Exploring the Science behind Effective Content Writing

product description writingLovers of the language and the pictures that authors can paint with mere words hold writing in the high realm of art. When the writing is for product descriptions or persuasive copywriting, the art disintegrates into an exact science. For those of you who are disappointed, you can always implement the science in an artistic manner.

Behavioral psychology and neuroscience have a lot to offer to further the efforts of persuasive copywriting. The secret to better writing lays hidden in plain sight masquerading as the factors that make people accept facts as truths.

Delving into the minds of reader is a task that is easier said than done. How then do you write persuasive copies? Here are some facts backed by science to help you write product descriptions that will make the product fly off the shelves.

The science of empathy

Consumer psychology dictates that a person is more likely to purchase if they can experience the article first. This is why testers for perfumes and display pieces for cell phones and test drives for cars exist. When writing product descriptions, however, it is never easy to make the reader see and feel the product. Imagine a hot summer day on a beach. Lounging on an easy chair with an umbrella just shielding enough of your face. Would a chilled margarita make the picture more complete? [pullquote]If the description makes you feel like reaching for a chilled drink, then the words have fulfilled their destiny.[/pullquote]

This ability to feel what you see or read is triggered by mirror neurons. These neurons activate when you observe something powerful and transfer some of that feeling to you. In simple words, mirror neurons trigger your empathy.

When writing descriptions you should rely on a feeling that is inherent. Do not try to force an emotion that is not evident. For example, a description for a new beer will invoke long Sundays with friends watching a game of cricket. This trick can only work if you understand your reader. Writing persuasive copies without getting a firm finger on the pulse of your audience is a fruitless endeavor.

The science of sales

Numerous ads, product descriptions and copies will point out quiet blatantly the low price and the price comparisons between competitive products. This technique has lost steam over time. It is a well-known fact that consumers are more than willing to pay a little extra for reliable quality. Even if the product you are writing about has the lowest price in its category, pointing that fact out will not get you any new consumers.

Stanford University conducted research into the matter and found that it is more advantageous to sell “time” rather than selling “money”. Turns out that a personal connection forged with product is the most reliable factor for repeat sales.

If you as a writer understand and cash in on these personal connections, then it helps in speaking to your reader about what matters most to them. It lets the reader know that you are aware of what really matters to them. Talking about how the product will help foster the goals of the consumer is a sure-fire way to get the reader’s attention.

The science is in the details

Carnegie Mellon University conducted an interesting study about the importance of the details. The effectiveness of a single phrase was studied when the researches offered the students a free DVD trial program. Students were required to sign up with a fee. They were offered:

A small fee of $5 Or a fee of $5.

[pullquote]The word ‘small’ lead to an increase in the sign-up rates by nearly 20%. [/pullquote]The word “small” appealed to the conservative spenders or consumers who were very tight with the money they spent.

Think about the words you use in your title. Are they effectively translating the essence of the product? Using words that resonate with the reader is a sure shot method to making your audience believe in the product.

The science of utilizing an argument

Do your copies promise the reader of an exhilarating experience or the best quality ever? Scrap them. Over the top promises will do everything but get your reader’s trust. It will make them look away. How then do you reassure the audience of the quality? Rely on the product fulfilling a few objectives.

If you were advertising your services as a copywriter, talking about how you offer high quality articles in the least possible amount of time with a very reasonable rate is going to make the reader wary of your services.

Instead if you were to say, “Tired of dancing to the tune of search engines to get higher ranking? Leave the SEO work up to us and you can spend those precious extra hours on furthering your business.” This way you will address the void that the client is facing, which is SEO content that will result in a high search engine ranking. It will also spotlight on your ability to write quality work that will bring a higher ranking.

Spotlighting the concerns of the audience, the perceived concern from the standpoint of the product is a good technique. It will make the audience think about just how useful the product will be in their life. It will also give them the assurance that you as a writer are aware of what you writing about.

The fight between adjectives and verbs

There will be situations where the use of superlatives can be justified. This does not however mean that you can fill a copy with nothing more than adjectives. When Harvard MBA admissions director analyzed admission letters for their persuasiveness, he found that verbs hit adjectives way out of the ball park.

[pullquote]In a self-description is you were to say, “I am an intelligent, insightful and hard-working student” chances are that most people would scoff at it.[/pullquote]. Instead imagine you were to say, “With one foot out the college door, I started the content writing company and chose to pour my energies into sustaining an exciting blog all while leading a talented team of writers.” You are not explicitly relying on adjectives but you are causing the inference of quality and a hard-working nature in your reader’s mind.

Similarly including verbs or talking about what the product does instead of attaching an endless string of superlatives and adjectives is not going to get you any attention.

The science of getting attention

Smart writers are aware of the few words that will definitely grab the reader’s attention. For a brief recap, here are the words,


You – In a study regarding brain activation, seeing our own names in print like in an e-mail or on paper makes people spring into attention. Being intrinsically tied to our self-perception, our names get our attention like nothing else. There is also a measure of trust that comes into play when our names are involved.

Free – The use of the word “free” is powerful. Sales and freebies are universally loved. The book “Predictably Irrational” by Dan Ariely revealed a study that used chocolate truffles and Hershey’s Kisses. People chose to buy the kisses over the truffles when they advertised as being free. The same 38% people who bought the kisses, bought the truffles when the kisses were just a penny. The power of the word ‘free’ then is self-explanatory.

Because – Robert Cialdini through research found that people were far more willing to oblige requests when followed by the word ‘because’ even in the scenario where the request was not authentic. The use of the word ‘because’ indicates that a valid reason or excuse is going to follow the request.

Instantly – MRI studies showed that instant gratification increased brain activity. This means that if you offer instant gratification through your description, you have the reader’s attention. Indicating an immediate solution for problems makes the audience more inclined to invest.

New – the word ‘new’ triggers the brain’s reward center and keeps us happy with our purchases for longer. The word ‘new’ should be used carefully as people are known to trust brands that have been around for a very long time. The perceived newness or ‘cutting-edge’ nature of a product from a trusted brand can be played up for maximum advantage.

The science of story-telling

Ever notice how it is excruciatingly easy to toss aside a sales pitch while stories make you want to keep on reading? Social psychologists Melanie Green and Timothy Brock are of the opinion that stories transport us to an alternative world where persuasion happens. They also researched into persuasion tactics within story-telling.

The tactics are:

Imagery – Pictures that the stories paint, the characters that you bring to life should be engaging and paint an image in the reader’s mind. Think about what the reader is seeing when experiencing the story you write.
Suspense – Real estate is dear in copywriting. If you have an interesting bit, get to it first. For example, “She started a company 400 years ago, at a time when women did not start companies.” Your reader will definitely want to know how she did it.
Metaphors and irony – Hidden tales through metaphors and moments where the reader goes ‘aha!’ with you make your story more life-like and engaging.
Transformation – If you are looking for a change in your reader, creating a model in the story that goes through the same transformation makes the reader think about implementing the change in their lives. The transformation becomes easier for the reader to understand.

These scientific enquiries into the working of the mind give us, the copywriters a chance to understand the working of the reader’s mind and cater to it. Once you understand what the reader is probably thinking at a particular time, then appealing and making your case should be a cake-walk.

Did any of the studies surprise you? Did any of these pointers help you in your quest toward writing the perfect product description?

Inspiration -Gregory Ciotti’s post in copyblogger


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