Electric Sugar Elopements
So, *this* is what happens in Vegas
Aaand we’re back once again. 👋 to the (loadsa!) new readers from the Sweathead strategy community. You’ve joined at the perfect time, cos we’re just off to VEGAS, BABY to get hitched, with Electric Sugar Elopements.
Electric Sugar Elopements are Las Vegas-based wedding planners for people who don’t want traditional weddings. They’re for people who either wanna elope, but with a bit more sass than just using their hotel’s Elvis chapel, or … actually, why the hell am I telling you? Here’s what they say:
And we’re off! ‘Rebel elopements’ is great innit. It’s instantly created a Category of Thing, and is bang on that sweet spot of descriptive yet highly vibey. Also ‘micro-weddings’! That’s a sharp bit of naming. Are micro-weddings also a thing? They are now.
‘Tie the knot, rip up the rule book’ kicks off the copy well. It even feels like a rock lyric.I’m not wild about ‘for couples who dare to break the mold’ – feels a bit like how Diet Coke might talk about rebelliousness, instead of actual rebel-y types. But I’m already caught up in the infectious rhythm of it all. Let’s keep going:
I really like the raw energy of this. ‘Chop off the frills and cut to the heart…’ – the language is lumpy and visceral, completely the opposite to the suffocating faux lyricism of much of the wedding industry. (I just did a Google to check my assumption. Literally the first thing I clicked was ‘it’s our privilege to chaperone you along your special journey to saying “I do”.’ )🤮 SO MUCH ICK. Give me a ‘small, potent shot of pure matrimonial decadence’ any day.
A thing I really like: as you get deeper into the site and start thinking about the details, the language and the energy actually gets more intense. This is the opposite of many service websites, where the tone gets steadily more functional as you get deeper into the nuts and bolts stuff. Here’s how they describe their 60-minute ‘elopement package’:
There’s something pleasingly dirty about this. It’s sexy, not romantic. ‘Heart-melting, sick as hell’ is more like something you’d see scrawled backstage at CBGBs. More Suicide Girls (NSFW) than Ideal Bride.
And here’s the micro-copy with the Contact Us box. Where the rest of the wedding-world feels like wading through treacle of a million different decisions (‘should the ribbons on the wedding favours match the font on the decorative candles’ etc etc), Electric Sugar keep crankin’:
A picture is worth a thousand words
I notice I don’t feel like I’ve quite captured the Electric Sugar vibe for you yet – and that’s because the words are designed to be paired with the images. That’s when the elopements start to feel like a Rolling Stone feature. (Electric Sugar was started by a photographer. So – well, you’ll see:)
And here’s a few pics off their Insta feed:
Their ‘resources’ are also on point. Their samples of wedding vows with lots of meaning includes funny vows, buddhist vows, and this magnificent Celtic vow: ‘Ye are blood of my blood, bone of my bone’.🤘
It’s all brilliantly done: Electric Sugar have spotted a non-thing (eloping) and turned it into A Thing You Can Buy (Elopement), in the process giving alternative sub-cultures An Aspirational Wedding Thing that’s totally in keeping with their spirit. (Like having a tattoo, Elopement is equal parts ‘fuck you’ and ‘look at me’.)
They even say at one point ‘The photographer acts as your witness’ which frankly is as much a comment on how even ‘alternative’ identities are refracted through the shattered mirror of social media as it is a practical explanation of the legalities of the wedding service. But I digress.
How was it for you?
I had a chat with Emma Cownley
🏆 She was the world’s most qualified writer for this voice. Electric Sugar are very much an American brand, selling Elopements mainly to Americans. Emma is English. But that’s irrelevant. Because she knows the alternative scene inside out – it’s her scene. (She also writes for Metal Hammer, is an avid reader of Rock’n’Roll Bride and is kind of an actual witch.🤘)
😰 But the first draft was still tough. Emma said it was such a perfect client for her that ironically she ended up over-thinking and playing it safe. The client’s notes were ‘go harder’. They also asked for more swearing, and totally trusted her even when she used references they didn’t get (‘Go all in for your ride or die’? ‘November Rain re-creation’?). Yes, they do sound like a dream client, don’t they.
🤔 She still did the strategic thinking. Even though she was the only writer on the project, Emma still created her own playbook of notes for keeping the voice on track: stuff like ‘take the point of view of a sassy best friend’; to watch out for hetero-normative assumptions of typical wedding language; to avoid certain phrases at all costs (‘It’s your Big Day!’🤢) She also talked about how for her with Electric Sugar ‘the photography is the music, the words the lyrics’ – that’s one of those creative steers which doesn’t make literal sense, but is actually super-helpful.
She added Easter Eggs for kicks. Emma says there are nods to rock lyrics hidden in the copy. Electric Sugar's customers might never spot the actual Pat Benetar reference, but you know that if you're having that kind of fun when writing the copy, the playfulness will just seep out. Nice.
Do you take this tone of voice? I do!
So often the job of brands, marketing, copywriting – any form of ‘applied creativity’ really – is simply the transfer of energy. Electric Sugar’s voice is that in its rawest form. It makes you realise that the wedding industry in general doesn’t just have a ‘default voice’ that most people unthinkingly use, it also has a default pace. Electric Sugar stomp all over that. Whizzing through their website or Insta feed gives me the feels I get when I listen to a straight-out-the-gate fast rock song. (Ace of Spades; Lust for Life; almost anything by the Distillers.)
Electric Sugar’s voice is also a great reminder of how the words and pictures can work together. Often in Tone Knob I’m drawn to brands where the voice is the hero. Electric Sugar’s voice is raw and in-your-face, but only in quick bursts. It doesn’t go on. Perhaps sometimes a tone of voice needs to be more like a solid rhythm guitar?
That’s all folks
See you next time. Whaddya think? Hit reply and let me know. If you wanna recommend a brand for the Tone Knob treatment, also hit reply. Or just hit reply anyway and say hi. Also, if you subscribe to my other newsletter, The Notices, look out for it next Friday. It’ll be coming to you from its new home on Substack.
Turns out it was reminding me of two lines, both from Arctic Monkeys songs: ‘Get off the bandwagon, put down the handbook’ from Fake Tales of San Francisco, and ‘Simmer down and pucker up’ from Do I Wanna Know. I do like a bossy verb-couplet.
Aside: Is a picture really worth a thousand words? As the writer John Simmons says: ‘Not if they’re the right words’.
Emma is Jot Jot Boom copywriting. As well as being the go-to writer for many ‘dissenter brands’, she’s also the creator of The Witchy Freelancer – a guide to freelancing for ‘occult-loving new-age enthusiasts’. It contains helpful day-to-day advice, plus magick. 🪄 Her 1-hour consultancy sessions are called ‘Witching Hours’. It’s fair to say that Emma has her own brand nailed.
Sometimes a brand’s voice needs ‘crafting’. Sometimes you’re just better off finding a writer who lives and breathes your scene. About once a month I have some version of a conversation along the lines of ‘Yes I could write for your brand aimed at sleep-deprived Gen Z young mothers, but there are plenty of sleep-deprived Gen Z young mother copywriters out there who’ll do this better…’
This also reminds me of something the alt-folk artist Will Oldham says about ‘sampling lyrics’. It was part of an online talk he did during lockdown. I’m sure it’s on the YouTubes, but I can’t find the damn thing. If you’re interested, hit reply and I’ll put you on a list of ‘people to tell about the Will Oldham thing when I finally find it’.