Good Copy/Bad Copy #1: How to Speak to Women

So you want to sell to women? An honourable and lucrative aim – some women nowadays have money of their own, after all! But before you head in there, copy guns blazing, remember who you’re talking to. When it comes to sales copy, women really only respond to three things:

1. Well-worn cliches – women are soothed and reassured by familiar phrases. They thrive on safety and routine, so stick to gendered cultural references and create a womb of predictability in which your customer can curl up. 

2. Over-pally “you go, girlfriend” encouragement – because it is more or less a Total Fact that women derive their self-worth and motivation from the back of cosmetics bottles.

3. A complete absence of fun. Tongue-in-cheek teasing may work for men, but is bound to melt a woman’s snowflake-like confidence (NB: sometimes this can actually help your cause) and cause so-called feminists to gang up on you, so treat them with kid gloves. In addition to point #2, consider putting some reassuring pseudoscience in there. Women can do science too!

Let’s check out two examples from the world of shampoo (a world women know only too well), one that seductively screams “Wench, buy me, lest thy eyelashes fall out” and one that wilfully ignores agreed gender cues in favour of (shudder) creativity.

Let’s start with the good, shall we?


Note the way in which the copywriter has cleverly remembered that if there’s one thing women love just as much as shampoo, it’s working out to make themselves look fit. And in many ways, washing your hair is just as challenging as doing sit-ups. If your hair looks strong, so do you, right? Bonus points for the ‘personal trainer’ tone of voice. This is a bottle that says “Hats off to the modern Joan of Arc!”

Now we’ve had the sublime, let’s move on to the bafflingly dissident:


I mean, what were they thinking? Why would you even joke about our target goddess being an 86-year-old bell hop? Don’t they realise that is the actual worst nightmare of every living woman? Sure, it’s actually witty and conversational without being cloying, and sure, it’s incredibly well-written, but where is the reassurance? Where is the sex appeal? Who will tell us about magnoflavins and sheenscreen fractomolecules? Where is our John Wayne/prairie son? Where, oh where, is our beauty high-five?

I don’t know. Anyone would think they’d never met a real woman.

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