...follow the butterfly
Or lessons we can learn on branding and transformation from a winged insect with a thing for nectar.
A summer’s day
On a bench by a flowerbed, you set down your glass and breathe deep. A sweet waft on a warm breeze greets your senses for a time as the sun douses you in the season. Even the most ruddy would fail to be eased by summer’s solace, a soporific tonic for the long days of cold and dark when winter stayed too long.
Darting this way and that, a lace-adorned butterfly flits between daring pink petunia blooms to then rest on bobbing buddleia. The sun goes behind a cloud and on the next updraught, the butterfly takes flight, its wings appearing and disappearing as they fold and unfold.
For a moment its ornaments of aviation are the focus of your universe. A speck of a speck of a speck of significance in the expanse of time and space but its gift is pure joy for a few breaths, no more. This salve brings a beauty of its own and for that moment, it’s all yours.
What does any of this have to do with writing, in particular copywriting for business? As both an avid gardener and wordsmith, I think there is much we can all learn from the butterfly about joy, visibility and meaningful communication.
Be naturally eye-catching
Erratic flight is the butterfly’s aim. It’s not easy for a predator to predict which way it’s going next but it’s also an important lesson for us.
It’s estimated that we’re exposed to between four and ten thousand advertising messages a day but how many do you remember? They’ve become part of the background, so much so that we don’t even take notice any more.
But out of the humdrum, tiny wings like a glitch can flit to break the steady tone. Choose perfect words to pull a stitch in the background and you’ll catch someone’s eye and they’ll stop to look closer. Don’t be tempted to do what everyone else is doing because they may be getting it wrong. Speak with your own voice and you’ll stand out, like the individual you are.
Just a word of caution to break the flow. When a peacock butterfly settles its painted wings it keeps predators at bay with big blue eyes that say ‘I’m not food’. Be bright but don’t confuse your audience. Don’t scare them away.
It’s the first thing we’re taught about butterflies. From caterpillar to chrysalis to insect with wings, the transformation is complex and complete.
Happy to bumble around, eat and shed its skin, the cumbersome caterpillar knows when it’s time to curl and shed one last time. Inside the chrysalis, the body digests itself but hidden deep within are marker cells that know how to grow a butterfly. Sometimes rudimentary structures are already in place, ready to kickstart the remoulding process.
It takes some time for the new form to emerge and for a while, it sits, waiting for its wings to dry. If it tried to fly away too soon, it would fail and fall, so the butterfly knows it must be patient. Flight will come.
Whilst the human form isn’t given to melting into a bag of goo, this is a reminder that sometimes we must let go of the old form in order to embrace the new.
In terms of branding, this can be just as drastic. If your brand no longer serves
your commercial environment
then let it go. Allow it to go through a process of metamorphosis:
call in the experts
dig deep into your creativity
step back if you need to
trust the process
How will you change tack to greet the breeze?
Butterflies are light: the wing to weight ratio is high and they could fly with half the span. They’re designed this way with evasive movement in mind, able to turn this way and that on a whim. So too our content should flex with the season, the news of the day, the issues we all face.
The answer your audience is looking for today won’t be the one they need tomorrow.
Life is sweet
The tiny body of a butterfly survives on liquid alone. Supping nectar from flowers and moisture from the world around it - it’s a simple, joyful life. Migrating butterflies may take several generations to make their transcontinental journey and each will pass on a knowledge hidden deep in their bodies, an unconscious marker of where they need to go.
A delightful reminder
That everything we’ll ever need is inside, waiting to emerge.
That we may be one part of a collective destination.
That we must embrace the uplifts of creative direction.
Or perhaps, it’s just time to put your laptop aside and wander into the garden with a glass of something cool, turn your face to the sun and soak it in.
I'm Amanda Fearn, a copywriter, brand language consultant and writing coach. Have your say by dropping a comment below, pick up a few tips from my blog or reach out to me and we'll have a chat over a coffee.