The Wasted Space On My Printer Paper – When Copy Needs Help

When you work on computers all day, your eyes are in danger of suffering strain. It’s important to close your eyes from time to time and especially to move your gaze around the room every few minutes. I try to be vigilant about doing this, and for the past few month, my resting eyes have repeatedly landed on an object in my office that causes me distress. That object is the open package of printer paper beneath my husband’s desk. I have now read the message on the back of it many hundreds of times, and it doesn’t get any better with familiarity.

Here’s a situation that truly calls for a copywriter to the rescue, and when I share the package copy with you, I think you’ll see why:

4 Really Good Reasons To Use Printworks Papers

1) Paper is our passion and we want to make it yours too

2) You can pay more but you don’t have to

3) We do more than anyone else to help you print like a pro

Really good reason number 4 is missing, because that’s where we opened the paper package, but I’ll come back to this later. First, let’s take a look at why this copy is lacking a clear or useful message for the purchaser.

The bolded headline sets you up expect 4 really good reasons for buying this company’s printer paper. The ‘you’ is implied here, of course, but we can reasonably assume that you are the target of the message. I’m afraid the printer paper people then totally lose their focus. Having addressed you, they immediately begin to talk about themselves.

1) Paper is our passion and we want to make it yours too
Suddenly, it’s all about them. Why should you care that paper is their passion? Maybe you should care if paper is your passion, but are you really moved by the idea of a bunch of guys passionately creating white printer paper? Is it a message you can believe in? I’d say, no. I’m also a little dubious about the idea that the printer paper guys want to make paper my passion. How do they intend to do this? Will they invite me to their plant? Give me shares? Hold a party in my honor with a paper theme?

Really good reason number one simply ends up ringing false. I’m not convinced by the image of passion + paper manufacture, and I don’t really want to become passionate about printer paper. I just need to print some stuff. That’s all.

We need to ditch the inappropriate use of the word ‘passion’ here. If this was a piece of handcrafted, illuminated vellum dug out of a Viking ship, okay, there might be something to get overly excited about. But going for needlessly inflated terms always winds up looking strained. Why not use the 1/2 inch of wasted space to make a real point about the paper that will have meaning to the purchaser?

Suggestion:
Your print materials will be professional when you use Printworks’ crisp, flawless paper

2) You can pay more but you don’t have to

This is such an ambiguous statement. I think the copywriter was unduly pressured to cut their words short. The above message doesn’t mention anything about paper. It’s a blanket pronouncement you’d expect to pull out of a fortune cookie. A rolling stone gathers no moss. A stitch in time saves nine. You can pay more but you don’t have to. It’s such a limp thing to read. It makes me see someone shrugging, not caring whether I pay more or not. This ho-hum snippet needs to be replaced by a specific selling proposition.

Suggestion:
You’ll pay 30% less for our paper than for our competitors’. Keep the change and put gas in your tank with it.


3) We do more than anyone else to help you print like a pro

This line reminds me of the copy I encounter on websites run by businesses declaring themselves to be ‘the best’ while lacking any facts to back up such a bold claim. Does Printworks really do more to help you print like a pro? More than some other printer paper company? How? Without an explanation of their superior efforts, the statement is hollow. It’s have-a-nice-day. It doesn’t mean anything.

Suggestion:
Use the enclosed tutorial to learn how to keep your printer clean and functioning at a professional level so that all your Printworks projects are perfect ones.

The Missing #4
I’ve offered some suggestions, above, for talking directly to you, the purchaser, and for making points that might actually be of interest to you rather than making unsupported claims to greatness for the company. Since Really Good Reason #4 was unceremoniously torn from the package, I’d like to give some further suggestions for what might appear on this line of the list that would have real meaning to me as a consumer.

No old-growth forests were used in the making of the paper you’re holding in your hands.

Choose PrintWorks because it contains 50% recycled fibers.

Your PrintWorks paper is bleach-free, keeping your planet greener.

PrintWorks paper is made in the USA, supporting your domestic economy.

10% of your PrintWorks purchase goes to the Canadian Forest Protection Fund.

I don’t know if this company can actually lay claim to any of the above declarations, but if they could, I would be sincerely impressed and even inclined to remove my ban on the word passion in relationship to printer paper manufacture. Companies going the extra mile for the planet have something really significant to brag about and they create brand evangelists amongst the most caring sector of the public.

1/4 of the back of the PrintWorks package has been devoted to listing what ought to be their USP. All that space, currently going to waste. Copywriters and Social Media Marketers often bemoan the task of promoting ‘boring’ companies and products. While printer paper may not be a subject that sets the house on fire, by making a real effort to discern the true benefits that are in it for you, the purchaser, this sizable area of the package could be doing a lot more to convey relevant and appealing data. If a company literally cannot find anything compelling to tell people about their business, maybe it’s time to start doing something extraordinary that no competitor has thought of!

This advice is directly applicable to website design. How many websites are wasting prime space in their homepage layout with a generic ‘Welcome To Our Website’ message? Google says 34 million and those are just instances of indexed text…not all the welcome messages offered in big, space-wasting graphics.

And, that, in my opinion, is why copywriting and business models go hand in hand. If no effort is being made to identify what is really important to the purchaser, how well is the business facilitated to meet consumer needs? If I were working for PrintWorks, I’d be asking what they are doing for people, for the planet, for commerce, that deserves the service of words. Such a conversation might even lead to interesting and exciting changes in how the company does business, if winning the customer is the #1 goal in a competitive world.

3 Responses to “The Wasted Space On My Printer Paper – When Copy Needs Help”

  1. on 05 Oct 2008 at 5:56 pm Lori

    Aw, these poor printer paper copywriters. They didn’t know their copy was going to be examined by one of the best in the business!

    I’m sure they would have tried harder if they had known :)

    Anyway, thanks for once again taking a little slice of life and turning it into an important lesson about writing appealing text that sells benefits, not just features. Thank you!

  2. on 05 Oct 2008 at 7:28 pm admin

    Hi Lori :)
    It’s a treat to see you here.

    You know how that is when you have a household (or office) product that you read the text on over and over again? I just had to write something about this. I couldn’t stop myself.

    It’s a funny thing about copy on packages. You think, “this is a real, official product, not just some ramblings on a blog,” and then you wonder why such valuable space isn’t being put to a little better use.

    I have a blow dryer that says, in large letters with quotes around the phrase,

    “UNPLUG IT”

    It doesn’t say what ‘it’ is and I don’t understand why the words have been put in quotes. It’s very funny.

    And then I have a shower head that says ‘Speakman Anystream’ on it. This isn’t really a copy issue, but every time I look at it, I wonder why it is called this. Sounds like something people would have used to listen to music with in the 80′s or something…not really a bathroom fixture.

    Isn’t the world of words wonderful?

    Miriam

  3. on 06 Oct 2008 at 9:06 pm swainzy

    Miriam,

    You just make too darn much sense! And I agree with Lori:
    “taking a little slice of life and turning it into an important lesson” is one reason that makes your writing so appealing to me.

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