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Copywriting

Product detail copy: before and after

Beyond feature: benefit.

During my time at DiversDirect, I reviewed and punched up a LOT of product detail copy. Counterintuitively, the marketing team spent as much time and energy on seasonal soft goods (apparel, sunglasses) as they did on the company’s core products, the highly technical, expensive, evergreen scuba gear.

Here’s an example of a product where I retained the “before” version. I’ll talk about what I thought was wrong, what I changed, and why.

Before

The EVO 3mm Full Scuba Wetsuit uses a high-quality neoprene to deliver superior comfort and stretch while you dive or snorkel. With full coverage and a back entry zipper, the EVO Men’s 3mm Wetsuit provides full thermal protection in tropical waters. Ergonomically designed and stitched panels have more flexibility than standard neoprene EVO suits, providing the most comfortable fit without sacrificing mobility.

– 3mm neoprene provides full thermal protection in tropical waters
– Ergonomically designed and stitched panels provide more flexibility
– Back entry zipper with velcro on neck

EVO 3mm wetsuit, DiversDirect.com

Now, let’s start by saying there’s nothing awful about this copy. It’s equal parts anodyne, bland, and uninspiring. It’s as lifeless as a pile of dirty laundry.

Specific issues with the copy as presented:

Furthermore, this description does nothing to differentiate this wetsuit from the dozens of other wetsuits on the website.

There’s one good thing about the original copy — it taught me what customers care about when shopping for this type of item:

  • comfort
  • flexibility
  • coverage/warmth (“full thermal protection”)

Overall: there’s nothing exciting here. We’re talking about a specialty garment people need for underwater adventures. How’s it possible to make THAT sound dull?

Due diligence

Subtitle: You didn’t think I’d rewrite the copy without learning about the product, did you?

After speaking to the staff, I learned about how customers shop for wetsuits:

  • Thickness: Wetsuits are mostly made of neoprene, ranging from 0.5mm – 7mm. This is a 3mm wetsuit, the middle of the road and therefore the most general-purpose. It’s suitable for tropical and temperate water.
  • Comfort: Wetsuits squeeze your body, so any seams become super irritating. Thicker wetsuits have less flex and stretch, limiting mobility — which is an issue because most people who enjoy underwater sports love how free and unencumbered they feel beneath the waves.
  • Material: This wetsuit is made of nylon II neoprene instead of the standard stuff — which is both stretchier and more flexible than typical neoprene.
  • Ease of use: Wetsuits are incredibly challenging to put on and take off (“don and doff” in the parlance of divers). That’s why the extra-long zipper is important — it lets you open the wetsuit almost all the way down to your butt. A long leash attached to the zipper pull lets you reach around and pull up, over your shoulder, to zip yourself up et viola.
  • Durability: Once you find a wetsuit you love that fits well, you want to keep it forever. Alas, wear and tear takes its toll, especially on the knees and elbows. Once you get a hole in the suit you can patch it, but its structural integrity is compromised, and the end is nigh.

After

I’ll break the revision down and discuss bit by bit, then present the whole thing all together at the end.

First paragraph

We really love scuba diving, freediving, snorkeling, spearfishing, surfing… If it gets you outside in the ocean, we’re there. All these sports can get expensive — and we want to save our money to fund our adventures, not on piles of gear that will gather dust in the closet. That’s why we developed the EVO 3mm full wetsuit. For safety and comfort in moderate and tropical waters, regardless of your sport, the EVO 3mm full wetsuit covers your bases (and your body!) without breaking the bank.

First sentence: “We really love scuba diving, freediving, snorkeling, spearfishing, surfing…” does two jobs.

  • By saying “we really love” I’m positioning Divers NOT as a huckster eager to make a buck, but as a watersports enthusiast just like you. We’re on the same side!
  • The list of sports engages a wider potential audience (contrast to previous description’s “whether you dive or snorkel”).

Second sentence: “If it gets you outside in the ocean, we’re there.”

  • Reinforces first sentence positioning — just like you!
  • Sets a casual tone by using a contraction and colloquialism — “we’re there.”

Third sentence: “All these sports can get expensive — and we want to save our money to fund our adventures, not on piles of gear that will gather dust in the closet.”

  • This sentence would come off as cynical if not for the set-up we’ve already done — we’re just folks, like you! After all, this is the seller complaining about how expensive this item is.
  • Reminds the reader the point of buying stuff like wetsuits is to use them to have adventures. Simultaneously, implies we’re talking about a piece of kit that won’t merely “gather dust in the closet.”

Fourth sentence: “That’s why we developed the EVO 3mm full wetsuit.”

  • Taking a liberty here — “we” of course didn’t develop anything. “We” just wrote up some specs and sent them around to manufacturers and got the best product we could at the best price.
  • But still! Most civilians wouldn’t know that and it just sounds so much nicer, doesn’t it? “We developed” conjures a group of serious people hunched over a set of designs, something like this (without the sock cap), inventing something! Making something totally new just for you.
  • Also remember: because the seller used those first three sentences to set up how totally into watersports we are, and how we want to spend our money on adventures, the reader knows this product is legit. Right? It’s not like a bunch of corporate drones made this product to grab my money.

Fifth sentence: “For safety and comfort in moderate and tropical waters, regardless of your sport, the EVO 3mm full wetsuit covers your bases (and your body!) without breaking the bank.”

  • Highlights overall benefits: safety and comfort
  • Mentions where it’s suitable: moderate and tropical waters
  • “regardless of your sport” — reiterating that this wetsuit’s for everyone in the water, not just divers or snorkelers
  • Makes a lame joke (no, I’m not proud (if you only knew how hard I argued to keep that lame little bon mot in production!))

First paragraph summary

  • Positions seller as a fellow enthusiast and advocate of reader
  • Outlines general use cases
  • Claims total ownership of product
  • Briefly mentions high-level benefits

Second paragraph

3mm nylon II neoprene is suitable for a broad range of temperatures, especially when paired with a dive hood, boots, and gloves for colder waters. Plus there’s enough stretch you can bend and flex in the water. We used an extra-long back zipper to make the wetsuit easier to take off and put on. Durable flatlock stitching doesn’t leave irritating raised seams. Sewn-in rubber kneepads extend the wetsuit’s life (and probably your knees’ lives as well!).

First sentence: “3mm nylon II neoprene is suitable for a broad range of temperatures, especially when paired with a dive hood, boots, and gloves for colder waters.”

  • Mentions the differentiating material
  • Suitable for lots of conditions — reinforcing the idea this piece of kit won’t gather dust in the closet

Second sentence: “Plus there’s enough stretch you can bend and flex in the water.”

  • Directly address comfort: “bend and flex in the water” so you maintain the feeling of liberation and freedom divers love.
  • Also just a hint of storytelling… that “bend and flex in the water” demands you imagine how great it would feel in the water right this moment. (Someone told me Kafka kept a piece of paper on the wall over his desk with one word on it — Tactile — presumably in German or Czech? I don’t know. I DO know if you get a reader imagining the texture or feel of a thing, you’ve hooked them.)

Third sentence: “We used an extra-long back zipper to make the wetsuit easier to take off and put on.”

  • Use of “We” reminds reader that “We” who are watersports enthusiasts who wear wetsuits to work every day, know how important this little detail is.
  • Extra-long zipper is the feature; easy on-and-off is the benefit.

Fourth sentence: “Durable flatlock stitching doesn’t leave irritating raised seams.”

  • Another feature/benefit pair just like the previous sentence.
  • “Durable” is a nod to longevity as well as a way of saying, “just because these stitches don’t make you nuts doesn’t mean they weaken the suit.”
  • Note also the word “irritating” — addressing a very specific (and literal!) pain point. It’s tactile as well. And trust me, if you’ve ever been in a crappy wetsuit for a couple of hours those shoddy seams will scrape the skin right off you.

Aside: The passive voice is hated by me, and avoided by me when possible. I’m also happy to yank grammar and syntax around. That’s why my feature/benefit pairs often read like this:

$feature $activeVerb “so you can” $benefit

See the next sentence for another example.

Fifth sentence: “Sewn-in rubber kneepads extend the wetsuit’s life (and probably your knees’ lives as well!).”

  • Sewn-in kneepads stay in place and don’t wind up around your ankles halfway into your dive (so this is a feature that kinda-sorta implies its benefit without saying out loud)
  • We talk about durability again — with a concrete example!
  • Aaaaaand we have another lame joke (extra lame because I used ! to indicate it’s supposed to be funny…)

Second paragraph summary

  • Concrete, specific features provide concrete, specific benefits
  • Tactile! Texture can put your reader into the scene
  • (Also I should either go bigger with the jokes or just leave ’em out, because this is just embarrassing)

Third paragraph

This EVO wetsuit is designed to be the perfect entry-level wetsuit for the widest possible range of conditions, sports, destinations, and locations. Wide variety of sizes to fit you perfectly. Choose the EVO 3mm full suit and save the rest of that cash for your next adventure!

First sentence: “This EVO wetsuit is designed to be the perfect entry-level wetsuit for the widest possible range of conditions, sports, destinations, and locations.”

  • “Perfect entry-level” explains why it’s relatively inexpensive compared to similar products. (Also calling the suit “entry-level” explains why the same brand offers similar, more expensive wetsuits — without throwing shade.)
  • “Widest possible range” tells the reader “No matter where you’re going, or what you’re doing, you can pack this one wetsuit.”
  • “…of conditions, sports, destinations, and locations” is a shotgun-blast of imagery for the reader. With a little luck, one of those nouns will remind the reader of their own specific application — Any destination? I guess this would be a great wetsuit for that trip to St. Maarten…

Second sentence: “Wide variety of sizes to fit you perfectly.”

  • Feature/benefit combo.

Third sentence: “Choose the EVO 3mm full suit and save the rest of that cash for your next adventure!”

Really just a straight-up value appeal, gathering up the threads we started earlier — we’re adventurers just like you; this is a great product at a good price; it’s smart to save money so you can spend it on what matters (the adventure!) instead of on what doesn’t (the stuff gathering dust in the closet!)

Third paragraph summary

  • This wetsuit’s great for everything
  • And it WILL fit you (because we offer all the sizes)
  • Buy it so you can afford to fund your adventures

Bullets

Usually used as the brief product description, appearing at the top of the product page where people too lazy to scroll will see them. Weirdly, the DiversDirect product detail page has dispensed with virtually all copy above the fold:

… and the product bullets, usually considered the most important product copy on the page, are buried at the end of the product description. There’s probably a reason for that but I’m damned if I know what it is.

Anyway, back to those bullets: the first is an assurance this is the right wetsuit for you whatever you use it for, and the other 3 are just straight-up feature/benefit pairs:

– Perfectly balanced comfort and freedom of movement for moderate to tropical environments

– Tough 3mm neoprene flat-lock construction is both durable and comfortable
– Extra-long back zipper makes suiting up a breeze
– Sewn-in rubber kneepads for additional durability

Tired of talking about wetsuits yet? Me too!

Now, read the whole thing:

We really love scuba diving, freediving, snorkeling, spearfishing, surfing… If it gets you outside in the ocean, we’re there. All these sports can get expensive — and we want to save our money to fund our adventures, not on piles of gear that will gather dust in the closet. That’s why we developed the EVO 3mm full wetsuit. For safety and comfort in moderate and tropical waters, regardless of your sport, the EVO 3mm full wetsuit covers your bases (and your body!) without breaking the bank.

3mm nylon II neoprene is suitable for a broad range of temperatures, especially when paired with a dive hood, boots, and gloves for colder waters. Plus there’s enough stretch you can bend and flex in the water. We used an extra-long back zipper to make the wetsuit easier to take off and put on. Durable flatlock stitching doesn’t leave irritating raised seams. Sewn-in rubber kneepads extend the wetsuit’s life (and probably your knees’ lives as well!).

This EVO wetsuit is designed to be the perfect entry-level wetsuit for the widest possible range of conditions, sports, destinations, and locations. Wide variety of sizes to fit you perfectly. Choose the EVO 3mm full suit and save the rest of that cash for your next adventure!

– Perfectly balanced comfort and freedom of movement for moderate to tropical environments
– Tough 3mm neoprene flat-lock construction is both durable and comfortable
– Extra-long back zipper makes suiting up a breeze
– Sewn-in rubber kneepads for additional durability

Sometimes clients ask why copywriting takes so long. “You can type like 60 words a minute, right?” <sigh> Tell ’em to go and order content by the pound.

If you want copy that works? This is what it looks like. This is what goes into it.

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