How jargon and buzzwords lost this company a loyal customer

by Joanne Wallace

Fields of lavender

I admit it. I'm addicted to lavender. Also, I like to take it easy on chemical-laced cleaning products.

So when I found a new lavender-scented dishwashing liquid trumpeted as "eco-!" "natural!" and "botanical!" I wanted to buy it. Badly.

But I didn't. Here's why:

This is the copy printed on the back of the bottle: "... uses potent cleaning and aroma therapeutic properties of ingredients derived from biodegradable, renewable and sustainable botanical resources."

Huh?

Cartoon woman reading labelsThis, my friends, is terrible copywriting. To begin with, it doesn't actually say anything. (Besides maybe "made from smelly plant stuff.") So, as sales copy goes, it misses its mark, which is to convince me I'll somehow benefit from using the product.

So it could have said "Fill your kitchen with the fresh scent of lavender every time you wash a cup." Or "Environmentally responsible cleaning products: safe for your family; safe for the earth." Or whatever.

But it didn't. Instead it gave me a laundry list of buzzwords so mind-numbing I feel dizzy. Biodegradable. Renewable. Sustainable. Botanical.

Mother and child nursery art; available from etsy.comAgain, all features. Not benefits. What's in it for me? I want lavender blossoms wafting through my kitchen. Fresh-faced children with dimpled hands never marred by evil surfactants. Acres of pristine rainforest alive with intact palm trees.

Besides, as I stand there in the grocery aisle, scrutinizing the label, I realize, it doesn't actually say the product is biodegradable. It says it's made from resources that are biodegradable. Aha. My BS-O-meter is alerted. Am I being "green-washed?"

Maybe yes, maybe no. But here's the lesson for copywriters: ditch the jargon and the buzzwords. And always, always, always write features, not benefits.

And if anyone finds a great lavender-scented dish soap labelled with epic, benefits-focused copy, let me know. I'm yours for life.

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