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5 Essential Qualities of Irresistible Product Descriptions

by Kathryn Aragon

Product descriptions aren’t that hard: Just list a few features and move on, right?

Wrong.

Your product descriptions should position your product, target your ideal customer, and set off a strong buy response. Features alone can’t do that.

Just take a look at this high-end retailer’s description, and you’ll see what I mean.

what not to do

Trusting customers to buy based on a brand name and photo alone is like sending them on an ocean voyage in a rowboat. They might arrive safely in port, but the odds are high that they’ll get lost along the way.

People need help understanding what your product is and what it will do for them. They need to know why your product is better than all the alternatives.

And with so many brands not investing the time to write useful descriptions, you can easily stand out from the crowd. Just try one of these five simple techniques to make your descriptions irresistible.

1) Spark imagination with vivid language: Teavana

vivid language_teavana

Tea, in and of itself, is nothing exciting. At least, not until Teavana talks about it.

The key is to nix all neutral words that don’t inspire or persuade. Replace them with words that create mental images or an emotional response.

Descriptions like rosy blush blend, enticing, tantalizing and intoxicating make this tea seem more than just another cup of caffeine. It’s an experience.

Then instead of listing ingredients, Teavana takes it to the next level by telling us how we’ll feel when we drink it. Guilt-free, slimful beauty? Who doesn’t want that?

How you can do it

First, decide on the primary emotion you want people to feel when they think about your product.

Then look for words that elicit those feelings. If you need help, use a reverse dictionary like this one from OneLook.

Now write a description that incorporates some of those words. Don’t just talk about your product. Help people experience it by showing them how their life will be changed by it.

2) Add spice with sensory details: Whole Foods Market

specifics_whole foods market

Specifics sell. And this description by Whole Foods Market proves it.

The implicit suggestion is that this pizza will transport you to Italy, where pizza isn’t a fast-food industry but a way of life.

Look at the details in the description. You may not immediately recognize schiacciata style pizza, but it enhances the trip-to-Italy metaphor. We’re even told the specific village where the pizza is made, Friuli, and if you keep reading, the meaning of schiacciata.

These types of details are what keep people reading, while colorful, sensory details help them visualize your product.

In this case, you can almost see the pizza being made: the crackle of the wood fire, the bright red cherry tomatoes, the smell of the rising yeast and the crunch of a thin, crispy crust.

How you can do it

Don’t just list features and benefits. Make your description a sensory experience.

Find ways to engage as many senses as possible: sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste. Weave in interesting facts about your product: where or how it’s made, who uses it, and anything else that could pique people’s interest.

3) Jazz it up with active verbs: White House Black Market

active verbs_white house black market

If you don’t have time to try any other tip, make time for this one.

The heart of any sentence — and the power — lies with verbs.

The temptation is to say, “This leather jacket is a surprising mix of motorcycle details and soft ruffles.” But where is the action?

Instead, White House Black Market uses strong verbs. Motorcycle details mix with ruffles. And not just any ruffles, but cascading ruffles. A pearlized neutral gives it luster. And the zipper pulls sparkle.

Don’t be afraid to surprise readers with an unusual noun-verb combination. Who would have guessed that a pearlized neutral could give luster? But here it does, and it sounds surprisingly attractive.

How you can do it

When writing your descriptions, try to avoid all passive verb constructions. For instance, “A jacket was made,” is passive. “Designers made this jacket,” is active.

Things don’t magically happen. Someone or something performs the action. That’s active, and it’s a powerful way to energize your descriptions.

When you’re done writing, read through your copy to find all weak or boring verbs. Replace them with vivid, colorful ones.

4) Connect the dots for readers: Wolferman’s

benefits-oriented_Wolfermans

People don’t always make the connection between features and benefits.

If your product can change people’s lives, you need to tell them clearly. Even if it’s as simple a benefit as having your English muffin stand up to the toughest topping.

