What Toronto Chalkboard Signs Can Teach Us About Copywriting

By September 5, 2018 Marketing, Tips No Comments
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When you’re walking the streets of Toronto, or any major metropolis for that matter, your attention is channelled more on navigating the masses than it is admiring the great ad copy that lies in wait around you. You’re like a running back, sticking to your blocks, looking for holes to burst through and break away from the pack.

Living and working in the royalty of Toronto, King and Queen West has helped me realize that it’s actually okay to walk at a slower roll and absorb the intricate details that I might have missed when I’m always in a hurry.

And as my pace slowed to a near crawl, I started to take in just how creative the copy on the sidewalk chalkboard signs were – and how they commandeered my attention.

Take these examples in of some of Toronto’s finest copywriting skills – and what marketers can learn from the masterpiece that is etched in chalk.

Shooter’s Shoot

“Don’t bunt. Aim out of the ballpark. Aim for the company of immortals.” – David Ogilvy

In a fast-paced city like Toronto where you have to have your head on a swivel at all times, you’ll likely only earn a seconds’ worth of a glance to pull someone in. Similar to a headline in an article, the copy on the street signs is the first and potentially only impression you make on your audience. You need to take your shot with outstanding copy – and it needs to hit home quick!

So the question is, how do you make the message stand out in 10 words or less that commands someone to stop dead in their tracks?

Check this.

Toronto copywritingThere is zero fat on that statement. Not one ounce of copy can be trimmed. That is absolutely magnetic. I just wish I remembered what place it was from and I would have given the proper shout out.

The best copywriters of all time obsess over crafting an intelligent headline, because if your point isn’t immediately obvious, chances are your audience won’t get it – and you’ll lose them forever.

Be bold and shoot your shot.

Brand Storytelling Needs Epic Copy

While phenomenal design can do enough to lure someone in, words are essential to sustain a real relationship with your audience. Brand storytelling can’t be done with visuals alone. Words are the backbone to your conversation – and your content marketing strategy. And when a chalkboard sign leaves little real estate for design, brilliantly crafted words are what will spark emotion.

Which is exactly what happened to me when I was wandering around Dundas St. and came across this gem from Ride Away Bikes.

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Ride Away Bikes

It did enough to stop me in my tracks, have a solid chuckle out loud, snap a picture of it and make a mental bookmark to check this place out.

I laughed at it later that night. 

How did these companies become masters at writing seductive copy?

  1. They focus their copy on the reader

They know how they think and what they need. And by doing so it allows them to connect with the right person at the right time by making the copy emotionally stirring.

While it may be aggressively bold – Fionn MacCool’s know their demographic and boldly call their shot like Babe Ruth.


Fionn MacCool’s

2. They make it memorable and simple

 I saw this sign in front of Bayley’s Coffee as I walked down Bathurst St., paused and thought to myself, “wow, that is so true.”

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Bayleys Coffee

While I might not have detoured immediately from my union mandated morning walk, I did make a mental bookmark to circle back in there and check it out.

This is a direct, simple and clever headline that gets right to the point, while keeping their product in focus. It captivates your attention by focusing on one big idea: coffee! They don’t try and cram all of their offerings in there.

It was brilliant – and also changed my entire outlook on yawning.

  1. They command attention

This seems like it was taken straight from a George Carlin special. In nine words, The Wheat Sheaf created a fun to read post that reinforces their relaxed style. It also resonates with the content thirsty audience that love to share these unique touch points with their network.

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The Wheat Sheaf

4.  They don’t forget about making the sale

Back at it again with another gem, this copy pulls you in with a compelling headline that follows up with, “oh-and-by-the-way” we have a wing special too.

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The Wheat Sheaf

Using analogies to describe the quality of your product by connecting to the quality of another product (in this case, your ex) is a great way of selling with words.

Seriously, The Wheat Sheaf wrote the book on copywriting for street signs.

The anatomy of great copywriting is anchored in selling ideas, and all of these examples leverage compelling subject lines. And while they aren’t necessarily designed to push forth a unique selling proposition, they do enough within the extremely limited window they have to hit the audience with a great headline they will remember. And that’s what it all comes down to!

If your content has grown rather stale, let’s reinvigorate it with some lively writing that will engage with your audience!

Mike Valenti

About Mike Valenti

Skiing, content and tomfoolery are my three main ingredients in life.

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