What Trader Joe’s can teach us about great copywriting

Even as a content writer, it’s important to have a background in copywriting. I’ve been hired as a copywriter and was asked to write content and I’ve been hired as a general marketing writer and have had to write copy and content, so it never hurts to be familiar with both in case the need arises for you to write one or the other!

So at its core, copywriting is when you write to persuade or to sell something; you’ll address a problem and provide a compelling solution. And I think you’ll agree that Trader Joe’s knows what’s up when it comes to copywriting for their product descriptions.

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Rise and shine and don’t worry about breakfast

Let’s say you wanted to spend less time making breakfast every morning so you look for some ready-to-eat options and land upon these Trader Joe’s overnight oats:

Now, I’m all about cooking my breakfast every morning, but Trader Joe’s makes a good case for these overnight oats due to how the copywriter beautifully set the scene and used storytelling and our senses to sell us on them:

There was a time, not too long ago, when oats were dry and we cooked them in hot liquids to get oatmeal. Of course, we can (and do!) still engage in this oat-prep practice. In these modern time, however, there is another path, a path requiring no heat: no pots nor pans; no microwave ovens. The humble refrigerator and some carefully chosen additional ingredients do the heavy lifting here, and the result in this case is Trader Joe’s Vanilla Overnight Oats.

This single serving package is simply rolled oats that have been basking in an almond beverage until they’ve reached their rich, pudding-like texture. To these Oats have been added dates, sea salt, and vanilla extracted from vanilla beans. The result is a ready-to-eat breakfast (or anytime) treat that is truly tasty.

There are a few reasons why I think this is a great product description:

  1. They told a story. You see how they began with a little story about how we typically make oatmeal versus how they have “revolutionized” oatmeal? And they ended it with how these oats are ready to eat without any equipment other than a refrigerator to keep them cold.
  1. They showed their brand voice well. It doesn’t sound like a robot wrote this—it feels like someone is actually speaking here with a little personality! I like how they use parentheses to add little comments and their use of punctuation as a tool to shape how their words should be interpreted.
  1. You can imagine how it would be to eat it. If you weren’t sold on how easy they are to prepare, they hit you with the “rich, pudding-like texture” (yum) and “vanilla extracted from vanilla beans” that encourages you to use your senses to imagine the product’s taste and texture. 
  1. They made a good argument for the sale. I also like how you understand the convenience and change you’ll experience if you purchase these overnight oats—you will not only save time, but also the trouble of using the stove or microwave to cook the oats and adding your own ingredients. Now, you just open your fridge and breakfast is ready.

What makes great product descriptions?

In general, you’ll want to keep these tips in mind when you write product descriptions:

  • Lead with a story. People will come for the information about the product, but stay for the story.
  • Stay true to the brand—make sure your copy doesn’t lose the voice and tone that it has throughout the rest of its written content (like on the company’s website, social media, etc.).
  • Use the audience’s senses or a visual that really makes them connect with what you’re selling or persuading.
  • Show the transformation someone will experience once they act on what you’re selling. If you’re selling slippers, make them imagine how they will turn their whole mood around—they can finally relax comfortably and go about their day! Dig deep into the experience of the product.
  • Focus on the benefit your audience will get out of your offering versus just the product features. Always think: what’s in it for the audience? Listing the features doesn’t always communicate benefits well.
  • Know your audience. It’s hard to talk to everyone, so make sure you have your ideal audience in mind. You would sell slippers differently to a mom who’s shopping for her toddler versus an adult shopping for their elderly parent.
  • Use strong verbs and adjectives. This attention to word choice will really level up how your copy sounds. 

It may just be oatmeal, but it’s pretty clear that the Trader Joe’s copywriter was very thoughtful on how they presented it. What might you add to this review?

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