Want to be a better writer? Read. That’s a given. The more you read and comprehend what others have written, the more you can discern the good from the bad or various techniques that packed a punch.
But what should you read?
Should you read textbooks and manuals for some how-to tips? Should you read fiction and creative works to pick up better storytelling tricks? Should you read more poetry to learn timbre and pentameter?
I read product packaging… and you should too.
The labels and descriptions on all sorts of packaging can teach you a great deal about how to interest, compel and encourage readers to become buyers.
Pick up a stereo box from a store. What does the description say? How is it worded? Do you feel that it’s a good stereo to buy just from what you read? If you answer yes, then the copywriter who has penned the words of watts and woofers has effectively done a good job. Learn from that individual.
Let’s have a little fun with something close to home. Grab a bottle of hand soap. Jergens Sensations will do. Now take a look at the back label:
Energize your senses with the exotic infusion of crushed Green Tea and fresh, delicate Lemon Verbena.
That sounds nice – real nice. Why? What words are making the difference? How are they presented to you, oh reader with dirty hands? All the label is really saying is, “This product contains Green Tea and Lemon Verbena,” or something close to that.
What else is happening? Take a look at the choice of words: exotic, infusion, delicate – pretty mood-inspiring words, aren’t they?
That little piece of copy is selling you on a feeling. That label is telling you that these tempting scents are special, that they’ll wake you up and leave you feeling like you could run a mile. Just a sniff will do you right.
This rich, luxurious formula envelops your hands in a refreshing bouquet while gently cleansing your skin. Your hands are left feeling clean, soft and freshly scented.
Alright. They’re laying it on thick in that paragraph, but take a look at what’s being said, especially the last sentence. Passive language isn’t very strong at all in writing, and it’s a better idea to have some action going on, but the last words you’re left with after reading are key.
Why isn’t the first sentence important? Well, it is. There are some descriptive words, like rich and luxurious, and there are the benefits of this product, the gentle cleaning. (Fast Orange works great, but do you really want that scratchy pumice rubbed into your tender skin?)
Something else is important, too. The copy on the label presents an emotional feeling, a literal hand-washing story that leaves you with a true sense of “aaahhh.”
But the last sentence counts a great deal. Clean. Soft. Freshly scented. Those words tell you what you’ll get from this product. It’s the marketing promise, the end result.
In three sentences, this label has told you a story, played up your emotions, created a mood and told you exactly what the product delivers. No more, no less.
Can you do the same? Can you take mosquito repellant, for example, and make a consumer want to buy itin three sentences or less?
Go on. Take a shot at it in the comment section. Let’s see how compelling you can be.