How to write product descriptions that appeal to the senses

July 15, 2010 by Dean Rieck
Filed under: Copywriting Tips 

acme catalog

I’m really starting to like Sally Bagshaw.

She has a knack for writing about writing in a way that’s fun and helpful.

Here’s Sally’s latest contribution to Pro Copy Tips for those of you who want to polish your product descriptions.

***

Writing product descriptions can be fun. It can also be mind numbingly boring, especially when you have a heap to do.

Products that are generic, or can be used by anyone, tend to be the most difficult to describe.

How do you tailor a message that speaks equally to a teenager, a stay-at-home mother and a granny?

Here’s a hint: Focus on the senses.

Did you know we use our senses to learn?

What’s more, we all favor different senses? That’s why there are different types of learners.

Personally, I’m a visual learner. I can understand a problem or concept if I can see or read it. Flowcharts are my savior. I love books. I want to take things apart to see how they work.

On the flip side, I’m terrible with remembering names when I’m introduced to someone. In fact, unless I write the name down (or see it written down), it’s as good as lost.

There are also auditory learners (they like hearing things and never forget a name spoken to them), kinetic learners (they like to touch things), olfactory learners (they go by smell) and gustatory learners (it’s all about taste).

Writing to appeal to the senses

You may be thinking, “This is all well and good, but what has it got to do with writing product descriptions?”

Glad you asked.

We naturally write with our own learning style in mind. For instance, if you asked me to write a product description for a rose, I would probably get carried away describing what it looked like, yet leave out what it smelled like.

The end result would be a description that would only appeal to other visual learners.

In order to get everyone to sit up and take notice, the trick is to appeal to all the senses, not just the one you prefer.

Let’s pretend you are selling sunscreen …

It’s a pretty common product that anyone can buy and use so you have to appeal to a wide audience.

Here goes:

Coconut crush sunscreen offers you year-round protection from UVA and UVB rays. Light and non-greasy, this non-whitening sunscreen is easy to apply and leaves your skin feeling soft and smooth with a hint of coconut fragrance.

It’s stylishly packaged in a recycled PET pump container for quick application on the go. Perfect for the next time you take a car load of noisy kids down to the beach.

See how easy that was?

  • I described what it looked like (and what your skin looked like after using it) for the visual folk out there.
  • Kinetic learners found out how it made your skin feel.
  • Olfactory and gustatory learners were sated with the coconut reference.
  • And finally (because sunscreen doesn’t make a sound), auditory learners were provided with a bit of noisy imagery to keep them happy.

If you have a product that isn’t so tangible, make the words do the work.

Try:

  • visual words like sparkle, gleam, dark, shine, sheen
  • auditory words like crackle, clunk, drip, ding, ping, buzz
  • olfactory words like pungent, fresh, earthy
  • gustatory words like sweet, sticky, creamy, watery, fruity
  • kinetic words like smooth, soft, rough, and silky.

So next time you are asked to write product descriptions, ask yourself:

  • What does it look like?
  • What does it smell or taste like?
  • What does it feel like?
  • What does it sound like?

And you may be surprised how easily the description comes together.

What type of learner are you?

Sally Bagshaw is a web copywriter and content strategist from Australia. Check out her visually appealing website at www.snappysentences.com.

Related posts:

  1. How to write an advertorial to sell a product

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Smart Comments

14 Comments on How to write product descriptions that appeal to the senses

    [...] How to write product descriptions that appeal to the senses Published: July 15, 2010 Source: Pro Copy Tips I’m really starting to like Sally Bagshaw. She has a knack for writing about writing in a way that’s fun and helpful. Here’s Sally’s latest contribution to Pro Copy Tips for those of you who want to… [...]

  1. Glenn Murray on Jul 15th, 2010 7:31 pm
  2. Some good points Sally. As usual. One other valuable tip (actually offered on a post of mine by Karri Flatla) is to discuss how the reader will FEEL when they buy or use the product.

  3. Aprill Allen on Jul 15th, 2010 7:42 pm
  4. The J. Peterman catalogue is an outstanding example of exactly this sort of copy. This is my personal favourite. http://www.jpeterman.com/Bay-Rum

    I’m lucky that one of my ongoing product description jobs is for contemporary jewellery. It’s so easy to write for.

  5. Dean Rieck on Jul 15th, 2010 7:54 pm
  6. Aprill,
    I love the Peterman catalog. I once saw a shirt called the “anti-gravity” shirt, described as so comfortable that it would lift your mood all day. I almost never make purchases like that, but couldn’t resist. I loved it so much I now wear those kind of shirts all the time. Brilliant.

  7. Glenn Murray on Jul 15th, 2010 7:58 pm
  8. Wow! That’s a brilliant description, Aprill. Thanks for the link. The anti-gravity shirt sounds clever too, Dean. Love this stuff!

  9. Sally Bagshaw on Jul 15th, 2010 8:04 pm
  10. @Glenn Thanks Glenn, much appreciated.

    @Aprill What a great description! I also love the descriptions at http://www.groundeffect.co.nz/ – they have gone to a lot of trouble to capture the ‘feeling’ of all their clothes.

    @Dean Anti-gravity shirt? Sounds like essential wearing for a freelance god ;)

  11. Dean Rieck on Jul 15th, 2010 11:27 pm
  12. Sally,
    We gods value our comfort.

  13. Aprill Allen on Jul 16th, 2010 9:00 am
  14. Dean-I was so close to buying the Bay Rum. In fact, I just read it to my husband and now he wants some.

    Anyway, great post, Sally.

  15. Nakeisha Sanders on Jul 17th, 2010 10:20 am
  16. Hi Dean,

    Thank you so much for referencing to this article as a resource to look into for tips on copy writing. I can definitely benefit in using these tips towards marketing my freelance graphic/web design business. Many companies always charge a lot of money in helping clients to market their business. I look forward to more advice that you can offer!

    Thank you,

    Nakeisha Sanders

  17. Corporate photographer London on Jul 19th, 2010 4:46 am
  18. Like you I am a visual person- hence my job- and often struggle when i need to write descriptions, but your tips really help and seem so simple. Grant

  19. Sally Bagshaw on Jul 19th, 2010 7:09 pm
  20. Hi Nakeisha and Grant – I’m glad you found the post useful. Cheers

  21. Ally on Jul 21st, 2010 2:12 pm
  22. Haha April it’s great that you mentioned the J. Peterman catalogue. All I could think of as I read this post was Seinfeld.

    Thanks for the reminders, Sally – sometimes we get so overwhelmed we forget to just think about the basics. Good stuff!

  23. Sally Bagshaw on Jul 21st, 2010 11:31 pm
  24. Ally – of course! I was trying to think of where I knew that name (J. Peterman).

  25. Corporate Photography on Mar 30th, 2012 6:07 pm
  26. Great tips! Having a great copy on the site is crucial for engagement and professionalism.