of other existing structures—to ensure buildings can be built to their specifications. Similarly, copywriters need to understand the social and cultural context in which their messaging is received. Unless it’s a purposeful throwback ad, outdated messages stand out unfavorably, especially in a constantly evolving world. Keeping up with those changes is a chronic challenge for copywriters, as it requires constant learning and research to create relevant, impactful and unique copy. Incorporating context into our work, subliminal or not, lets us create designs/writing that is practical and effective in their intended environments for their intended purpose.

Both Involve Creativity

Designing a building requires innovative thinking to create something visually striking. Some architects carefully craft masterpieces that go beyond just meeting the basic needs of the building. Whether it’s a house, museum or office building, architects can tweak and adjust form and style to give the building a unique spin. In copywriting, the ability to come up with fresh and creative ideas is essential to crafting messaging that resonates with the audience. A generic-looking building never pops into your mind, but a bold one with curves, odd angles or even aged finishes certainly will.

Both Emphasize Collaboration

Architecture and copywriting both involve collaboration and teamwork as well. In both fields, successful projects are often the result of a collaborative effort, with each professional bringing their unique skills and expertise to the table. Architects consult with engineers, contractors and other specialists to ensure the building is functional and safe. Copywriters may collaborate with designers, marketers and other professionals to create messaging that aligns with a brand’s overall strategy and goals.

When working with a designer, a writer lays the metaphorical foundation of the copy’s message, and the designers contribute visual elements to enhance its impact. Just as beautifully designed buildings can stand out, words can be elevated to new heights by making them visually appealing and emotionally resonant. For example, a small copy block on its own can stand out. But add a compelling image, bold fonts and strategic placement, and suddenly, the copy has the power to become the focal point. Ultimately, the power of collaboration enhances the quality of impact of both architecture and copywriting alike.

Both Can Have a Lasting Impact

Both architecture and copywriting have the potential to leave a lasting impact on those who experience them. Buildings can stand for decades or centuries, shaping the surrounding environment and the people interacting with it. For years, I’ve been interested in the Old State House in Boston. Built in 1713, it looks minuscule compared to the menacing modern-day skyscrapers, yet it still makes a mark on the city, and people flock to see it for its historic value and charm. Similarly, whether it's an iconic nationwide advertisement or a sale ad for a local grocery store, well-crafted messages resonate long after they were created. As time passes, I still think about certain ads I saw as a child whose copy resonated with me for various reasons. Even when I’m old and gray, certain ads and messaging will occupy a place in my mind, even when the world around it has changed and evolved. The effect can be felt by the thousands of individuals who are moved by these messages, just as people are still struck by the Old State House centuries after it was built. This parallel demonstrated the lasting power and significance of both architecture and copywriting in shaping and influencing our collective experiences.

In the architecture and marketing mix, it’s not just the tallest or fanciest buildings that impress. It could be that place with a vintage wooden door or even the run-down spot in the sketchy part of town. The true essence lies in how we perceive it. Just as the cityscape is shaped by its buildings, messaging can similarly evoke a profound sense of wonder, delight and inspiration. It’s through this shared vision that both architecture and copywriting leave an indelible mark on our collective consciousness and ultimately shape our lives.