Monday, December 28, 2009

The Thrilling Universe of Copywriting

The name of the game this week is copywriting. Not to be confused with copyrighting, which my spell checker insists I'm trying to type, copywriting involves the writing of copy. Mind-blowing, right? We're in a holding pattern until the designers get back to us with our website model, and I don't yet have an appointment with a photographer to generate item images, so I'm going to engage the English degree aspects of my job description (yes, they do exist!). I'm afraid it's not so simple as just describing the items and categories, at least not if I want to maximize our profits.

We'll describe it this way: every time you visit a website, unless you're navigating entirely by pictures, you're interacting with that company, person, or organization through the copy they've targeted at you.  Every word that you see, if they've done their job right, is targeted and optimized for your benefit. Writing copy is a lot like writing a news article; you have an audience, be it the TMZ crowd, those of a certain political bent, a stock-trader, etc., that you wish to personally address. Each audience has a preferred style. The pop culture hounds want choppy, simple sentences. Political readers generally prefer sentences that slant the story in their favor. Stock-traders want everything fleshed out, explained thoroughly using appositives and parentheticals. Our targeted audience, wine-drinking professionals aged 25-50, has their own style to address. What that is, precisely, I'll have to figure out through trial and error.

I'll try writing a header section a few different ways, using a different style each time, and see which one appeals the most.  Aspects such as humor, descriptiveness and wit, and rhetorical devices such as metaphor, pun, and synesthesia, will be applied in varying degrees, generating a style that, hopefully, will engage our audience as much as possible without alienating others too much.  As an example:

Stemware Racks
Got all those wine bottles put away?  Good.  Now where are you gonna put those wine glasses?  In a cabinet?  For shame... wine glasses simply don't feel at home unless they're hanging upside down by their bases.  Don't ask us why; we just help accomodate them.

Here, we've gone for informal and snarky.  Some might find it amusing, but some potential customers might not share our sense of humor.  We can always go the Wal-mart method (usually a good business model to follow):

Stemware Racks
Our stemware racks provide a quick, cheap, and easy way to store your stemware without exposing them to the dangers of dust and breakage involved in cabinet storage.

Simple, informative, ho-hum.  While it gets the point across, it doesn't have the edge that specifically would appeal to our target demographic.  If I were choosing between these two, I would pick the first one.  I might lose a sale or two from those who want more professionalism in their shopping experience, but when I consider how I shop, a company that engages me with their wit is much more likely to get my business than those who try to please everyone with a more sterilized style.  Luckily, my options aren't limited to just these two... I have the power of paraphrasing!

Stemware Racks:
Now that you've found a place to put all your wine bottles, there's one more storage solution to consider: stemware racks.  Sure, you can place your wine glasses in a cabinet, but that exposes them to dust and potential breakage, neither of which is good for your wine experience.  Ideally, you'd hang them on a stemware rack, keeping the bowl free of dust and decreasing the chances of impact or dropping.  If keeping your glassware happy and healthy is your concern, we have just what you need.

A little witty, very informative, moderately aggressive in a sale, copy with personality! Now, I might decide later on that this is too tame, that I want to engage the customer a little more, but this would definitely do in a pinch.  The idea is that every item I have, whether it's a bumper sticker or a mounted, antique corkscrew, gets the same attention. I need to make sure the customer enjoys the shopping experience.  This will lead to repeat buying.

My task today, and in the ongoing weeks, then, is to generate headers like those for each of our product categories, then for the items themselves.  I have a lot more leeway with the item descriptions, as I'll be generating three separate pages for each item: quick description and a small image, detailed description and a larger image, and technical specs.  Not only can I cover a variety of styles with the three-page system, but crawlers from search engines will find a wealth of information to implement in their searches.  It's a lot of repetitive writing, to be sure, but the long-term payoff is more than worth it.

What do you think? What turns you on or off websites? I think most of my readers would fall into my demographic, and even if you don't, your input is certainly welcome.  I'm always looking to learn.


Listened during this post: According to the Plan by I Love You but I've Chosen Darkness, On and on and on by Wilco, Broken Chords Can Sing a Little by A Silver Mount Zion, Skin of the Night by M83, Untitled 5 by Sigur Ros, Really Doesn't Matter by Electric Light Orchestra, September Come take This Heart Away by Carissa's Wierd

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Joshua Sweeney, your humble guide to Wine(Accessorized)

The day has actually arrived. I've finally begun work on the company!

A little background info on Wine(Accessorized): we are an online wine accessories company, selling wine racks, stemware, stoppers, pourers, aerators, books, decorations... basically anything and everything you can do with a bottle of wine.  We have a pretty decent selection so far, about 350 items, though I hope to expand to 500+ once we go live.  We are brand, brand new, although we do have a URL reserved.

I'm the Head of Online Retail for the company, basically the only employee of the website, which means I get to handle everything that customers will see.  I'll write every word on the website, take every picture of the products, write every coupon, advertising blurb, blog entry, and Twitter update, and control every bit of online marketing and outreach for the forseeable future.  Few people in business have the freedom and creative control afforded to me, and I count myself infinitely lucky to have earned this position so early in my career.

I hope that, through this blog, I'll be able to seek input from experts in the local marketing and business scene, if they would be so generous as to assist a burgeoning babe in the online world.  I also hope to reap the benefits of discussing, in the public eye, any issues that might occur.  Kind of like talking out a problem in front of (potentially) hundreds or thousands of people.  Once development gets more underway, this will also be an easy way to keep friends and followers of the company updated on progress.  When the site goes live?  This blog will continue as my own company project, though we'll begin another blog on the site for industry-related news, discussions, musings, rants, humor pieces, whatever attracts our whim.

I suppose that's it for now.  Not much company news is in the mix right now.  I've been working on site design and organization, sorting products by category and subcategory.  Hopefully, by my next post, we will have a preliminary design finished, and I'll be able to post a PDF of what we've settled on as our site layout.  I'll look forward to any input those of you in the business world out there will have for our designs.

I do want to take the time to thank Phil Buckley ( for welcoming me into the world of social media, for bits of advice from his blog and through Twitter, and for the meetup on online branding he organized with Morgan Siem this past week.  The input from all the creative minds that attended  has already led me to a wealth of information through social media, a medium I would never have explored without their knowledge and (however indirect it might have been) advice.  I hope I'll be able to interact more with all of you on all such relevant topics in the future, and I hope you will visit my blog when you have the time.

Reminder: you can follow me, and the company, on Twitter at

Listened during this post: Brick Eyes by Garland of Hours, Mother's Love by Piana, The Light by The Album Leaf, Passenger Side by Wilco, Look into the Air by Explosions in the Sky