Lessons Learned About Catalog Copywriting

One of the great things about our work at The Hired Pens is the variety of projects. On any given week, I might be working on a website, brochure, newsletter and feature article.

One type of work that rarely enters the mix is writing for catalogs. That’s Anna’s bag. She’s had dozens of catalog assignments for clients like Hasbro, Stride Rite and Brookstone. So she knows all about writing hundreds of clever little product descriptions in a short time span.

Recently, we landed a new client – a major shoe and apparel manufacturer. The assignment: Write 60-word descriptions for roughly 250 products. I was one of three writers on the project, so I took on about 80 products.

At first, I felt a bit out of my comfort zone. How can you come up with something unique and witty to say about wristbands? Or the 12th pair of running shoes that you’ve written about today?

Eventually, though, I got into a groove. I knocked off my group over the course of about a week. Here are some lessons I learned about catalog copywriting along the way.

1. Get started first thing in the morning.
When it comes to writing that puts a premium on creativity, I’m most productive in the a.m. hours. From 9 to noon, I plowed through the descriptions. But if I tried to go back to the work late in the afternoon, my pace ground to a halt. At that point, my time was best spent on other projects.

2. Don’t just sit there – write something.
Sure, you can spend 10 minutes staring at a photo of a handbag. Or, you can start typing and see what comes out. By letting my mind go and improvising, I was able to come up with some great ideas. And some lame ones, too. But that’s OK. It’s all part of the process.

3. Find an angle and then tell a story.
Good catalog copy doesn’t just describe product features. Rather, it tells a story about the person who buys the product. For instance, what kind of reaction will you create by wearing these awesomely fashionable shoes to the club tonight? Or, imagine the fear in the goalie’s eyes as you sprint down the field wearing these high-end soccer cleats. Those are the types of scenarios that pique the reader’s interest.

Now we’re in the midst of project No. 2 with our new client. I’m happy to say this one’s been much easier (and more enjoyable) than the first.

Do you have any tips about catalog copywriting? Let us know.

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