Online crimes of passion

29 Jul 2010

Since the dawn of time, how delighted you say you are to announce something, how passionate you say you are about a certain subject matter, or your report on your mood generally has been of no interest whatsoever to your potential customer.

Web copywriters of the world, this remains the case, and if it ever changes I promise you, as my solemn oath, you shall be the first to know!

Bleating on inanely about how thrilled, excited, passionate, fervent, ardent, zealous, avid, obsessive or fanatical you are about your subject matter is of absolutely no interest to me, or your other customers. And yes, I did use a thesaurus to get all those words. But you started it!

The briefest of journeys around the web will convince you that it is just falling over itself with this sycophantic self-serving copywriting style. This vanity parade is the online equivalent of talking about yourself in the third person; something Gareth Dunlop has a strong dislike for.

I recently tried to get car insurance online and was pleasantly surprised to see a product that matched my needs exactly with just the call to action I was looking for – “get a quote”. I followed the link to read “Thank you for your online enquiry. Every day in Ireland we continue to insure a significant number of people and we are very keen to have you as a customer. To get a quote please phone 0800 123456 8am–6pm on weekdays.”

Does their marketing team have any understanding of how little interest I have in the number of people they insure on a daily basis? Or how little it matters to me that they are keen to have me as a customer? Perhaps their marketing team go home to their loved ones and say, “You know what honey, Insure Co were quoting €1,000 to insure me for the year and Crash Co were €750, but Insure Co are continuing to insure a significant number of people in Ireland. I think that’s worth at least €250, let’s go with them?” Good luck to the man who tries to make that one fly with my wife, he’s a braver/stupider/faster man than I am!

A passionate matter

Lately this farcical copywriting style has started to manifest itself with passion.

We are passionate about design.

We are passionate about sofas.

We are passionate about tax optimisation.

We are passionate about rainfall numbers in Co Clare 2000–2010.

OK, so I made the last one up, but the others are real.

Think about what makes you passionate. Gourmet food and fine wine? Seeing your children take their first step, or learn to read? Watching Brian O’Driscoll score a try? A former lover from college days? Not me, it’s tax optimisation that gets me going. At first I was merely keen, and then became interested, expressive almost, but before I knew it I was passionate.

But not as passionate as a company I read about online just last week. “To say we’re passionate about (subject matter x) is an understatement.” An understatement!  Wow! Imagine what words they would have used if it was a real statement?

Perhaps my favourite of all time is “Company X – passionate about everything”. Surely these people must live on coffee and Red Bull just to keep their energy levels at the requisite levels to continue this joie de vivre for every single aspect of life?

The facts are simple. People go online not to read promises, but to do things. Don’t tell them how fervently you bounce out of bed in the morning to serve them. Just serve them. Stop yarning on about how excited you are about doing business online with them. Just do the business online. Enough already about how thrilled you are to provide a public service. Just let the public renew their passport, get a new driving licence, find out when their bins are collected, or whatever matters to the public.

Those who can’t, bleat on about how passionate they are online. Those who can, do.

By Gareth Dunlop

Gareth Dunlop is managing director of the leading digital consultancy, Ion. Its customers are in 15 countries and include The Commonwealth Secretariat, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Oklahoma Publishing and The Patent Office.

Read more by Gareth Dunlop: 

New Media Opinion: Online reputation optimisation

Offline marketing isn’t dead …

The unaffordable cost of irrelevancy

Urgent need for new online metrics   

Electricity and the gold rush

The real reason the recession is good for marketing

The class of 2009 wants your job!

Firms need to be customer zealots, not technology zealots

Firms need to put aside their fears and embrace the web

Online advertising overtakes TV advertising

Gareth Dunlop runs Fathom, a UX consultancy that helps organisations get the most from their digital products.