7 Tasty Copywriting Languages

How tasty is your copywriting? Taste-related words and figurative language can be more deliciously persuasive and sumptuously effective than literal words with the same meaning. Words that stimulate taste-activated areas in the brain are known to be associated with emotional processing. Language that frequently uses physical sensations or objects that refer to abstract domains, such as time, understanding or emotion, actually

How tasty is your copywriting? Taste-related words and figurative language can be more deliciously persuasive and sumptuously effective than literal words with the same meaning. Words that stimulate taste-activated areas in the brain are known to be associated with emotional processing. Language that frequently uses physical sensations or objects that refer to abstract domains, such as time, understanding or emotion, actually requires more brainpower, resulting in more engagement and comprehension.

To illustrate the point, the sentence, “She looked at him sweetly,” sparks more brain activity in emotion-based regions, like the amygdala, than, “She looked at him kindly.” Why? Because “sweet” amplifies a more physical experience, according to new research from Princeton University and the Free University of Berlin.

Figurative language can be more persuasive and effective in copywriting because your message is more imaginable in the reader’s mind.

For direct response copy, when practical (and without going overboard), a few tasty, figurative language uses can create more emotional reaction from your prospective customers. Figurative language works because the copy goes beyond the actual meanings of words. This way, the reader gains new insights into the objects or subjects in the work. Here are seven types of figurative language to consider using in copy and messaging.

1. Simile
A simile compares two things using the words “like” and “as.” Examples include:

  • Clean as a whistle
  • Brave as a lion
  • Stand out like a sore thumb

2. Metaphor
When you use a metaphor, you make a statement that doesn’t make literal sense, like “time is a thief.” It only makes sense when the similarities between the two things become apparent or someone understands the connection. Examples include:

  • Time is money
  • He has a heart of stone
  • America is a melting pot

3. Personification
Personification gives human characteristics to inanimate objects, animals or ideas. This can affect the way your customer imagines things. Examples include:

  • Opportunity knocked on the door
  • The sun can greet you tomorrow morning
  • The sky was full of dancing stars

4. Hyperbole
Hyperbole is an outrageous exaggeration that emphasizes a point, and can be ridiculous or funny. Hyperbole is useful in fiction to add color, but should be used sparingly and with caution in marketing copy. Examples are:

  • You snore louder than a freight train.
  • It’s a slow burg. I spent a couple of weeks there one day.
  • You could have knocked me over with a feather.

5. Symbolism
Symbolism occurs when a word which has meaning in itself, but it’s used to represent something entirely different. In this case, work with your graphics team, as images can express symbolism powerfully. Examples are:

  • Using an image of a flag to represent patriotism and a love for one’s country.
  • Using an apple pie to represent an American lifestyle.
  • Using an apple to represent education.

6. Alliteration. Alliteration is a repetition of the first consonant sounds in several words. An example:

  • Wide-eyed and wondering while we wait for the other ones to waken

7. Onomatopoeia. Onomatopoeia is the use of words that sound like their meaning, or mimic sounds. They add a level of fun and reality to writing. Here are some examples:

  • The burning wood hissed and crackled
  • The words: beep, boom, bong, click, clang, click, crunch, gobble, hum, meow, munch, oink, pow, quack, smash, swish, tweet, wham, whoosh, zap and zing.

Regardless of the type of words used, figurative language can help people visualize your product or service more instinctively. With tasty copy, you heighten senses that immerse prospects and customers to more powerfully see themselves possessing what you have to offer.

Is Your Content Fresh, Frequent and Unique?

Today, your content plays a much larger role in getting top search results than ever before; therefore, it may be time to adjust your SEO content. In September 2013, Google unveiled Hummingbird, the single largest revamp of its basic search algorithm in more than 10 years. The intent of this major change was to improve the speed and precision of the processing. It was also designed to address the changes in searcher behavior as search volumes continue to shift from desktop computers to mobile devices.

Today, your content plays a much larger role in getting top search results than ever before; therefore, it may be time to adjust your SEO content. In September 2013, Google unveiled Hummingbird, the single largest revamp of its basic search algorithm in more than 10 years. The intent of this major change was to improve the speed and precision of the processing. It was also designed to address the changes in searcher behavior as search volumes continue to shift from desktop computers to mobile devices.

Hummingbird uses signals derived from the query and the user’s behavior to assist in delivering a result that quickly and precisely answers what the user really wants to find. When users search on mobile devices, they are frequently asking specific questions in conversational language: “Where is the nearest flower shop?” or “How many miles to … ?” Hummingbird was designed to address these natural language questions and provide specific and precise answers. To be found relevant, your content must address the needs of searchers for real information.

