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

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