Flop Goes The Weasel: Are You Using Wallpaper Copywriting In Your Brand Messaging?
Quick, count the number of “best-selling” books on your shelf. Now head to the bathroom and take a look at your toothpaste. Odds are the tube says “clinically proven” somewhere on the front. These terms–among many others–are what we call “wallpaper copywriting”. The term refers to the words or phrases that have been used so frequently that they have been stripped of all meaning.
When copywriters use words that are deprived of meaning, the reader skims over them, unaffected and uninspired to act. Since the single goal of copywriting is to compel people to act (i.e. buy your product, review your service, scream your brand’s name from the top of a building) wallpaper copy is actually counterproductive to the goal (but you already knew wallpaper was lame).
Wallpaper copy is composed of several different types of blah: weasel words, vague or unverified claims, “water is wet” claims, and irrelevant claims.
Weasels eat eggs by sucking out the inside, leaving the intact shell to appear untouched. In advertising, weasel words are modifiers that look like a clear, direct statements at first glance, but in reality the statement is vague and evasive.
As a business, you are always trying to gain trust from potential customers. Using weasel words are easy to spot, which practically guarantees your customers will lost trust in you (if not immediately, then eventually). As a general rule, weasel words are indirect, so be especially cautious of these words when answering a question that requires a direct response. If customers want to know if your product works, avoid prefacing responses with these weasel words:
- Well … You will lose trust the moment you cause them to question you. Be direct. Straightforward statements woo customers.
- I would say … If customers wanted an opinion they would check customer reviews.
- The look of/feel of … Copy that focuses too much on what the product represents without providing accessible information about the product’s features could indicate there’s not much value in the product itself.
- Some/ Many/ Often … These modifiers are more likely to raise eyebrows than profits.
- Research/ Experts say … We’ll bet 100 other brands are using this same study.
- That being said/ With all due respect … The professional equivalent to “I love you, but … ”
- Probably …. This is a lazy way of saying you won’t put in the work to answer a customer’s specific question.
We’ll bet you’re up to your teeth in “better” customer service and “faster” technology, but what does that actually mean? Claims that use words like better, more, faster, smarter, etc. may sound impressive, but ultimately tell the customer zilch about the brand.
“Water is Wet” Claims
“Water is wet” claims use unoriginal copy to convey benefits that any other brand in the industry could also claim. Things like “friendly customer service” and “quality materials” attempt to make the standard seem special.
This is when copy makes the product sound better or more pure by embellishing it with irrelevant claims. Copy for a brand of soap could claim “twice the bubbles”, but who cares? Look a little deeper and it’s clear that these claims are irrelevant to the value of a product.
How To Fix Wallpaper Copy
Not all wallpaper copy comes from a devious place. Copywriters often churn out thousands of words a day, and in order to get a project done, they might use time-tested phrases to get the point across and move on to the next project. But there are ways around this that don’t take much time and will give you a much better shot at creating engaging copy. Follow the audit, hunt, verify method. It’s scientifically proven to make your copy smarter, faster, better and … only kidding, that was a test.
Audit – Go full throttle IRS on your content: review your website, blogs, social media posts, email, and marketing collateral. Look for bland wallpaper copy and replace it with engaging, fresh copy. If you’re a beginner, Hubspot has some awesome content marketing downloadables to help you get started.
Hunt – As you look through all your copy, search for quality information that you may have written already. Look for quantifiable claims, meaningful tidbits, case study information and testimonials.
Verify – Take your new copy to Google. If you search for “clinically proven” or “best-selling” you will get millions of results, which will not help you get notices. After refreshing your copy, you will have a better chance at targeting your audience by using fresh language that represents your brand.