Although Hummingbird is expected to impact 90 percent of searches, many marketers are unaware of its influence on their search traffic. No significant shifts in Web traffic were reported worldwide after its launch. This is because the impact on most well-optimized sites was negligible. This should not be interpreted as a license to maintain the status quo on your search efforts. As users become more accustomed to receiving quality results from their conversational search queries, they will expect content that is honed to specifically address the questions that they form into queries.

To meet these expectations, your content should present answers to the types of questions that might be posed in a search query. It should be rich in useful information that is presented clearly. If you expect your content to appear near the top of the search results, it must meet these three criteria: fresh, frequent and unique. Over time, we can expect to see steadily improving search results for sites that understand and actualize these content requirements.

Fresh content does not necessarily mean that all of your content must be new. If you previously developed, as part of your search program, evergreen pieces, such as “frequently asked questions” or how-to articles, you should revisit them and check how long they have been on your site. Would they benefit from an update or a revision, or just a reformatting? For Google, fresh content is better than stale content. Just as no one really wants to read the stale magazines in the doctor’s waiting room; they don’t want the digital equivalent delivered in response to their search queries. Google obliges this by screening for the newest, freshest content. Now is the time to refresh those evergreen content pieces, even if you have not seen a negative shift in your search volumes. You may be able to capture additional visitors who are seeking answers to those questions that you have cleverly addressed.

Because frequency is another criterion used to evaluate the value of your content, you should be sure to have a schedule for adding more content and for refreshing older pieces. Take a lesson from the success of blog sites. Those with frequent posts of fresh content are rewarded with more search traffic than those with just a few stale posts. Consider how you might apply the same principles to content additions to your website.

Your content must also be unique—not just an aging chestnut. Avoid stale recitations or rehashes of information. Ask yourself: “Does this provide something that is new, unique—or is it just content for the sake of content?” For search success in the future, you will need to pay close attention to your content strategy and deliver fresh, frequent and unique content.

On LinkedIn, Who’s the Boss of You?

I approached my employees and asked them how they’d feel if I asked them to revise their profiles and use “brand language” that I provided. For many, they felt the request was invasive, and it indicated that I was too controlling (there’s a shocker). But if one of my company’s goals is to present a unified brand front in every channel, how much responsibility should an employee take towards supporting that objective?

There’s no doubt that business to business interactions have shifted to the social media marketplace—especially when researching a company, its executive team or an individual you’d like to contact.

On any journey of discovery, you might start by visiting the organization’s website, subscribe to an RSS feed on their press releases, follow them on Twitter and check out their Facebook page. And eventually, like any good voyeur, you’ll review profiles of key executives on LinkedIn.

But many potential buyers/sellers take it one step farther—and start investigating the profiles of other employees of an organization. After all, if you’re trying to get an introduction into the company, it helps to know if you’re connected to someone (or know someone who knows someone) already employed at your target business.

Those in business development functions will tell you that LinkedIn is their new best friend. It’s a virtual cornucopia of names, titles, functional responsibilities and, if you do a little additional sleuthing, one could assemble a virtual org chart for any business.

If LinkedIn is used so heavily, and if brand perceptions are shaped by every interaction with that brand, just how heavy handed could you (or should you) get around your employee’s LinkedIn profile?

I approached my employees and asked them how they’d feel if I asked them to revise their profiles and use “brand language” that I provided. For many, they felt the request was invasive, and it indicated that I was too controlling (there’s a shocker) or was being an overly micro-managing boss. Another commented that any profile written by me wouldn’t sound authentic.

But if one of my company’s strategic positioning goals is to present a unified brand front in every channel, how much responsibility should an employee take towards helping to support that objective? Could it be viewed as a workplace responsibility akin to giving feedback/coaching on how to answer their business phone?

As one employee noted, your Facebook profile is personal, and since you have to “invite” or “approve” friends, you don’t have to worry about who might be looking at it. But LinkedIn is a very public forum, open to anyone who registers an account.

I might argue that, as an employee, if you’re not looking for work, your LinkedIn profile could be crafted with a goal of supporting your company’s strategic goals. If I wanted to demonstrate to potential customers that I had engineers on staff with an immense depth and breadth of experience, for example, should I “coach” my engineers on their LinkedIn profiles? Should I help those engineers craft language in their Summary statements or within their job responsibilities to ensure it will bode well for my firm?

Reid Hoffman, cofounder of LinkedIn, offers an interesting perspective in his book “The Start-up of You.” He suggests that you “establish an identity independent of your employer, city and industry. For example, make the headline of your LinkedIn profile not a specific job title … but personal-brand or asset focused … that way, you’ll have a professional identity that can carry with you as you shift jobs. You own yourself.”

Hmmm … weight that advice from a guy who currently labels himself “Entrepreneur. Product Strategist. Investor.”

