Adventures in Cataloging: The Vital Importance of Good Copy
“Just say, ‘Loved by young and old alike.’”
Copywriter: “Based on a detailed taste test of all your sausages, I’ve written this catalog copy to clearly distinguish each variety.”
Cataloger: “I hate it.”
Stunned copywriter: “Why?”
Cataloger: “Look at this one here, you say it tastes spicy.”
Copywriter: “It does.”
Cataloger: “Some people don’t like spicy.”
Copywriter: “You could say that about every taste description, that someone may not like spicy or mild or rich.”
Cataloger: “That’s why I don’t want you to use any taste descriptions at all.”
Copywriter: “If I can’t describe their tastes, what can I say?”
Cataloger: “All you can say is, ‘Loved by young and old alike.’”
Copywriter: “That’s it? For 42 different varieties?”
As this true story illustrates, some catalogers bring strange prejudices to the table when they review catalog copy. Your copy will be much more effective if you can ensure the following:
1. Don’t be reluctant to sell.
Many catalogers come to the field because they’re deeply—even idealistically—enchanted by a particular product category. For them, actually trying to sell can be uncomfortable—presenting real problems for a copywriter.
No matter how idealistic your goals, you probably can’t achieve them without actually selling product. Selling doesn’t mean tricking people into buying what they don’t want. It means informing people about products they genuinely want but wouldn’t know about if you didn’t tell them.
2. Resist trying to sell everything to everyone.
This is the problem from which the cataloger at the head of this section suffered. He was terrified of thwarting the interest of anyone about anything, and ended up forcing his copywriter to write copy so generic it was ineffective.
Copy can’t be targeted toward all customers. Rather, good copy is written by first figuring out what a given product’s key features are, discerning who will want and respond to those key features, and writing copy that communicates clearly and persuasively to those specific buyers.