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  • Writer's pictureBrian O'Friel

Everything tastes better with a dollop of fresh Copywriting. Here’s the proof.

Updated: Mar 5

Copywriting adds colour and appeal to your products by Belfast Copywriter Brian O'Friel

This Covid-19 malarkey is really bringing out the reader in me. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I went through so many books – novels, biographies and work-related tomes – with such eagerness, whether that’s reading or re-reading. One book that I’ve been re-dipping into recently is Richard Shotton’s The Choice

Factory – 25 Behavioural Biases that Influence What we Buy. And before you sneer and say Ha-ha-bet-that’s-a-right-old-page-turner, well, it actually is – especially if you work in advertising or marketing, and even more especially if you’re a copywriter, strategist or planner. The book is essentially a look at how some of the theories of psychology and behavioural science/economics can be quite easily brought into play in marketing – and how their effects can be readily measured. Of course, marketing and advertising is sometimes criticised for being more of a hit-and-hope industry where a product rises or falls on the back of subjective campaign creativity and thinking. And while there’s always room for the crazy wackiness of a Budweiser ‘Wassup’, or an Old Spice ‘Man on a Horse’ campaign, Shotton clearly shows that before you can really influence consumer decisions, you need to understand what drives them. Hence his 25 behavioural biases. Areas that he addresses in the book include social proof (both positive and negative), habit, payment perception, the buyer’s mood, etc, etc. He then examines the relevant take-aways from those biases and how they can be used to the marketer’s advantage. As a copywriter, the extract that I refer to most of all (aka – boring the backside off people with) is the following snippet in the chapter on Expectancy Theory. Here he talks about the power of presentation; in this case, copywriting. In 2005, a six-week experiment was carried out in a cafeteria. The description of menu items was changed – eg ‘Red Beans with Rice’ became ‘Cajun Red Beans with Rice’; ‘Seafood Fillet’ became ‘Succulent Italian Seafood Fillet’, and ‘Chocolate Pudding’ became ‘Satin Chocolate Pudding’, etc, etc. Only the names changed; not the cooking or the presentation of the food. Feedback was then gathered for both the original dishes with the plain titles, and the same dishes with the fancy new copywriting. The result: “The mean score for the plainly described dishes was 6.83 for taste and 5.87 for appeal. In contrast, the new more descriptive dishes were rated 7.31 for taste and 6.66 for appeal. Detailed descriptions boosted taste and appeal by 7% and 13% respectively. The label/description improved the expectation and the expectation improved the taste of the food.” Which, in anyone’s books, is a very significant outcome indeed. (If you ever want to see this approach in practice, just have a look at how Marks and Spencer famously wrote their very alluring food commercials.)

To conclude in the manner of the above experiment: Shotton’s book is not just a marketing book: it’s (cue suggestive music) an insightful, perceptive and enabling book for go-ahead business and marketing people. If you see it, grab it. (Need some deliciously crafter words for your next campaign? Talk to Belfast Copywriter Brian O'Friel. Get in touch.)


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