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.
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.”
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.
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.