How to Make Anything Sound Cool

By Anna Goldsmith
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The other day I bought a new toothbrush because it had “DualAction cleaning power.” “This must be way better than my current toothbrush,” I remember thinking.

It wasn’t. In fact, it wasn’t really much different except the bristles had a vague hourglass shape instead of the standard pill shape of most toothbrushes (with UniAction cleaning power?).

As a professional copywriter, I should be immune to these cool-sounding, made-up words and phrases, since I’m often the one making them up. But I’m not immune: They get me every time.

I used to work at Brookstone, spending my days coming up with phrases like this. I’d walk in many mornings greeted by a stack of new products on my desk. My first reaction was almost always the same: “Why on earth would anyone want this?” I knew that when I convinced myself I wanted it, I’d nailed the copy.

One such item that comes to mind was a heavy metal bottle cap opener shaped like a circle. All I knew about it was that it was made in Germany. At the end of my writing session, this bottle opener was a feat of German engineering and suddenly I really wanted one.

So what’s the secret to making anything sound way cooler/more impressive than it actually is?

Let’s take our clues from two product categories famous for their “buy-me, buy-me” language: razors and hair conditioner.

Razors

Don’t be afraid to make up words by pushing two familiar words together or using the prefix “Dual,” “Uni” or “Pro.” Stumped? Just throw in one (or all) of these words: advanced, action, system, revolutionary. Let’s take a look:

  • That little plastic tube that keeps water flowing through the razor becomes … a “Hydro 5 Hydrating Reservoir.”
  • Three blades instead of the standard two? That’s a revolutionary triple-blade shaving system.
  • Four blades? That, my friend, is the awesome shaving power of a “Quattro.”

Hair Conditioner

Use words that make a woman feel like her hair is either:

a) A baby: You don’t wash hair. You nourish it with a gentle touch to discover the silky perfection of new life.

OR

b) A bad relationship. But luckily, you can repair the damage of years of neglect and transform/reinvigorate the distressing effect of dry, dull [hair] by discovering the basic elements [hair] needs to thrive.

Some days I wish my talents laid elsewhere and I did something more important with my time. But mostly, I just feel lucky that I get to have fun at work. The kind of DualAction fun that continually replenishes me with pure botanical extracts.

Get Your Hands Off My Taquitos

By Anna Goldsmith
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Dear Trader Joe’s,

I recently learned that you do basically zero advertising. I get it: Why waste money on print ads and circulars when you have a legion of rabid brand ambassadors talking up your plantain chips on the playground and telling people it is “totally worth the two-hour roundtrip drive” to go to the nearest Trader Joe’s? I’m very familiar with these brand ambassadors because I am one.

I’m maybe not as crazy about your store as this guy, but in an average month, I probably say, “I LOVE Trader Joe’s” five to 17 times. This is important for you to know, because what I have to say next might hurt a little:

While you may not need to advertise, your packaging could use some serious work. It’s very inconsistent. Some is great — your tissue box comes immediately to mind. You choose to give a voice to the tissue with clever messages on each side of the box.

I’m there when you need to pick up icky things. Kindly, Tissue.”

“I’m there when you run out of toilet paper. You’re welcome, Tissue.”

And so on.

This reinforces your image as “friendly” and “quirky,” and serves to increase sales by cleverly reminding the potential buyer that tissue is for more than blowing noses.

Great idea!

But not so great? The packaging on your Black Bean & Cheese Taquitos. Seriously, it makes me want to throw up. I’m sure they’re delicious, but they’ve sat in my freezer ever since I read the word “Handcrafted” on the package. All I can think of is, “Have those hands been washed?” And, “What else have they touched besides my taquitos?”

As a seasoned catalog writer, I can see what drew you to “handcrafted” — in most cases, it is an excellent “buy” word. It elevates the product by reminding the consumer that in this high-speed, impersonal world, there’s a real person — an artist, maybe — who cares about us and is committed to quality.

This approach works wonders if you’re selling a sweater, but not a frozen food product. And if you don’t know how to fix this little problem, give me a call. I’d be willing to work on trade.

Love,

A Rabid Fan

What does it mean to brand yourself?

By Anna Goldsmith
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If you were a brand, what brand would you be? Apple? Harley? Um … Tide? (This Tide commercial is great.) I know: This sounds like an exercise just made for a corporate retreat … right before the “trust falls.” But in our 2.0 world, where the professional and personal are colliding like never before, it’s not a bad idea to check in with yourself. Or, your many selves … your work self, your Facebook self, your Twitter self, your too-many-drinks-at-the company-holiday-party self. 

Dr. Judith Sills wrote an interesting article about how to become your own brand. See what you think — do you need a little brand management?