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

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