Somewhere between the golden age of advertising in the 60s and now, we’ve lost something. The internet, despite its wondrous benefits, has turned advertising – a word that used to invoke pride, cunning, allure – into the exact opposite: marketing.
The medium and the volume, along with ever-increasing competition and ever-decreasing attention span, has cheapened what used to be an art.
Companies are desperate to capture attention and will do so by whatever means possible, whether that’s a pop-up ad, a “follow-back” Instagram giveaway or a clickbait headline.
Copywriting has suffered the most. Despite everyone becoming a self-proclaimed “storyteller” these days, we have little to say beyond “Buy now and save $45.”
In creating and marketing my own products over the years, I’ve learned that small choices make all the difference between “sales-y” copy and copy that sells.
Start with the most straightforward option
Cheesiness usually comes from trying too hard. We’re trying to be clever or trying to get sales or trying to sound smart and it usually results in the opposite. Take that pressure off yourself and start simple.
If you're marketing a product, the best approach is to simply lead with the benefit. Take the thing you’re writing about and distill it down to what makes it valuable. Write that down in a sentence. Refine from there.
As an example, let’s take one of our Semplice marketing pages promoting features for Studios and agencies. One benefit of Semplice, for this audience, is the ability to create landing pages quickly for campaigns.
In that section, we could have easily used a headline like: “Made for marketing”
It’s simple, it’s alliterative, it has a nice ring to it, right? But it’s not really telling us much about the value of this offering.
Instead we use the headline: “Create landing pages in minutes.”
It’s not fancy or clever, but you understand the benefit immediately. This headline implies Semplice is made for marketing projects by explaining exactly how.
Avoid these worn-out phrases
Here I’ll use the fake product name, Torte, as an example.
“With Torte, everything is easier.” - Any sentence that starts out “With X product name,” followed by a benefit, sounds sales-y right from the start. We already know you’re talking about Torte. Cut the first part and lead with the benefit.
“Buy now” - This phrase is so embedded in our brains, most of us automatically default to it when writing marketing copy. If you want to avoid sounding like an As Seen on TV product from the 90s, don’t use it. Go with Upgrade, Purchase, Add to Cart, Subscribe, Join – whatever makes sense for your product. The words “buy” and “now” make you sound like some hair-growth product sold on the Shopping Network.
“More than a cake pan” - This is a lazy way to say you’re actually selling me a cake pan. Take a walk and you’ll see “More than an X” on billboards, shop signs, posters, everywhere. Sure, your cake pan might also work well for brownies. Sure, your pool supply company might also offer decorative lawn ornaments. But telling me you’re “more than” what you are doesn’t actually tell me anything.
"For just $9.99" - Again, we left this in the As Seen on TV era. Remove the word "just" and your trust factor automatically goes up.
Your button text is more important than you think
Button text is underrated. Most of us don’t think too much about it, but it can change the whole feel of your marketing page and mean the difference between a drop-off and a new customer. It can also cheapen your product, if you’re not careful.
I’m sure someone could point to an A/B test where the phrase “Buy Now” led to more conversions, but I’d argue it’s never elevated a brand. Whenever possible, be as specific as possible with your button text.
Instead of “See More” use “View Demos”
Rather than “Purchase” use “Choose Size”
Instead of “Buy Now” use “Add to Cart”
Rather than “See All” use “Shop all Backpacks”
This helps you avoid sounding cheap and what’s more, it’s best UX practice. You user should always know exactly what to expect when they click a button, and “Add to Bag” accomplishes that much better than “Buy Now.”
It’s important to understand we are not trying to be more creative or artsy with our word choice. I’m not suggesting “Explore More” instead of “Learn More” just for the sake of switching it up. I’m recommending specificity, whenever possible.
Shorter isn’t always better
We’re inclined to think the shortest option is the best option. And a lot of the times, that’s true. But when it comes to headlines, our attempts to be concise can lead to meaningless, clichéd copy.
Read these headlines and tell me what I’m offering you:
"We've got you covered."
“Made for you.”
“Better than ever.”
Yes, some of this depends on the context. But we can still likely do better.
Apple has made us believe the best headlines say nothing more than “Bigger. Better.” And it can work. But don’t feel the pressure to make short punchy headlines when a longer headline would set your product up more effectively. If you find you need a subhead for every headline to explain what the headline means, your headline is probably weak – and your reader is probably annoyed.
For more advice on UX & marketing copywriting, read these articles: