Do your words caress your wares?

It's human nature.  When someone loves something, we are drawn to it as well.  Maybe it's a borrowed esteem thing. But, when someone is that gaga over something, you just know there has to be something to it.

And that love cannot be faked.  It's in their eyes.  And in their words.  They don't just describe the object of their affection; their words actually caress it.  Let me give you an example.

The J. Peterman Company catalog is a copywriting lesson in and of itself.  Each item is artfully displayed but it's the description that enraptures the would-be shopper.

Listen to how they describe an item called Floral Silk Dress.

Picture_3_2 Just a few hundred intimate friends on hand for a good cause, canapés among the rosebushes. 

Castor Swilling and Mia Culp have flown in from the coast. 

All the power couples have showed up – the Bagbalms, the de Kays, the Thralls, the fun-loving Audibles.  There's the cream of the Beltway too, from Justice Hardly and Secretary Spinner to the indefatigable Snapper Balding.

But it's you, my dear, who carries the day….the first woman to sell one million dollars worth of raffle tickets.

You know how to dress for these things.  Floral Silk Dress (No. 1865).  Sleeveless, mid-calf length confection of gossamer 10mm georgette lined in silk charmeuse (satin side against your body). High Empire waist with cummerbund pleats.  Decorative self-covered buttons down the front. Eight godets for sweep and flutter.

Or…the Malaguena skirt.

Picture_4 The impulse to flirt is inborn, which is a good thing. Social life with flirtation would be a bowl of very dull porridge.

Unfortunately, political correctness et al. has created ambivalence about flirting. Clumsiness. Confusion.

People attend courses with titles like "Get What You Want Through Flirting." They text each other across a crowded room. 

May I suggest a more organic approach?

Start by putting on this skirt. The gentle motion of the silk tiers draws attention, stirs imagination. Life warms up without bursting into flames. Lines of communication tend to open naturally.

True flirtation isn't a preliminary. It's a preliminary to a preliminary.  Malaguena Skirt (No. 1586), four soft, flowing angled tiers of silk georgette. Ankle-length.  Easy-fitting elastic waist. Georgette lining. Inspired by a flamenco dancer's dress at Rosa de Triana in Old San Juan, just up from the city gate.

That is pure decadence. Love shimmers off every word.  You get a sense of affection and a dash of reverence.

In a world of USA Today bullet point or colorful graph ads….this is remarkable.  You can't love something with bullet points or a bar chart.  It's just too efficient.  Love isn't efficient, it is effusive.

I liken this kind of writing to cotton candy.  Do we technically need it?  No.  But its sticky sweetness melts in our mouth and creates an experience unto itself.

Do your words caress your wares?  If you don't show the love, how can you expect your customers to?

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10 comments on “Do your words caress your wares?

  1. Oh, I love copy like that about women’s clothing! Another catalog like that is the Coldwater Creek catalog. I used to steal my mom’s copy and read though every description.

    Those words just make the 2-dimensional images come alive. Now it isn’t about looking at an interesting image, it’s about wanting to feel the way the dress describes you feeling.

    I used to circle things from the Coldwater Creek catalog…even though I was about 20 years too young for their outfits! I still want the silver necklace that “cascades like a waterfall”!

    Now, this sort of copy probably wouldn’t work for computers, but clothing is such an emotional product and people already connect it with feeling a certain way. That’s what makes it so compelling.

  2. Katie,

    I’m not sure about the computer thing. If it was written in context with both the product and the audience, I think people would be drawn to that too.

    For some of us, buying a computer is as emotional a buying experience as buying clothes!


  3. Drew,

    A stirring post, the message of which will resonate through the ages! I can imagine these stellar insights shining brightly in the constellations of human thought from this time forward, brilliant beams of marketing wisdom penetrating the benighted corners of human existence and sweeping all lesser orbs or mere distraction away by its luminous…

    Sorry. Got carried away.

  4. Makes me think immediately of Seinfeld 🙂

    You nailed it with this one… “Love isn’t efficient, it is effusive.” So much of our writing/selling/marketing efforts tend to be rigid and confined to structure. If we ever want to truly make people fall in love, these models are destined for failure.

    Overflowing delightfulness should be the goal. Not tired, recited scripts filled with corporate buzzwords and meaningless drivel.

    Lovely stuff as always 😉

  5. Lori Magno says:

    @Ryan – good call on Seinfeld. John O’Hurley who played J. Peterman on Seinfeld is now a part-owner of the J. Peterman company.

    I have loved this catalog since the late 1980s. It was ridiculous then – it is still ridiculous, but my favorite shirt of all time came from the catalog – and it was “soft as the wool spun from a spring lamb.”

    It is goof, sticky writing that keeps you reading.

  6. Steve,

    But did it make you want to order the skirt? If so…we want photos!


  7. Ryan,

    Copywriting is all about understanding your audience, IMO. If I wrote in the Peterman style for a tool catalog, they’d laugh me out of town.

    But, I could take a lesson from Peterman and tell more stories in my copy for the tool catalog. If the tone was right…the target audience for tools would be as enraptured as the women’s clothing audience.


  8. Lori,

    I wonder how many women could recite the copy that accompanied their favorite catalog clothing purchase?

    That speaks volumes about how Peterman has distinguished themselves from the pack.


  9. This is the kind of stuff I’d like to aspire to writing. The copy just bleeds its heart out to you and makes you feel involved. I used to think that I could write pretty good copy, but I’ve never done anything like that before. It’s examples like this that make me strive to learn more and to continue practicing. Good catch.

  10. Kent —

    Marketing by machine probably was never very successful but in today’s world of advertising savvy, cynical consumers — it’s the kiss of death. We want to fall in love with the brands we favor but we don’t want to look like fools, so we need a little reassurance.

    Humanity serves as that reassurance, I think.


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