Don’t just sell products, narrate them: how to make a good storytelling product description
George Rowlands, Marketing Journalist
People have been telling stories for millennia. Indeed, the only way we can trace the history of humankind so far back is because of the stories and illustrations that our earliest ancestors etched into cave walls. In the 21st century technology has constantly changed how we consume it, but our love for this great art remains unchanged.
Marketers have even started using it to become more insightful, to build empathy, and to access their customers emotionally. What"s more... it works. Consumers seem to respond well when they are met with Aristotle"s familiar points of plot, character, theme, diction, melody, decor, and spectacle.
A GOOD STORY ALWAYS WORKS
It works when there is a life story
In 1999, British-American rapper, Slick Rick, released his seminal album "The Art of Storytelling". The way Rick churns out rhyme after rhyme detailing his life, crimes, and subsequent arrest is done in such an inspiring way that you"re ready to listen to the next track before the previous one has even finished. He might not be the perfect role model for your children, but he is nothing short of a modern pioneer of storytelling in today"s popular culture.
It works when we desperately want to know what will happen next
The storyline of "Game of Thrones" is a jam packed with characters, plots, and further sub-plots. Every episode is left on a cliffhanger, and so us viewers are marooned without an ending to the story of the episode. We"re gripped. We"re left with no choice but to tune in next week to find out if so and so dies, or if the emotionally-tortured princess is going to run away with the brave knight.
It works when there is a strong emotional response
Cast your mind back to your childhood, how many of your most poignant memories are connected to the stories you were told? When you were lying in bed listening to The Very Hungry Caterpillar behind tired eyes; tearing up when Mufasa dies in The Lion King; or reading about Harry Potter,a seemingly average boy caught up in the most magical world, from cover to cover in a single day. These are unforgettable, life-changing experiences where the emotions are deeply seeded inside our minds.
Now imagine what could happen if you can bring those same emotions to the surface in your customers; imagine what your brand could achieve.
IT MAKES PRODUCT DESCRIPTIONS ATTRACTIVE
So, Game of Thrones is a binge-worthy smash-hit, Harry Potter is a modern classic to say the least, and Slick Rick is a smooth criminal. But what"s that got to do with marketing, for example, simple office stationery? How do we make, let"s say, a biro pen mean something?
If you"re selling something, you need to believe in it. You need to believe that your product can change the world and if you don"t, you"ve got no chance. When you"re standing nose-to-nose with countless competitors on a congested market, it becomes less of a question of what you"re selling, but more of a question of how you"re selling it.
It"s easy, even lazy, to throw statistics at somebody in a description. A consumer doesn"t care, nor believe, that 100% of customers are happy with this product, that it sells in 195 different countries. Who cares if your product is 99.9% more effective than your last one? It should have been perfect in the first place! No, consumers want feelings; they need a product to be brought to life. A story offers a thread of something, something to hold on to as a product crosses their mind.
There are 26 different letters in the Latin alphabet (across countless languages) and the Oxford English Dictionary estimates that there are over 170,000 different words being used. Now, contrast that with the 10 different digits that we could possibly use to try and sell something and the maths is obvious: a story simply offers more depth than numbers.
YOU CAN TAKE A MORE TRADITIONAL APPROACH...
Of course, the way it looks depends on who is reading your product descriptions. Once you understand this, you have more of an understanding of what the descriptions will look like. A good place to start is with the most common approach, using the classic structure of title, introduction, body of the text, and call to action.
This particular structure is easy to follow and more familiar for both readers and writers, so it works well with product descriptions.
Take a look at this example of a production description that we have broken down for you:
The description made up for Haribo Giant Strawbs
The title is obviously the first thing that any potential customer reads and is their first step on the journey towards purchase. It needs to be punchy and intriguing, and should reference the rest of the description in some way.
The introduction is a way to hook your customers, get them on the end of the line, and then reel them in. It should refer to a totally ordinary situation that makes the reader think "yes, I totally get that, maybe I need this".
The main body takes a step out of fiction and offers more information about the product you have. Humour always helps, and the more poetic you can be with your writing the more it will resonate with customers.
Never be afraid to speak directly to your customers, they are humans after all. Give them something to think about whilst offering more positives about the product. Always use more constructive language; your product should have no negative aspects.
The Call to Action (CTA) is the last thing your customer reads before potentially pushing that magnificent "buy now" button. It needs to be punchy and a direct instruction for the customer to buy the product.
OR TEST THE BOUNDARIES WITH SOMETHING DIFFERENT
Your brand voice depends on who it is speaking to and creativity won"t be found by following simple, rigid structures. The more complicated product descriptions are, the less relatable it becomes for customers. Keep it concise, keep it direct, and do not get sucked into writing a glorified instruction manual for your products.
Take a look at this made-up example for a pair of hiking boots:
Globetreader Boots totally keep out water, give complete traction, allow your feet to breath, and offer you total control and flexibility. Face any terrain. Go anywhere. Step fearlessly into the future of outdoor footwear.
34 words is all it takes to give a reader all of the information they need. There are 3 CTAs and no sign of any "traditional" structure to the text: no title, main body, or conclusion. This simplicity is our cliffhanger, our readers are hooked, eager for more information about an exciting product.
Storytelling is a cost-effective way of providing a unique identity for each of your products, to gain emotional access to your customers, and to add a bit of flamboyance to your web-shop. The structures that we have outlined in this article are not the be-all and end-all of how to create perfect product descriptions, but they"re a good start. Creativity comes from the conflict of ideas, so get started and watch your web-shop flourish.
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