Book: Copywriting - Get Paid to Write Promotional Texts (Writer's Craft Book 34) by Rayne Hallcategories: Book, Writing for Money, Writer's Craft, Earn from Writing, Advertising and Promotion, Promotional Writing, Writing Sales Emails, Write Blog Posts, Writing to Sell, Writing for Clients, Write Product Descriptions, Writing Career, Copywriting
Rayne Hallabout this book: Excerpt from the book:
MORE THAN FACTS: HOW TO CREATE ENTICING PRODUCT DESCRIPTIONS
Product descriptions are printed on packaging and in catalogues. These days, most are in online catalogues, either on the client's own website or on a retail website.
GET THE TONE AND CONTENT RIGHT
Know who the readers are:
• If they are businesses (e.g. wholesalers, tradesmen), the description should be factual and to the point, emphasising features and using industry jargon.
• If they are end consumers (e.g. restaurant visitors, holiday makers, supermarket shoppers), the copy should emphasise benefits. The writing style can be more creative, appealing to emotions and senses.
You should also know whether the target audience are experienced users or first-time buyers. This will tell you whether or not to include basic information. What a beginner finds helpful can feel patronising to an advanced user.
What do they want to know? Some customers are interested in the name of the garment's designer, for what occasions it can be worn, and what are the best ideas for accessorising. Others care about in which country it was manufactured, if the employment conditions in the factory meet 'fair trade' standards, and if the dyes used are synthetic or natural. Yet others want to know what percentage of wool the fabric contains and if the garment can be machine-washed. Your product description should answer the questions the target audience wants to know.
SHORT AND LONG FORMS
Short descriptions: Some catalogues allow only two or three lines of description. Keep the copy succinct, and focus on how the product differs from the others on that page. You may want to use a tagline. (See the chapter on Taglines and Slogans.)
Long descriptions: Follow the AIDA formula, aim to evoke senses, and arouse emotions. You may want to present some of the information with bullet points.
Sometimes, viewers can click on the short product description to see the longer one. In this case, you need to write two versions. The short form serves for the Attention and Interest steps of AIDA, while the long version creates the Desire and triggers the Action.
MY PERSONAL SPECIALISM
I write a lot of product descriptions—and since I specialise in working for authors and publishers, these are usually book blurbs and synopses.
The difference lies in the target audience. A book blurb is intended for book readers, including fans of that genre. It gets published on bookselling sites like Barnes & Noble and Amazon, and also on the back cover of paperbacks. It tells the reader what the book is about without giving away the full plot, arouses emotions including curiosity, and serves to whet the reader's appetite. It entices readers to download the free sample and ultimately buy the book.
A synopsis, on the other hand, is a structured plot summary intended for industry experts (publishers, literary agents, acquisition editors). In a few paragraphs, it demonstrates how the author has handled the plot and enables them to judge whether the book is right for their programme.
You may wonder why authors need a copywriter to craft their blurbs and synopses. Many authors feel inhibited when it comes to describing their own books. They struggle to extract the bare bones and to present the plot in the kind of synopsis that publishing professionals want to see. Some authors get cold sweat and stomach cramps when they try. Others can't write the emotionally enticing, curiosity-arousing blurb needed to tempt readers.
I've built a reputation as an expert who knows how to craft powerful blurbs and synopsis. One day you may be known as the go-to writer for product descriptions in your niche—whether that is furniture or financial services, sports gear or computer apps.
CREATING DESCRIPTIONS BASED ON PICTURES ALONE
Sometimes, a client will provide you with a photo of the product and request you to write a description from the picture alone. If this is the same photo that will be published, you will see only what the target audience can see for themselves, which makes the description in part futile.
In this case, focus on evoking senses and emotions. However, I urge you to obtain factual information about the product and not just to indulge in lyrical creativity.
A LESSON LEARNT FROM MY EARLY EXPERIENCE
Early in my writing career, part of my job was to craft descriptions for women's apparel. I received a lot of praise for my creative approaches, so I thought I was really good. But… I assumed things without checking my assumptions.
Typically, I received photos of the dresses from the new collections as soon as they were photographed, and it was my job to write descriptions which would then get published in glossy women's magazines.
One photo showed a seated model wearing a lovely turquoise-coloured dress, displaying her slender legs. All the other gowns were long, so this one really stood out. I described it as a 'mini dress' and waxed lyrical about wearing short gowns at formal functions.
