Certain brands are born to sound sexy. Take Burberry, for instance, and Mercedes-Benz and Apple – these brands sell luxury products with such slick and alluring design that they almost sell themselves.
But what if your product is far less appealing?
For brands that sell every day and, dare I say it, dull products – copywriting can be far more challenging. Similarly, regardless of the product in question, writing online copy such as FAQ pages and basic checkout features can soon sound repetitive.
So, how can we inject some interest? Here are a few copywriting tips to help, plus a few of the best examples out there.
1. Personify your product
It’s hard to make financial services sound even mildly interesting, let alone fun. This is made even harder by the need to inform and educate consumers about confusing and complex topics.
One way to make this easier is to personify your brand. In other words, to create a character that lends an identifiable ‘voice’ to a company or acts as a metaphor for a product or service.
Direct Line is one brand that does this, using Winston Wolf played by Harvey Keitel – a famous fictional character from the movie Pulp Fiction. As the ultimate ‘fixer’, Winston is a metaphor for Direct Line’s insurance products, which provides help and assistance to people when their home or car has been damaged.
While Winston Wolf is mostly known for his appearance on Direct Line’s TV ads, this personification continues through to the brand’s online presence. Using Winston’s “I solve problems” slogan, the company’s website provide users with similar reassurance and straight-forward advice.
Savings bank NS&I also uses personification in order to tell the story of its brand’s history. ERNIE (which stands for ‘Electronic Random Number Indicator Equipment’) is a personification of the machine that generates premium bonds numbers.
He stands for NS&I’s commitment to providing a fair and honest service, reassuring customers that he only ever generates numbers at random, and that there have been four generations of ERNIE since the company began.
2. Make the small print stand out
While many brands strive to be creative with their online copy, it’s tough to extend this to smaller or more hidden sections of a site. Or perhaps, more to the point, it’s easy to forget and focus on persuading consumers to convert instead.
However, when a brand is creative in unexpected places, this helps to enhance a memorable and fun image. One brand that does this is pet subscription service, Barkbox, which typically uses puns and pet-related humour throughout its site.
From the charming way it describes a dog’s size to cleverly auto-filling its form with puns – it is creative throughout the user’s journey.
I particularly like its pun-filled ‘Scout’s Honour pawlicy’ (see below), showing how its unique voice shines through everywhere online.
Another example of this approach comes from Cultivated Wit, which creates comedy events and videos. Unsurprisingly for a company of its kind, it integrates humour everywhere on its site, even brashly telling visitors that ‘homepage copy can be vague’ to encourage newsletter sign-ups.
One area that is particularly pleasing is found at the very bottom of its homepage. Here it uses dry calls to action, like ‘monitor our public private lives’ and ‘communicate at us’ to complement standard (and slightly dull) website features like social media icons and contact info (see below).
While an ‘About Us’ section is helpful, when it comes to copywriting, this shows how the little details can tell you so much more about a company and what it stands for.
3. Use social to inject humour and wit
Copywriting is not just a concern for your owned media. Social media copy can also revert back to being predictable if a strong or unique tone of voice is not a priority. For Tesco Mobile on Twitter, this is often the case, with a typical tweet involving copy relating to offers and new products.
However, Tesco Mobile also actively uses Twitter to break out of this mould, specifically in terms of how it replies to customers and interjects when criticised.
Last year, one unsuspecting user dared to refer to Tesco Mobile as the ‘absolute poverty’ network, before the brand sassily replied with an equally scathing put-down. It’s taken this tack countless times in the past, delighting users with its entertaining retorts and perhaps combatting some negative brand perception in the process.
Another brand with a similar approach is toilet paper brand Charmin. Hardly the most exciting product, right? But Charmin cleverly turns the topic on its head, tweeting out toilet humour and encouraging users to share their own #tweetsfromtheseat. Charmin is particularly good at tweaking its copy depending on the platform, too, using a more edgy tone on Twitter and a slightly more family friendly one on Facebook.
4. Cut the crap – be conversational
Domestic products like washing machines and dishwashers are necessities rather than desirables. Consequently, it’s hard to sell them without focusing too much on the overly technical or functional aspects, and confusing customers in the process.
There are many things AO.com’s ecommerce site gets right and copywriting is certainly one of them, particularly how it concisely summarises key features without veering into jargon.
Take this description for a tumble dryer, for example, which points out features of interest to customers, such as the machine being ‘great for medium-sized households’ and ‘easy-unloading’.
Elsewhere, it uses more a conversational style of copy to explain technical aspects of items, letting customers know what features are most important and why – crucially, without patronising or sounding overly educational.
While it’s an entirely different sort of company, software creators Basecamp also utilise conversational copy to cut through jargon and ‘business speak’. Its product is internal communication and project management software, however, instead of focusing on the features or over-arching benefits (and the temptation to use words like ‘streamlined’) – it focuses on the every-day benefits.
By telling customers that ‘everything will be in one organized place, everyone will be on the same page, and projects will get off the ground faster’ – it speaks to its customers like they are real people.
Finally, I also like how it uses relatability, cleverly reminding people of typical workplace frustrations in order to highlight Basecamp’s USP.
This effectively shifts the consumer’s mindset, naturally engaging them rather than overtly selling a product.