tech writing vs. marketing writing

Subject: tech writing vs. marketing writing
From: Anatole Wilson <awilson -at- VNET -dot- IBM -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 3 Nov 1993 08:37:09 PST

Judging by the posts that have appeared on this subject the past couple of
days, I get the feeling that most of us still consider the defining character
of marketing writing to be empty hyperbole, saying little and having even
less value to the reader/user.

WRONG! That's a definition of bad (and usually ineffective) marketing writing.

The second rule of marketing after "tell the truth" is "specifics sell better
than generalities." That means *good* marketing copy tells you *specifically*
what the gizmo does and how it will make your life better--not "buy this
electronic pocket protector and become rich and famous."

If you really *need* to have a clear cut distinction between "objective"
technical writing and "subjective" marketing writing, how about this:
It's the difference between listing features and listing benefits. (I'm
paraphrasing this from Robert Bly's book "The Copywriter's Handbook.")

Describing a pencil, for example:

Features: 6 inches long, graphite encased in wood, with rubber eraser.

Benefits: This sturdy writing tool uses graphite, which can write at any
angle--even upside-down. The pencil's six-inch length fits perfectly in your
hand and makes it easy to hold in any position. And if you make a mistake,
don't worry--the rubber eraser on the other end totally removes graphite

Now, that's not particularly good copy, but it illustrates the difference
between what most people consider sterotypical writing and marketing
writing, which, though not as specific as I would have liked, contained no
inaccuracies or empty promises. (Though I probably should have a note that
that states the length of the pencil will be reduced when sharpened.)

You may find it interesting to note that when I worked at a company that
sold data communications equipment through catalogs, we read studies that
showed that the high-tech engineers who swore they only considered specs
when ordering equipment, were actually more likely to order a product if
its photo was 4-color than if the photo was black and white, and were
also more likely to order a product whose copy detailed benefits, not just

Anatole Wilson If anyone objects to any
Sr. Assoc. Information Developer statement I make, I am
IBM, Santa Teresa Labs quite prepared not only
awilson -at- vnet -dot- ibm -dot- com to retract it, but to
deny under oath that I
all company disclaimers apply ever made it.

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