2011-01-06_1357Frankly, the chances are good that you’re squan­der­ing the very best brand­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties avail­able to you on your cur­rent Web­site.  Read on to find out why, and what you can do about it.

The Impor­tance of Micro-copy

It all started a few months back, when my friend and for­mer col­league from Future Now, Robert Gorell, told me about Hipmunk.com.  He wanted to talk about micro-copy and I was all ears.

Rob­bert believes (rightly) that the small snip­pets of copy that make up the pre­dom­i­nance of cus­tomer inter­ac­tion rep­re­sent a huge oppor­tu­nity for con­vey­ing “brand voice” — an oppor­tu­nity that’s usu­ally squandered.

For exam­ple:


All of these are areas where com­pa­nies could take an oppor­tu­nity to care­fully break with the trite norms of the Web or of their indus­try and come up with some­thing dif­fer­ent. Some­thing reflec­tive of the brand per­son­al­ity. And all these remain fairly vanilla on the vast major­ity of Websites.

Hipmunk.com is an exam­ple of how to do it right

Instead of allow­ing you to only sort flights by air­line, num­ber of stops, or cost, Hipmunk.com also allows you to sort by “agony,” a com­bi­na­tion of flight dura­tion, num­ber of stops, and cost.


How cool is that?

This is the kind of copy that brings to mind Tim Miles’ writ­ing adage: “Don’t tell her you’re cour­te­ous. Open her door.” A quote I always like to para­phrase as, “Don’t tell read­ers that you ‘under­stand’ them, write some­thing that demon­strates your under­stand­ing — some­thing that only a per­son who under­stood could write.”

Not only is the sort by agony fea­ture a use­ful func­tion, but the “agony” label shows that chip­munk “gets it”: they under­stand that most busi­ness trav­el­ers begrudge their time wasted at air­ports and are hop­ing to reduce it as much as pos­si­ble, while still tak­ing into account costs.

Micro-copy and Persona-Based Marketing

So while I appre­ci­ate the bril­liance of the micro-copy, I also see this as an exam­ple of persona-based mar­ket­ing. Because com­ing up with new and use­ful ways to sort flights or cat­e­go­rize prod­ucts or view your options involves get­ting inside the heads and the lives of your prospec­tive cus­tomers. You have to under­stand before you can cre­ate some­thing that demon­strates that understanding.

And this is where Persona-based mar­ket­ing becomes so very, very impor­tant. Per­sonas pro­vide mar­keters and copy­writ­ers a tool and frame­work for get­ting inside the lives and heads of their prospec­tive cus­tomers. And the more you are unlike your tar­get cus­tomer, the more you need help get­ting into their heads, the more you need personas.

Which is why any male inter­ested in Mar­ket­ing to Women ought to check out Michele Miller’s new Mar­ket­ing to Women course, Unzipped.

The Unzipped approach to Persona-Based Marketing

2011-01-06_1429I read (and rec­om­mend) Michele’s pre­vi­ous book, The Soc­cer Mom Myth, and found it to have incred­i­bly deep and worth­while insights into per­sona creation.

Now, as a dis­claimer, Michele is a fel­low Wiz­ard of Ads Part­ner and The Soc­cer Mom Myth was co-written by my friend and Future Now col­league, Holly Buchanan. So I’m biased. Then again, I was also as jaded as I was biased, think­ing that I already knew every­thing the book was going to cover about persona-based mar­ket­ing. Wrong! I was so wrong, in fact, that I invested in tak­ing Michele’s online Mar­ket­ing to Women course that was offered as a follow-up (and yes, I had to pay the tuition just like any­one else).

At any rate, if you’re avail­able for the course at the end of this month, you should really check it out.

And if you can’t make it, why not buy the book, which is avail­able for Kin­dle for only 99 cents.

P.S. The course will be co-taught by the bril­liant Tom Wanek, author of Cur­ren­cies that Buy Cred­i­bil­ity.


  1. Alexis Ohanian on 01.06.2011

    Thanks for the writeup! I couldn’t agree more. In fact, I remem­ber join­ing the hip­munk team a week before launch and lov­ing the “agony” sort. It was orig­i­nally going to be “suck­age” but like I told them (as Steve and Adam real­ized) that just wasn’t going to fly for the final name.

    Agony cap­tures it so per­fectly. And now we’re really well posi­tioned as the agony-free flight search. So far so good, but there’s a lot more work to be done. Steve & I learned a lot of this from red­dit, a lit­tle good copy goes a long way.
    .-= Alexis Ohanian´s last blog ..I totally see why the USA annexed Hawaii =-.

  2. Naomi Niles on 01.06.2011

    This is a great reminder because I’m, um, really bad at the micro-copy stuff. I tend to pro­cras­ti­nate it because it feels tedious even though I know you’re right.

    I love the “agony” sort­ing. Clever.
    .-= Naomi Niles´s last blog ..The 5 W’s of Man­ag­ing Your Customer’s Expec­ta­tions =-.

  3. Jeff on 01.06.2011

    Thanks, Naomi, but don’t feel bad. I real­ized as I was writ­ing this post that my own 404 page is plain vanilla as is most of my micro-copy. Heck, the com­ment but­ton even has the dreaded “sub­mit” on it. Yeck.

    Can I claim that the cobbler’s kids have no shoes, maybe?

    ; )

  4. Jeff on 01.07.2011


    Thanks so much for notic­ing and com­ment­ing on the post. I love your site/service! And, although I also feel that agony was the bet­ter choice, I can’t help feel­ing that “suck­age” has its own sort of appeal. I can just see ask­ing “what’s the suck­age fac­tor on that flight?” ;)

    - Jeff

  5. #Contentstrategy links for January 10, 2011 « Content Candy on 01.10.2011

    […] The Impor­tance of Micro-copy – Makes the out­stand­ing point that it’s often the rou­tine text required for your […]

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