I see your elf ears

By: Stella Orange

I was at the grocery store last weekend. As I unloaded my cart onto the conveyor belt, I noticed the clerk was wearing bent gold wire elf ears.

I’m easily charmed, people. It sent a ripple of delight zipping up under my skin, and I bust out into a smile.

“I love your elf ears!,” I replied.

They cooed and corrected me – goblin, not elf – and then proceeded to bring me up to speed on what I have missed, which is apparently that goblins are a thing now.

In this charming conversation, the checker told me that goblins are mischievous. They like hanging out alone in the woods. And they like to take things.

Holy smokes, I told them, then I’m a fricken goblin, too!

And then we swapped stories of our goblin nature. They work nights, and all their friends work days. So they made a little scavenger hunt for their pals, leaving strawberries and notes around the store to create moments of delight and discovery.

When I hear a phrase or word or idea that I like, I like to say that I’m tucking it in my satchel. I write it into whatever I’m working on, and chew on it in my mind, a child taking a lollipop into her hands.

At one point in the conversation, this fellow goblin started squeeing. I think that’s the word for emitting a sound of delight. At another point, they started miming swimming breaststroke in response to my recognition, as if moving through a sea of joy.

Let’s drop down a few clicks here.

This is what transmitting on your own frequency looks like and elicits in response.

Connection. Recognition. The deep sense of being understood.

Also: Delight! Joy! Mutual appreciation!

This is what I’m trying to do when I write marketing for someone. Figure out what they are (goblin), where they meet their clients (grocery checkout), and select words and expressions (elf ears) that signal there is presence and mastery here, if it’s for you.

It’s just as much listening and discerning work as it is writing.

As one person I’m writing a website for recently said in response to reading the first draft, “It’s like a letter from me to them.” Which is a high compliment in my book, and something I’ve tucked in my satchel for future consideration, goblin that I am. What if marketing is writing a letter, from me to you? The thing that hangs a lot of people up is that not everyone gets or is looking for a goblin. So, the logic goes, wouldn’t it be smarter to cast a wider net, and water it down a bit, in order to appeal to the widest and broadest audience possible?

I’ll leave that question lingering in the air between us.

I bet you a nickel you can guess my take.

Stella is cofounder and copywriter at Las Peregrinas, a creative and consulting agency. As our resident word nerd, she writes copy and points out the stories everyone is living and telling through their work. She is also fun at parties.

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