Setting Expectations With Your Copy

  |  September 3, 2010   |  Comments

Are the marketing messages on your website as clear as they can be? Consider these examples.

Earlier this week, I was depositing a check at Chase in New York City's West Village. There's a sign on its door. In large letters, it read, "HOLIDAY HOURS" with a picture of the sun or a beach or something else Labor Day holiday-ish. I can't remember. I looked at the tiny print at the bottom of the sign. "Closed," it read.

I laughed out loud. At first glance, the poster appeared to offer great, inviting news suggesting that I could bank on Labor Day. I guess I was expecting the bank actually had holiday hours. "Closed" is not exactly what I was expecting.

Messaging from B&H Photo, on the other hand, is much more direct. Its signs (in the store and online) read, "We will be closed during Rosh Hashanah." Today its website says, "Our NYC Superstore will be open on Labor Day from 10am-7pm." Pretty clear, right? Luckily, B&H didn't take a hint from Chase and say something like, "See our HOLIDAY HOURS for when we are open during Rosh Hashanah," only to have the use look and see "CLOSED" listed.

What's the point? As marketers, we often talk about setting expectations for intuitive design and how features work on our sites. But copy is often overlooked. In the case of B&H, the copy is written from a user-centric perspective. It quickly informs the user and sets the right expectation. In fact, it can't fail. "We will be closed during Rosh Hashanah" doesn't leave much room for misinterpretation.

bandh-photo 

A sign that says "HOLIDAY HOURS," however, sets expectation that hours will be listed, and that the company will be open for at least time during the day.

Do you do this? When you have a sale, do you have an asterisk that leads to small text that makes the user feel like they've been duped?

Do you say "BOGO" (Buy One Get One) but actually charge for the "other one"?

Payless Shoes advertises "BOGO" where the second pair is half off. To its credit, the company specifies that in its ads.

payless 

But BOGO usually connotes "Buy One Get One Free" to most people I know. So when people hear BOGO, it comes as a bit of a surprise that they have to pay for the second item.

Take a look at your signage, your ads, and all the copy you have on your website. Does it speak not only in the correct voice for the user, but is it setting the right expectations and delivering on them? If not, get to work and make your copy user-friendly.

Have any good examples of misleading copy? Put it in the comments below.

Until next time…

Jack

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jack Aaronson

Jack Aaronson, CEO of The Aaronson Group and corporate lecturer, is a sought-after expert on enhanced user experiences, customer conversion, retention, and loyalty. If only a small percentage of people who arrive at your home page transact with your company (and even fewer return to transact again), Jack and his company can help. He also publishes a newsletter about multichannel marketing, personalization, user experience, and other related issues. He has keynoted most major marketing conferences around the world and regularly speaks at Shop.org and other major industry shows. You can learn more about Jack through his LinkedIn profile.

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