Copy rant: Words are important. That is why the English language is blessed with so many of them.

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Colour. Elixir. Giant. Pen. Stick. I’m not sure where to start. Which one of these things is this product, or is it in fact, any of them? Let’s break it down by way of elimination.

  • Does it contain colour? That seems highly likely and a very useful narrative signpost for customers who may not be aware that lip products tend to be colourful. So far, so good.
  • Elixir? Descriptive language with some artistic license thrown in is the stuff copy dreams are made of, there’s nothing wrong with the latter when used sparingly. I apologise if I remain skeptical of the product’s magically restorative properties however.
  • Giant? Well, size is relative I suppose. It’s certainly bigger than your average mac lipstick. If I hold it up to my face it is approximately two thirds the length of my face, but then I have been known to buy childrens’ hats. I fear exaggeration may be at play; anyone who is not a pygmy may feel misled by the implied dimensions.
  • Pen. Finally, we might be getting somewhere, that is if I were in the habit of filling my lips in with a Biro.  Although that would surely be one of the cheapest cosmetic tips to be found, I don’t think it will catch on.
  • Stick? Maxfactor, I am confused. I can understand how this product might be one or two of these things, but all five? That seems greedy and possibly the start of an identity crisis. I can also confirm that, after a scientific test on the back of my hand, it is much more like a crayon than a pen…or a stick.

I do sometimes feel that the beauty industry has become one gigantic parody of itself and is secretly having the last laugh, while the rest of us look on, scratching our heads in bewilderment. They could also do with attending a few rudimentary grammar lessons on the havoc caused by  using nouns as adjectives. In defence of the beauty industry, I can understand the difficulty of product differentiation in such a rapidly moving market. There is trend after trend to contend with. Together, product innovation and corporate marketing make up an endless game of chicken or egg: I have a hard time working out which one normally comes first and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

…That’s where my sympathy runs dry. The English language forms an incredibly rich and varied tapestry of words, allowing us to say almost anything, in many different ways.  Not only does this provide synonyms galore, it gives us the linguistic freedom to express exactly what we mean.  Also, more words doesn’t = better. Why have a Colour Elixir Giant Pen Stick, when you can have a Colour-Riche* Crayon, or Hi-Res Colour Crayon? I admit, I could probably come up with something better given time. I should add too, that none of the words chosen would be disingenuous if used on their own, nor are any of them wholly inaccurate. Unfortunately, they do sound ridiculous when placed end-to-end. If that doesn’t upset marketers in itself, then the consumer cynicism that this kind of lazy copywriting engenders, really should do.

Gosh. It felt good to let that out.

(*Hey, I never said that cosmetic products didn’t sound better in pseudo-French, now did I?)

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