A few days later—after the magazine was printed—I attended a trade fair and saw the actual dress. I gasped, and felt the blood drain from my face. The dress was a long one! The skirt had slits from hem to hip, and when the model posed seated, the legs showed while the fabric faded into the background. I wonder how many customers bought this garment expecting it to be a 'mini' dress.
After this embarrassment I always asked for factual information from the client or the manufacturer, and I insisted on seeing all the photos from the photo shoot (showing the dress from different angles), not just the one selected for publication.
NOVICE MISTAKES TO AVOID
Don't overload your product descriptions with adjectives. (Romantic, stunning, purple, short... ) Adjectives are useful in descriptions, but if you cluster too many of them together, the copy feels clunky and forced.
Beware hyperbole. Some new writers exaggerate the product's benefits, and the result is ridiculous and undermines the target audience's trust. I remember some years ago I wanted to buy a detangling hair brush, and found one in a local shop. I read the product description on the cardboard packaging: it promised that this was a 'life-changing brush.' I didn't buy.
Different products have wildly different requirements. For example, I have written extensively for cannabinoids (CBD, THC, etc.). The legal situation is such that I have to walk a fine line between describing their health potential while avoiding making any medical claims—or the client faces significant fees from the authorities.
It's not as simple as adding a disclaimer at the end of the article. Every word that I write is chosen in a way that corresponds to that basic need. For example, I would never say that "CBD can alleviate pain." Instead, I'd say, "Studies suggest that CBD may alleviate pain." The first is an unproven medical claim; the second is a fact.
When describing a product make sure that you understand the specifics of that product and industry before you start writing!
For this exercise, I want you to pick a product you've used today—perhaps the cereal you had for breakfast, the slippers you're wearing, the e-reader you hold in your hand now—and write a product description of 150-200 words. Write it so that it appeals to a target audience, and assume that the target audience consists of people like you.
THE IDEAL GIG FOR FICTION WRITERS: BRAND STORY TELLING
Brand storytelling is a relatively new form of promotional text. In the past, businesses would publish boring 'company histories' comprising of dull dates and facts.
Now they seek to tell a story that fascinates readers. This is where experienced fiction writers excel: you know how to hook readers, present characters, construct a plot, and arouse emotions. Tell the story of the brand as if it was a novel—only, of course, much shorter.
FOCUS ON CHARACTERS
Just as in a work of fiction, it's the characters that the reader cares about. Who's the main character? Most likely, this is the company's founder. Put her at the centre of your story. (If the brand has existed for generations and changed hands, still focus on the founder, but you may have to switch to other characters later.)
THE START-UP SCENARIO
Currently, there's great interest in start-ups. Where did the idea come from? How did the founder identify the niche? What problem existed that he tried to solve with his new product? How did the company operate at the start, before it became profitable? Where did the founder get the courage and stamina to pursue her vision?
READERS LOVE UNDERDOGS
In brand stories, just like in novels, readers root for the underdog—the person who faces injustice, prejudice, discrimination, cruelty, or seemingly insurmountable obstacles, but perseveres. In what way was the founder an 'underdog'? Perhaps he was shunned in his community because of his gender orientation, looked down upon because of his skin colour, mocked for his stutter, distrusted because of his family's criminal history? Maybe his parents were so poor that he couldn't go to college, or they had to flee their home war-torn home country and he had no chance to go to school. Use this, and show how he succeeded despite all.
EMPHASISE THE MISSION
What's the brand's mission—other than making money for its owners and investors? Find the 'socially responsible' element. Does this brand want to provide low-cost quality footwear that poor people can afford, or environmentally-responsible holiday trips which protect the nature? Ideally, find a link between this social mission and the founder's start-up vision.
CONNECT THE PRESENT TO THE BEGINNING
In the last sentence or paragraph, show how the brand honours the founder's vision. "And today, we still build AABB, the way XX YY did in his garage."
NOVICE MISTAKES TO AVOID
Don't try to tell the whole history of the brand. Just focus on the details that will capture the readers' imagination.
Let the brand's archetype inspire the story you write, both in content and word choice (see the chapter on Archetypes.)
Study the company to make sure that everything you write is in harmony with the brand they are projecting. If the company is portraying itself as cool and sophisticated, writing an imaginary story about how scruffy the founder was as a young student working in his garage may well clash with this image and cost you the job.
Find the brand stories of several leading brands, and study them. Can you find the elements I've described, for example, main character at the centre of the story, the 'underdog' succeeding against the odds, the social mission?
If you have a client—whether it's a paying client or a friend whom you're trying to help with her start-up—work with them to create a brand story. Do you have fiction writing experience? Then use your storytelling skills, because they give you an advantage over other copywriters.
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