Just as Wolferman’s explains why thick muffins are more satisfying, tell people how your product’s features will change their lives for the better.

How you can do it

When you list a feature, tie it to a benefit. When you list a benefit, explain the feature that creates that benefit.

It doesn’t matter which comes first. You simply need to create a strong association between your product and your customer’s happiness.

5) Create an identity: Think Geek

personalization through story_thinkgeek

People who identify with a certain group or class of people love products that help them express membership in that group.

It may be fan mentality, as when football fans wear the star quarterback’s jersey. Or it could be a sense of exclusivity, as when fraternity brothers wear a particular ring.

In this case, Think Geek knows that many professionals are really geeks in disguise. They craft a description that helps these people maintain their gamer identity, even while sporting a suit and tie.

This approach takes more space, but it can be very persuasive. Notice the description starts with the problem, having to replace gamer t-shirts with a pinstripe shirt. It then provides a solution, using a gamer’s backpack instead of a briefcase.

This approach creates such a strong identity with the product that details don’t matter to the buyer. It’s what the bag represents that’s important, not what it does.

How you can do it

Don’t just describe your product, describe it in terms of your customers. How will this product benefit them? Why should they choose it over every other option?

Make them feel special. Like members of an elite group. Then focus on the features that relate specifically to members of that group.

A little improvement can help a lot

So few brands see the value of writing strong product descriptions, it isn’t hard to make your descriptions stand out.

You only need to find the reasons people buy and the words to prove you get it, and you can easily beat the competition.

What about you? Do you have other tips for irresistible descriptions? Share them in the comments below.

23 Comments

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Kathryn Aragon

Kathryn Aragon is the former editor of The Daily Egg. She’s a content strategist and consultant on mission to help content marketers get measurable results from their content. Learn more at KathrynAragon.com. Follow her on Twitter.

23 COMMENTS

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  1. A.C. says:
    April 25, 2016 at 1:17 pm

    Great post. Could someone give me some input regarding listing who would/should buy a product? For example: If you’re a ___ this widget will make a great addition to your collection or a fantastic gift for ____ or a ____.

    Someone on my marketing team insists on writing a string of “who should buy” for product descriptions and I feel it dampens the copy. Any thoughts or places where I may reference the ya or nay of it? I would really like documented opinion on this so I can share. Thanks!

  2. January 11, 2014 at 11:32 am

    I love this post. Often I go to writing with my teacher’s hat on and switching to keeping it light feels like an effort. But taking this approach really works for me. And the fact that you use Teavana as an example doesn’t hurt either…I’m a super tea fan!

    • January 11, 2014 at 8:29 pm

      Great to hear it, Jacqueline! That this approach really works and that you’re a tea fan. It’s the nectar of gods, as far as I’m concerned. Lol

  3. Dwayne Kerr says:
    February 25, 2013 at 8:14 pm

    Loving the irresistible descriptions, this type of emotion grabbing description simply stands out when explaining products and services to customers. Some people would only use words this powerfully when talking to customers in person.

    It’s time to go the extra step, by giving the customer a taste of already owning or experiencing your services and products, this is the way forward with any type of marketing online (also offline). Great post 🙂

    • February 26, 2013 at 10:30 am

      What a great point, Dwayne! I wonder if we become too self-conscious as soon as we site down to a keyboard. Taking that extra step can make a huge difference. Thanks for your comment.

  4. John Hollingsworth says:
    February 25, 2013 at 9:23 am

    Well done Kathryn! Well done!
    You hit the nail on the head for each item and made it look so easy to copy! I’m lucky because, as an improv comedian, I can have tons of fun with how we market and I’ll definitely use your tips!
    Now I’m hungry for English Muffins…

    • February 25, 2013 at 4:31 pm

      Sounds fun, John! Shoot, now I want an English Muffin too…

  5. Mary Babiez says:
    February 20, 2013 at 7:44 pm

    Kathryn, your article comes to me at the perfect time. I launched a new business 6 months ago, and am just about to revise my product names and descriptions. I’ve been caught up in the SEO factor coupled with the need to do all of my own copywriting and I think my product names and descriptions have suffered. I will take your advice very much to heart as I work on my revisions. Thanks for a very informative article and for providing great real commerce examples.

