Powerful Product Descriptions (Part One)

Illustration by HikingArtist.

Illustration by HikingArtist.

I’ll be blunt: most of our industry’s ad copy is horrible. Especially online product descriptions. Even the well-written, grammatically correct copy lacks the oomph necessary to sell a product.

It’s no wonder magicians want flashy photos and video trailers. For generations we’ve bored them to death with text descriptions.

But that can change. Starting with you. You don’t have to be a professional writer to produce easy-to-understand copy with high conversation; you just have to learn a couple of techniques.

In part one of this series, I am going to teach you a dirt-simple method to transform writing that blows into marketable prose. Follow the directions below and you will see instant results in your own writing.

Our example is a fake magic trick titled, “Jonas Powers’ Stage-Size Appearing Chair from Box”

Here is an example of the type of ad copy I’m asked to spice up on a regular basis:

Finally, an appearing chair barstool for stage work. If you are looking for a signature stage trick start with the stage size appearing barstool chair by Jonas Powers to open your show, or to close your show.

At first glance, the copy isn’t terrible. It’s a good start. In fact, it’s just good enough others will use it without question.

However, the opening is weak—nobody has really been waiting for this trick, stage-size or otherwise. The middle doesn’t provide enough information to move the reader to a buying decision, and the end doesn’t lead to the next paragraph, presumably where the reader will find a call to action.

Compare to my edited version:

Flat box, instant barstool! Open your show with the self-working production of a full-size barstool, or sit back and relax for a funny finale. It’s the durable, portable, audience-floorable Chair Box by Jonas Powers!

A visual image of the routine is revealed in the opening line. The second sentence, though it might feel a little long, illustrates the range of the product. The last line introduces the creator of the effect and leaves the reader wanting more—the call to action.

The concept here is to pack each paragraph with as much information as possible without weighing down the text. How? Instead of writing the whole paragraph prose style, I first wrote the phrases I wanted to use as free verse poetry, then I strung them together.

You can tell exactly what I did by reverse engineering the text.

From the sample paragraph, select the best one to five word segments and put them under the paragraph with a dash. Do this four times, the average length of a poetry stanza.

Finally, an appearing chair barstool for stage work. If you are looking for a signature stage trick start with the appearing barstool chair by Jonas Powers to open your show, or to close your show.

– appearing chair barstool

– for stage work

– signature stage trick

– appearing barstool chair by Jonas

The dashes represent bullet points (major selling points in a product description formatted as a list). The phrases above are what the writer is actually saying in the original paragraph. Pretty bland, huh? The whole paragraph is really just the title over and over again.

Lets try the same technique with my re-write:

Flat box, instant barstool! Open your show with the self-working production of a full-size barstool, or sit back and relax for a funny finale. It’s the durable, portable, audience-floorable Chair Box by Jonas Powers!

– Flat box, instant barstool!

– self-working production full-size barstool

– relax for a funny finale

– portable Chair Box by Powers!

With some punctuation, these bullet points could actually be used in ad copy. Here’s the tweak:

  • Flat box, instant barstool!
  • Sit back and relax! Funny finale!
  • Self-working! Full-size barstool!
  • Chair Box: The Portable Powers!

All I did to make one paragraph better than the other, was to say something worth writing about. My version may sound hyped-up—it may have flare that wasn’t there in the first paragraph—but I didn’t lie. Good magic deserves a product description that does it justice. It’s okay to be excited, as long as you’re honest. It’s a technique known as poetic license.

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