How To Write Cool Copy For Unsexy Stuff

by 22 04/16/2013

Are you writing or curating content for a company with a seemingly unsexy product or service?

Trust me, you’re not alone. Most writers don’t work for Vogue, Apple, or Ferrari, and we’re faced with writing copy, blog posts, and other material for less than sexy stuff.

Fortunately, there are tons of ways to use words to amp up regular stuff.  Here are some ways to kill it with cool copy, along with some companies that are doing it right:

Be Creative With Product Names

Warby Parker sells glasses through an innovative program that lets customers try on frames before they buy. The company sells cool frames at inexpensive prices, each pair only costing $95.

Warby Parker may have a sexiness advantage because its in the fashion industry, but glasses still have a lingering reputation for being a bit nerdy. They’re also not a product that people think to buy online.

With Warby Parker, you never get the feel that you’re buying a bargain basement product. They name each line of glasses with a classic name that give it personality and style.

Names like “Sims,” “Edgeworth,” and “Crane”  invoke a Saks 5Th Avenue, Nantucket-y, and old school prepster feel. So customers feel sophisticated, classy, and luxe, even though the glasses retail for much less than they would in a luxury store.

By creating cool names for their products, Warby Parker transforms wearing glasses into a hip, young, and edgy thing to do. The product can appeal to those on a budget and those who otherwise might’ve bought frames from Gucci or Prada.

WarbyParkerCOPY

Lessons From Warby Parker:

  • Budget products don’t need budget names
  • Little guys can sneak in on big brands
  • Life is better if you summer on Nantucket

Put Cool Copy in Odd Places

Customers might expect to see your best words on the company homepage, but you can surprise them by infusing newsletters, invoices, terms of service and shipping labels with fun and unexpected copy.

A great example is 500px, a photo sharing site whose Terms of Service pops with people-friendly copy.

Instead of simply posting these terms like any other site, 500px goes the extra mile to turn legal jargon into a personable message.

Because it writes to customers as though they are friends, the site has turned the least-read page of its site into an extremely successful and cool Terms of Service. (It even has 898 Facebook Likes!)

500pxtermsofservice

500px

Another example of a company leveraging cool copy is SnugZUsa., According to WordofMouth.org, this B2B supplier sends out this fun cover email with their invoices:

snugzcoverinvoice

Who wouldn’t like a company that communicates like this?

Lessons from 500px and SnugZUsa

  • Necessary documents can be rewritten to be cool and fun
  • Treat people like they’re friends and coworkers, not like they’re robots
  • If you smile when you get an invoice, it hurts less

Let Your Customers Lead the Way

Sorry, but your customers and users are probably cooler than you, so take advantage of the copy they create.

Your users don’t have to play it safe, and they’re way more likely to write off the cuff, coming up with comment that are cool, creative, and kinda sexy.

HowAboutWe is a great example.  Online dating makes most of us groan, but HowAboutWe works to make it into a stress-free and fun experience, partly through its copy.

The dating site asks users to come up with date plans beginning with “How About We…?” (i.e. How about we…go to The Shins concert this weekend? How about we…check out the Van Gogh exhibit at the local museum?)

Instead of generating a bunch of explanatory writing to demonstrate how the service works, HowAboutWe uses what the daters come up with, effectively showing off its product and generating cool copy.

howaboutwe

Lessons from HowAboutWe:

  • Customers and users say it best
  • Keep tabs on what customers say (and save it for later use)
  • You can find love online if you know how to write

Shift Expectations

Think nail polish is just for ladies? You’d be wrong. Male nail polish, used by athletes and others intent on keeping their nails intact, is bursting on to the scene, with copy fit for the world’s most masculine.

And this is a perfect example of how you can surprise and delight people with your sales copy.

Alphanail shifts expectations, bringing nail polish away from the salon and onto the fingers of warriors. By using words, phrases, and an attitude that scream “alpha male,” Alphanail effectively shifts our preconceived notions about polish.

“For the fighter or the guitar picker, any normal nail polish will add natural strength to the nail and prevent chipping and cracking. But it is more than that. It is a statement… a proclamation of the inner attitude of the alpha. It is about having the confidence that says ‘I am my own man, and will decide the rules for how I live my life according to how I see fit.”

If you click around Alphanail’s website, you won’t see a touch of feminine copy. The nail polishes have names like “Burnin’ Rubber” and “Gasoline.” This stuff is tough!

alphanail

Lessons from Alphanail

  • Targeted copy can change the reputation of your product
  • Shifting expectations piques interest
  • Breaking a nail is the worst!

Make People Laugh

Humor goes a long way, and bringing a smile to someone’s face is a tried-and-true way to get people on your side. A good laugh breaks the ice and makes your company seem personable, rather than corporate and robotic.

That being the case, writing amusing copy that’s joke-y and fun is a great way to set you apart.

