I don’t know about you but there are times when I need a little copywriting inspiration.
In fact, I’m constantly looking for inspiration. Whether it’s magazine cover headlines, comedy writer Twitter feeds, or other company websites.
Because it’s too easy to get in a writing or design rut – especially when you’ve got yourself psyched up to deliver on conversions. It can start to feel a bit like painting by numbers if you’re not careful.
And, the problem with writing that becomes formulaic is that it… well... it can sound formulaic. With all the competition on the web, growing a business that connects with its customers requires showing some personality and a little oomph.
That’s why I’ve decided to raid my swipe files to show you how three companies are turning heads and building their brands with their copy.
Manpacks is a subscription based company that ships basic health and toiletry items to men on a regular basis. Pretty much anything that a man doesn’t want or can’t be bothered to think about buying for himself that he uses on a daily basis they supply.
Underwear, shaving cream, condoms: it doesn’t make for the sexiest or interesting of mail order packages. Except, the guys at Manpacks have been able to do just that with their copy.
How? They understand their target audience and speak their language
“Men hate to shop.” Yeah, that pretty much sums up my experience with men too. They keep the copy short, to the point and don’t mince words. “Call us busy, call us lazy, but facts are facts…”
The copy is a little brusque, in your face, and unapologetic. Basically, it’s exactly what you’d expect from a man who has no interest in keeping the necessities in stock.
The home page echoes this sentiment…
Why is this copy sticky?
With lines like “Powered by Gin & Tonics and IPAs” Manpacks taps into how their target audience identifies with itself, i.e. if you’re the kind of guy who drinks gin and tonics and IPAs, you’ll be a good fit for Manpacks. Mixed drinks and craft beers creates a visual association.
We know from years of psychological research that people identify themselves with brands.
… recent research indicates that consumers construct their self-identity and present themselves to others through their brand choices based on the congruency between brand-user associations and self-image associations (Escalas and Bettman 2003)
In a nutshell, we buy products not just for what they do but also for what they symbolize to ourselves and the outside world.
One of the places where a lot of companies fall down with their copy (and design for that matter) is leaving out the human element. Creating a connection with your customers doesn’t mean you necessarily have to be edgy or humorous.
You simply need to inject a personal touch, a conversational tone… something that gives your visitors an idea of who the people are that run your business and what you believe in. That’s exactly what the folks over at Zirtual do.
How? They tell a story
Zirtual matches virtual assistants to busy entrepreneurs, parents, or anyone who has too many tasks on their plates. Their Our Story pages taps into the why behind what makes the company special.
Take a look at what is essentially Zirtual’s About Page. When was the last time you read a headline, “Like a lot of great stories… it started in Vegas,” and didn’t keep reading? The headline of the page draws you in and paints a visual in your head along the lines of the now famous (or infamous) ad for Las Vegas.
“Zirtual was birthed during a late night brainstorming sesh in 24-hour cafe on the Las Vegas strip.” I’m still intrigued after this first line, wanting to know why the founder is up all night and how it relates to virtual assistants.
Why is this copy sticky?
If you hadn’t already guessed it, stories help people relate to and remember ideas better. They also take what’s on the page and make them feel real.
The cognitive psychologist, Keith Oatley from the University of Toronto, proposes that reading creates a reality that “runs on minds of readers just as computer simulations run on computers.” Basically, the regions of the brain stimulated by actual experiences and those read about are the same.
Giving people a story to read makes for an experience they can internalize and keep with them.
Socks. They’re not an item of clothing that screams excitement, fun… or hipness. I’d venture to say that a lot of people don’t think too much about what their foot apparel looks like.
Getting people to pay for new socks by mail on a monthly basis – no matter how cool they are – seems like a stretch.
But the folks over at Foot Cardigan, a subscription business based only on socks (yeah, you heard me), has made it their business proposition. How do you make the need for socks – and only socks – feel like a want?
How? They do something unexpected
In the case of Foot Cardigan, they write irresistibly engaging and borderline absurd copy. Think landing in the middle of a Saturday Night Live sketch only to find that sock subscriptions from these guys are a real thing.
The copy speaks to the adult kid in all of us that would consider playing “the sock lottery” a completely worthwhile investment.
‘Cause having a random pair of socks show up in your mailbox each month may not entirely make sense to your left brain but your right side is digging it.
Why is this copy sticky?
In the book, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, the authors discuss the notion that breaking a pattern is a surefire way to get someone’s attention. Change the sound of the ringtone on your phone and you may jump the next time it goes off. The same goes for an expected narrative.
Foot Cardigan disrupts our expectation of selling something utilitarian. The copy forces you to do a double take then uses wit and humor to frame the benefits.
Sticky copy can take you a long way but…
Tapping into your customers’ voice, telling a story, and being unexpected in your copy are terrific ways to get your message across and have it stick. But, translating that into clicks and conversions is an entirely other matter.
Remember that what works for one site or landing page may not work for another. Always do your customer research and test.
And, keep your swipe files filled. You never know when you need a good ol’ dose of inspiration.