    • February 20, 2013 at 8:41 pm

      I’m glad it helps, Mary! It’s hard getting everything done when you’re a solopreneur, but it sounds like you know what’s next. That’s half the battle. Good luck!

  6. February 19, 2013 at 8:26 pm

    What a delightful post to read…. as an Ozzie we like things a bit more low key, but you have to admit that these are tantalizing descriptions… and I WOULD buy that tea based on that description….

    When we are writing about products for affiliate marketing we need to stop and consider the tips here, not just write about features and benefits… besides anything else, it would make the writing A LOT MORE FUN to do!!!

    • February 20, 2013 at 9:51 am

      Great insight, Helene. It does take more work… but the results are worth it. Thanks for your kind comment!

  7. February 17, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    I found this fantastic article through a share on Facebook from a marketing friend I know through Chicagoland’s Sharpest Entrepreneurs (our local Glazer-Kennedy style marketing membership group). I was very impressed by the way you tied together some of the primary concepts I’ve learned from various teachers and coaches. Plus you gave such great practical examples – the best way to really get the concept across! I am subscribing to your newsletter and will also be looking for ways to incorporate some of this information into my forthcoming book, “Get Your Message Into Their Brains”. Thank you!

    • February 18, 2013 at 8:20 am

      Susan, that’s terrific! I’m happy to have you on board with the C4 Report… and I look forward to seeing your book.

  8. Luis says:
    February 16, 2013 at 7:55 am

    Great content. Really enjoyed and found the information very helpful. People buy on emotions and here you give us great tips on how to touch them effectively. Got to your blog through Ryan Deiss newsletter. Many thanks,

    Luis

    • February 16, 2013 at 5:48 pm

      Cool! I’m glad you found it helpful, Luis. Thanks for the heads up about Ryan Deiss’ newsletter.

  9. Carolm says:
    February 15, 2013 at 10:22 pm

    Some of these descriptions I can see are enticing as well as informative, and that is good. For example, the way No4 muffin man wrote his description worked for me.

    Some of the others? Aaah! I would never buy in a fit. For example No1 about the tea. Really? Who would not be either laughing or running away (fleeing) from a description like that.

    There is a name we use for such preposterous over-blown descriptions in Australia, but I couldn’t possibley write it in a Comment.

    • February 15, 2013 at 11:46 pm

      haha! I guess the key is to know your audience. Thanks for commenting, Carolm.

  10. Kalynn says:
    February 15, 2013 at 5:37 pm

    Imagine my great surprise…I followed a link from an email newsletter to this article, taking mental notes on how to apply its concepts while thinking, “This is a really great article. I’m going to share it with some friends.” …when I finally reached the end and saw my friend Kathryn Aragon is the author! This is one of the most valuable articles about creating content that I’ve ever come across. You can bet I’ll be pointing my colleagues here to absorb it.

    • February 15, 2013 at 11:44 pm

      What a nice thing to say, Kalynn! You just made my day. 🙂

  11. January 29, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    This is a really practical article that has already given me some clear ideas re: a pile of writing I’m doing to launch my Life Dreaming Expedition.

    Linking Features and Benefits is great advice and I can already see how I will do this for my copy.

    I also need to be more conscious of making the passive more active!

    Thanks Kathryn for a great article.

    Liz

    • January 29, 2013 at 3:57 pm

      Just those two tips alone will make a big difference. Good luck, Liz.

  12. January 27, 2013 at 6:07 pm

    I’m glad you liked it, Sylvain. It certainly gives you a different way to evaluate a product. 🙂

  13. January 27, 2013 at 6:51 am

    Great post Kathryn, thanks for sharing. Good way to make the internet world and buying stuff more exciting too.

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