Zirtual, a virtual assistant service, does this expertly on its “Examples” page, where it explains what can and can’t be done for its clients.

Instead of giving boring examples that are likely to make clients nit-picky and upset (i.e., WHAT!? You won’t do that!?), Zirtual outlines what it’s willing to do in a clear and very funny way.

dosanddontslaundry

Lessons from Zirtual:

  • Be funny! It shows you’re down to earth
  • Clarifying tough stuff with humor is good practice
  • Sweethearts always trump escorts

Be Concise

When I think of visiting a law office, all I can think of is reading through paperwork I don’t understand and signing pages of documents, so I was pretty happy when I saw Axiom Law’s website.

Axiom Law goes against the grain with a website that prioritizes concision over lengthy explanation.

By being short and sweet, Axiom Law actually instills trust in prospective clients. Instead of explaining the nitty-gritty expertise and legal ins-and-outs, their bare bones copy proves they’re comfortable with what they offer and feel no need to wax prophetic on their own account.

Plus, they capitalize on the fact that most people are internet-skimmers.

As a writer, I always want people to be engaged, but I know they’re usually skimming (did you read this sentence or are you just reading the bullet points?)

By working with fewer words, Axiom Law reduces the feeling of stress and makes people more likely to read.

Axuom Law

Lessons from Axiom Law

  • Being concise is refreshing
  • People don’t like to read tons of words
  • I hope I never need a lawyer

Go forth and be cool

As marketers, bloggers and copywriters, we’re always looking for ways to differentiate our products, brands and copy.

But sometimes the answer isn’t a big marketing breakthrough. It’s as simple as tweaking your style.

Let your hair down. Be yourself. And write cool copy that really sells.

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About 

Emma Siemasko is a freelancer writer and content marketing specialist at Grasshopper, the entrepreneur’s phone system. Emma recently completed JUMP: The Ultimate Guide to Starting and Growing a Business to help startup founders and employees get companies off the ground.

22 COMMENTS

Sylvie St-Amand

Hi Emma,
I really enjoyed this article. I didn’t skim through it, I read the whole thing!! I am also a big believer in humour – always in a tasteful fashion, of course. Thanks for making me smile this morning.

April 16, 2013 Reply

Emma Siemasko

Hi Sylvia,

Thanks for reading! I’m so happy you enjoyed the post. Humor definitely keeps people reading :), especially when things are unsexy. Your comment made me smile, which I really needed this morning here in Boston. Have a happy Tuesday.

Emma

April 16, 2013 Reply

Tina Gleisner

You have some really great ideas here but most important is seeing examples of people pushing past traditional rules for web copy. Thanks

April 17, 2013 Reply

    Emma Siemasko

    Hi Tina, it’s totally true that using non-tradtional copy and pushing the boundaries can be really successful. If someone is surprised by copy, they’re bound to be curious. That could’ve been another point on this list.

    April 17, 2013 Reply

Damien

Love your examples, Emma. So true about making the copy light and conversational. A lot of brands seem to feel like it needs to be stodgy and corporate because this is what they are “supposed” to sound like. The result makes a boring product or service even more boring!

April 17, 2013 Reply

    Emma Siemasko

    Yep, I really believe in talking to people like they’re people, not robots. If brands act like they’re having a conversation to customers, they’ll feel warm inside.

    April 18, 2013 Reply

K. Doug Allen

Great article – thanks!

April 21, 2013 Reply

sonesh

Nice article :)

Thanks for Sharing

May 14, 2013 Reply

Dan Hanks

Very cool post. Aligns with my way of thinking, but explains WHY I think like that. Which is usually the important bit! ;) Much appreciated.

May 17, 2013 Reply

Andy Kuiper – Calgary SEO Analyst

Some great examples here Emma :-) I especially like the 500px page… so many times we need to be reminded to keep things simple.

May 17, 2013 Reply

    Emma Siemasko

    Hi Andy,

    I’m glad you liked the examples. I love that 500px page….what a creative way of displaying terms of service.

    Emma

    May 17, 2013 Reply

Dan Carter

Very Nice Post ::) Thanks for posting

December 14, 2013 Reply

Naman

Hi..

Nice information thanks for sharing.

Rgds

May 5, 2014 Reply

    Kathryn Aragon

    Your welcome, Naman. Thanks for stopping by.

    May 5, 2014 Reply

    neil

    Naman, glad we could help. Thanks for the feedback :)

    May 5, 2014 Reply

Hampton

Very Good Post… thanks..

May 24, 2014 Reply

    neil

    Hampton, glad you liked it. Thanks for reading :)

    May 24, 2014 Reply

Parmod Gahlyan

Great post, Thanks for sharing dear.

September 1, 2014 Reply

    Neil Patel

    Parmod, glad you found it helpful. Looking forward to hearing more from you :)

    September 1, 2014 Reply


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