Copywriting and Your Five Senses

by : Karon Thackston

In its most basic form, copywriting is, among other things, the art of conveying a message in writing for the purpose of persuading someone to do something. This is especially true when writing descriptive copy. Why? Because your customer’s five senses don’t work on paper… they only work in person. That’s why we, as copywriters, have to create a sensory experience for our customers through our words.

Have you ever stopped to consider copywriting as a sensory activity? You should. As I said, in order to see, hear, smell, taste, or feel a product, we have to be in the presence of that product. All too often, when copywriters create descriptions, they leave a lot to be desired. There is no excitement, no interaction, no experience. Descriptions should be, well… descriptive. Effective descriptions should fill the gap of what customers would see, hear, smell, taste, or feel if they were standing in the presence of the product. Effective descriptions should draw customers in and create an actual event… as if they were able to be right there with you.

Do you make cinnamon rolls? You wouldn’t want to describe them simply as “delicious" or say they “smell great." Instead, you’d want to bring your customers into the experience of enjoying your cinnamon rolls. Think of which of their five senses would be most in tune with your product and write to those. Try this:

Definitely NOT grandma’s cinnamon rolls! Bake them fresh right in your own oven. As the aroma of these gourmet rolls begins to waft through the air, your nose will start to tingle and you’ll immediately know they are worth the wait. The scents of freshly ground cinnamon and yeast begin to merge as the dough rises and the cinnamon, sugar, and butter begin to bubble. Open your oven door to reveal one of the largest sweets you’ve ever seen. Drizzle the homemade frosting over the top to complete your warm, gooey treasure. Your taste buds will praise you with every bite!

Can you smell the cinnamon? Can you visualize the dough rising in the oven with the cinnamon and sugar bubbling on the top of each roll? Are you remembering the times you’ve glazed cinnamon rolls in the past and, with sticky fingers, taken that first bite out of a freshly baked, warm, gooey pastry? This copy brings it all back, doesn’t it?

Do you rent private, Jamaican beachfront condos? Taking a basic route and falling back on the phrases “ocean view" and “sunsets are included" will leave your reader lacking a truly intriguing experience. Something like this will work better:

As your day begins, enjoy a gourmet breakfast prepared by your own private staff who is at your disposal 24 hours a day. A gorgeous view overlooking your own crystal blue freshwater pool welcomes you to another exciting adventure in Jamaica. A morning stroll along your private, white sand beach is the perfect way to welcome the day. A fun-filled outing can consist of splashing in the surf, sunning on the beach, or napping in an authentic hand-woven hammock that cuddles every curve of your body. At the end of the day, you’ll have sun-kissed shoulders, a glowing bronze tan, and a phenomenal appetite. Unwind at the poolside gazebo as you prepare for a world-class dinner that rivals any five-star restaurant. Refreshing after-dinner cocktails are especially enjoyable when sipped on the terrace as nature provides an amazing display of sunsets and a soft, caressing breeze you won’t soon forget.

Let’s go! “Splashing in the surf, sunning on the beach, or napping in an authentic hand-woven hammock that cuddles every curve of your body." Can you just imagine? How about “sun-kissed shoulders, a glowing bronze tan"? That paints a picture, doesn’t it? Can you feel that warm tingling you always get after spending a day in the sun? “Nature provides an amazing display of sunsets and a soft, caressing breeze." I’m ready! Where do I sign up?

Are you beginning to see the importance of writing truly descriptive descriptions? Your customers aren’t there. They can’t see, hear, feel, taste, or smell what you can. You have to do the next best thing and vividly depict what their sensory experiences will be like so they’ll want to buy what you have or do what you’ve done.

When you write descriptive copy, choose the senses that are most appropriate and focus on them. If you’re describing food, of course you’ll want to think about what you’re tasting, but also what you smell and see. (Presentation is just as important as taste.) If you’re writing travel copy, you’ll want to focus on sights and sounds plus feelings (relaxation, enjoyment, excitement, etc.).

Your goal is to have your readers close their eyes and genuinely, vividly imagine they are in the midst of the same experience you are. When you accomplish that, you’ll find your sales increase as will your bank account balance!

by Karon Thackston ? 2004