Jeff Weiner, on the other hand, labels himself “CEO at LinkedIn,” and his job description sounds like a strategically driven, carefully crafted marketing message: “Connecting the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful. Since joining the company in December, 2008, LinkedIn has increased its membership base from 33 million to over 300 million members, increased revenue by over 20x, and rapidly expanded its global platform to include 23 languages and operate in 27 cities around the world.”

It’s no surprise to me that it closely mirrors the company’s description of itself on the LinkedIn Company page.

And that’s my point exactly.

But if you’re not Jeff Weiner posting your profile on the site that your company owns, should you (could you) influence/demand/suggest that the description of the company you work for, or the summary of your skills at that company, be in words that you dictate/control?

Or would this heavy handedness be just another disingenuous marketing attempt? Like trying to start a conversation in a LinkedIn Group on a particular topic just so you can demonstrate your or your company’s, expertise in that arena?

I could argue either way … but I’m more interested in hearing your thoughts on the subject.

How an Already Damaged Reputation Got Worse and Worse

We’ve all witnessed how impaired corporate or brand image can undermine both consumer trust and financial performance. Recently, Target’s CEO was relieved of his duties because of the massive customer account security breach which occurred during his watch. The poster child of negative reputation, at least in the U.S., has been British Petroleum. BP’s then-president of U.S. operations was forced from office because of some ill-conceived and dismissive language, and BP’s corporate behavior since the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster has been of little help in image recovery.

We’ve all witnessed how impaired corporate or brand image can undermine both consumer trust and financial performance. Recently, Target’s CEO was relieved of his duties because of the massive customer account security breach which occurred during his watch. The poster child of negative reputation, at least in the U.S., has been British Petroleum. BP’s then-president of U.S. operations was forced from office because of some ill-conceived and dismissive language, and BP’s corporate behavior since the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster has been of little help in image recovery.

British Petroleum has recently “celebrated” four years of cleanup and payout in the Gulf by announcing the end of active cleanup of the 500 miles of coastline from Louisiana to Florida, the result of 87 consecutive days of oil pouring from the Deepwater Horizon rig of its Macondo Project. After dealing with issues over the health and economic impact by setting up a multibillion-dollar cleanup fund, conducting a massive image PR repair campaign, and paying huge federal fines, BP had originally agreed to keep its corporate cash register open for environmental and business claims as long as they were what the company termed as “legitimate.” Though this began as an eagerness to address and settle these damages as a way to manage its impaired reputation, it has now devolved into legal, and very public, name-calling between BP and claimants.

Not including Federal fines, BP’s payout to Gulf Region businesses and residents has thusfar totaled almost $10 billion. The sheer volume and financially cascading nature of these claims, it turns out, was way beyond BP’s reckoning; and the company began to openly challenge many of them as “nonexistent and artificially calculated” in court. In mid-2013, BP even took out full-page ads in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The New York Times, claiming that attorneys were filing dubious and hyper-inflated claims on behalf of Gulf-area businesses. As stated by a BP spokesperson at the time, “The litigation is seeking to rectify the misinterpretations of the settlement that have led to inflated, exaggerated or wholly fictitious claims … will continue unabated.” Not exactly image-restoring language, and a direct slap at the federal judge who drafted the financial agreement.. By the Fall of 2013, BP’s attorneys were appealing one out of every five claims received.

BP was also receiving massive negative publicity due to both real and suspected improprieties among its legal staff involved in processing claims, with one lawyer fired for accepting fees from claimants and another lawyer resigning. The suspicions were so strong that the Freeh Group, a firm headed by former FBI director Louis Freeh, was brought in (by a consortium of attorneys and BP) to investigate. Numerous “inappropriate” actions by the claims department were uncovered in the investigation; and one sidebar result was that, following the publication of its report, the Freeh Group took a more visible and active role in overseeing claims.

One result of this outside claims takeover has been more rigorous inspection of individual claims, even taking back payments (which Freeh’s team was empowered to do), if the original payment was deemed excessive or illegitimate. BP has been public about its support of the added scrutiny; while area attorneys and local government and other civic officials have noted how this has stifled claims filings.

Still, even as BP has pulled back in the Gulf, and gotten people to stop filing, it has left continued sore feelings by claimants, and those whose claims are either under investigation or still yet to be resolved. An example of this is a shrimper from Slidell. After extensive documentation consisting of multiple years of tax returns, financial statements and shrimping reports showing the vast sums the Louisiana shrimper had lost over several seasons, directly as a result of the Deepwater Horizon spill, he was paid about 7 percent of what had been claimed. To keep his business going, he had to take out loans. He also refiled his claim, but BP delayed it by beginning yet another investigation into his filing papers. As he told the area press: “BP is giving me the runaround.” Is this really the way to reclaim trust and bring back its image?

