Copy with personality

Paul Boag

Too much of the copy I read on websites is bland and uninspiring. Its time to add some personality.

If your website was a person what type of person would it be? Is it young idealistic and carefree or a portly middle aged business man that likes to play golf on the weekend?

The chances are it is neither. In fact it probably has no personality at all. It may have pretty graphics which set a tone, but it is the copy that should add the character.

Unfortunately most online copy is a mixture of various styles and tone. Website owners simply do not consider what personality their copy is communicating.

However, copy doesn’t need to be this way. Let’s look at three examples of great writing.

Lynx shower gel

Photograph of Lynx shower gel

For my shame I buy Lynx shower gel. This is surprising because their product is aimed at teenage men (something I have long since stopped being). The copy on their bottles reflects their audience and definitely communicates a very strong personality; that of an oversexed young guy desperate to get laid…

Want skin she can’t wait to get her hands on? Lynx Smoothing Shower Scrub with cactus milk exfoliates and energises your skin to keep her coming back for more.

I particularly like the way they refers to ‘cactus milk’ rather than Aloe Vera. Aloe Vera is mentioned a lot in women’s beauty products and that is not at all appropriate for this image conscious male audience.

I want one of those

I want one of those is a website that sells a variety of gadgets and gizmos. It is trying to project a fun, light-hearted persona full of ideas and great things to do. Its copy reflects that.

Waboba Ball

Take for example the Waboba Ball that they sell. Basically it is a plastic ball you throw around in the sea. There is very little to say about it but that doesn’t put off the copy writers on this site…

Named after the rare and sacred Waboba goat found only in the high Annapurna (not sure there’s a low one), this ball, whilst devoid of hooves, hair, horns and questionable eating habits, is just like a goat, and even bounces on water just like a goat does. Hmmm. Perhaps it isn’t named after the goat after all, we just looked up goats and it seems that they tend not to bounce on water, or anything else come to that. The Waboba Ball however miraculously does bounce, a lot. This brilliant invention is what larking about in water was invented for. Forget lobbing plastic discs at each other in the pool or at the beach, this hackey-sack sized little monster bounces off the water like you wouldn’t believe.

Genius. What it lacks in real selling points it makes up for in character.

Innocent Smoothies

Package shot of innocent smoothies

Innocent are masters of good copy. Their packaging is a work of art from the “stop looking at my bottom” message on the bottom of their bottles to the “enjoy by” notice rather than the normal “Use by”. Their website too has some gems of good copy that simply oozes personality…

We were wondering if you’d like to join the innocent family. Don’t worry – it’s not some weird cult. It’s just our way of staying in touch with the people who drink our drinks i.e. you. Every week we’ll email you our news and give you the chance to win lots of drinks. We’ll also invite you to nice events like the innocent village fete and maybe send you the odd present if you’re lucky. Finally, we’ll very occasionally ask you what you reckon we should do next, as we sometimes get confused.

Its self deprecating, its friendly and most importantly it draws you in, pursuing you to keep reading.

So what about your site? Admittedly the above examples are all fairly light hearted and friendly. Not all websites want to communicate this type of personality. However, all organisations should demonstrate some kind of personality through its copy. Its time to decide what that personality is.