Blandvertising: How to move beyond wallpaper copywriting (with case study)

When I grabbed my Tom’s of Maine antiperspirant out of my medicine cabinet this morning, I noticed two words on it for the first time, “Clinically proven.” I’ve probably seen them every morning and normally I wouldn’t even notice them, but here’s what I realized this morning… those words have been so overused, they’ve lost all meaning. They are wallpaper copywriting.

Of course, those aren’t the only words that are wallpaper copywriting. Ask yourself…

…have you ever seen a golf course that isn’t a “championship” golf course?

…have you ever read a book that isn’t a “best-selling” book?

…and this one probably hits a little close to home, but have you ever seen an ad agency that isn’t an “award-winning” agency?

As a former copywriter, I know why we use these words. Sometimes we fall into a hypnotic stupor of “adjective-noun” copywriting, where we simply grab the most handy adjective or claim that is convenient in our brain, and move on to the next job.

Of course, it’s easy to point out a problem without suggesting a solution

So let me tell you what we’ve found to be effective in our landing page testing at MarketingExperiments – quantification. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about…

Control

The control featured wallpaper copywriting like “Industry leader in database marketing.”

Treatment

Wallpaper copywriting was replaced with quantitative statements like, “We make 26 Million Phone Calls … Trusted since 1972 … 210 million U.S. consumers … 600 full-time researchers.”

Results

In an A/B split test, the new landing page that actually used words to communicate (and not just as wallpaper) generated 201% more leads. A main difference between the two variations is the treatment’s use of quantitative statements that convey the value of the offer and the company behind it.

The words actually had meaning and weren’t just wallpaper. Quantification helped provide that meaning.

This is just one test, and you can see full, free hour-long analysis (with actionable how-to advice) about many more tests in the MarketingExperiments Research Directory.

3 steps for moving beyond wallpaper copywriting

Back to the Tom’s of Maine example I started with. Often, many companies already have strong copy somewhere on their websites. It’s just buried.

For example, in the above test we ran, “we make 26 million phone calls” was on the control page, too. It was just buried in the third paragraph at the bottom of the right-hand column.

For Tom’s of Maine, I did a very quick search of their site, and found a blog post for their whitening toothpaste. Just because I don’t have the time to search any further, let’s use that data as an example to see how we can improve the “clinically proven” wallpaper copywriting…

Proven effective in 2 clinical trials of 200 people

As I just did in the example above, you can remove wallpaper copy from your own organization by:

1. Audit:

Your copy has probably become white noise since you’ve seen it so often. (Hey, I’m the same way. I actually kept info about a marketing training on our homepage for a week after it passed. I was so used to seeing that copy, I just never read it).

So take just a little bit of time each day to go through and actually read your copy. Your “About” page. Your triggered emails. Your product descriptions. Do you see any wallpaper copy? Any meaningless words that you can replace with copy that actually says something?

2. Hunt:

Now that you’ve found the copy to change you still need to replace those words with meaning. Hunt through your copy for the buried treasure.

As I said for the experiment that is featured above, the information was there. It was just buried on the landing page. For the Tom’s of Maine example, I found valuable information in a random blog post. Your job is to dig up that treasure and bring it to the surface, where it can actually impact conversion.

3. Verify:

An easy way to tell if your copy will have an impact is if it has a unique factor to it. The reason “clinically proven” has become wallpaper copy is because those words are so relentlessly overused.

So take the new meaningful copy and run it through a search engine. When I search for an exact match of “clinically proven” I get 6.67 million results (and actually, the first one, from Urban Dictionary just happens to be perfect for the point I’m trying to make, “Clinically proven may mean virtually anything… including nothing.”)

However, when I run an exact match search for “Proven effective in 2 clinical trials of 200 people,” the results tell me that the new copy has really hit on something unique:

About the author:

As Director of Editorial Content for MECLABS, Daniel Burstein oversees all editorial content coming from the MarketingExperiments / MarketingSherpa brands. Follow him on Twitter, and get more actionable advice on the MarketingSherpa blog and the MarketingExperiments blog.

Comments

  1. And my revamping begins. Thank you!

  2. Great tips, I’m guilty of this as well, both for using “wallpaper copy” (love that term) when I’m pressed for time, and also becoming blind to the examples that were already there..time to audit!

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