Timing Really Is Everything

The recent flaps over mailings sent out by Republican fundraisers reminded me of a rule put forth years ago by the late Dick Benson: “Direct mail should be scrupulously honest.” In case you don’t know, here’s the skinny. First, the use of the word “Census” on mailings by the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee led to Congressional passage of a bill last month that required new, clarifying language on the outer.

The recent flaps over mailings sent out by Republican fundraisers reminded me of a rule put forth years ago by the late Dick Benson: “Direct mail should be scrupulously honest.”

In case you don’t know, here’s the skinny. First, the use of the word “Census” on mailings by the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee led to Congressional passage of a bill last month that required new, clarifying language on the outer. Apparently, there had been some concern that people would mistake these efforts for the big Census Bureau mailing that was due to drop. Then, someone who actually had that complaint called the number on the RNC’s donation form, only to discover that it was for a phone sex line. Coming on the heels of news about lavish RNC spending, it’s been a tough few weeks for the party.

It’s easy to dismiss the second problem as merely a vendor mistake, one that appeared on only some of the mailings. It’s also easy to brush aside criticism of using “Census” on the outer. After all, it’s legal — it had passed muster with the USPS. And, it doesn’t really look like the Census mailer. It’s pretty obvious when opened that it’s just another issues poll, with leading questions, and a request for money. There’s nothing wrong with that, both parties have been mailing surveys for many years.

But it illustrates a bigger problem. A great national political party shouldn’t rely on a gimmick, like putting “Census”, or the IRS form — like “(2009) Return Enclosed” on the outer envelope to get someone to open it. Seriously, no one at the RNC thought this through, and saw this bad publicity coming? And, given how some of the Republican base feels about the Census, and especially, the IRS, it’s an especially puzzling choice of a teaser.

Twenty-five years ago, in the newsletter Who’s Mailing What!, Roger Craver wrote that to have a successful direct mail appeal, the “donors of principle,” the heart of any political organization, must be motivated by writing that conveys mission, selectivity, urgent need and effectiveness. The GOP was way ahead of the Democratic Party in this regard for decades, but as shown in the 2008 presidential race, not anymore. It’s going to be very interesting to see how both parties will energize the faithful in this election year.

Easy Fixes for Your Website Mistakes

Target Marketing presented a webinar on Oct. 13 titled 10 Mistakes Your Website Is Making (And How to Fix Them). Speakers included Amy Schade, a director at the Nielsen Norman Group, and Matt Poepsel, vice president of performance strategies at Gomez, which was also the sponsor. I moderated.

Target Marketing presented a webinar on Oct. 13 titled 10 Mistakes Your Website Is Making (And How to Fix Them). Speakers included Amy Schade, a director at the Nielsen Norman Group, and Matt Poepsel, vice president of performance strategies at Gomez, which was also the sponsor. I moderated.

Since the topic turned out to be very popular — more than 500 attendees listened in and stayed for the duration of the 60-minute presentation — I thought I’d present the mistakes discussed. Here, I’ll discuss the first five mistakes, which were all presented by Amy. The last five mistakes, which were presented by Amy and Matt, will follow next week. (To tune in to a replay of the presentation, register here.)

Mistake 1: Believing people read what you write. Users don’t read; they scan, Schade said. As a result, when writing copy for the web, simple and straightforward are best.

Mistake 2: Reflecting your priorities, not your users’. Balance your goals and your users’ goals, Schade said. While you may want to promote your latest offer, sell off inventory, promote your brand or collect leads, your users probably want to get the answers to specific questions or get in and out of your site quickly.

Mistake 3: Ignoring standards. Some design elements on web pages already work and are de facto standards, Schade said. The search box, for example, is usually located in the upper right-hand corner of a web page. When a search box is moved to another spot on a page, this may give users the impression that a site is trying to hide the search box or that the search isn’t very good.

You don’t want to convey that information just because you changed the design location of where something appears on the page, Schade said. There’s room for creativity in web design, but make sure any new designs you try are usable.

Mistake 4: Using the wrong images. While pictures can go a long way on a website in terms of conveying information and getting users interested in your site, products or services, you don’t want to use the wrong ones, Schade said.

Examples of the wrong images include the following:
• generic or stock art;
• boring graphics;
• images that are not related to content; and
• graphics that look like ads.

The right images, on the other hand, include the following:
• images that are related to content;
• images that are clear and the right size; and
• pictures of approachable, real people.

Mistake 5: Not speaking your customers’ language
. It’s so easy getting caught up in the lingo and language used internally at your company when writing web copy; you forget about your users’ perspectives, Schade said. Big mistake. Instead, always think about how users may define or categorize your merchandise. Good places for inspiration on this front are your product reviews. Since they’re provided by users, they speak your users’ language.