I just received a press release in my email for a product that urges me: “Turn your dud into a dude.”

We’re going to gloss over the fact, for the moment, that this was sent to me as a press release I’d like to “share with my readers.” We’re going to gloss over the fact that I am a blogger, not a press release distribution service.

No, we’re going to focus on the bad copywriting involved in just the subject line of this email.

I hadn’t even opened the message, and they had already rubbed me the wrong way. I clicked on it just to see what this was all about. I’m not going to out the product being pitched to me via a press release template that didn’t even have the courtesy of prefacing itself with my name, though I’m sure you could Google it if you really wanted to.

There are two basic things that the tagline got wrong here:

1. Don’t ever refer to my husband (boyfriend/significant other) as a dud. I may complain about his flaws sometimes, but you’re not allowed to do that. Only I am.

2. The word dude is seriously 20 years outdated. Despite the fact that it’s re-entered my vocabulary thanks to Hurley always saying it on LOST, dude really isn’t the description of a man my man should aspire to be. (Now, the man my man could smell like is another story…)

Copywriting Fail

You can avoid alienating people like me by watching for bad copywriting traps. You may think that dud/dude is a clever play on words, but you have to make sure your play on words actually says what you want it to say, conveying the tone you want people to get from it. This particular play on words made me bristle because it implied that “my man” is a dud. (Would I have married him if he was a dud? What does that say about me?)

Once you’ve made sure your clever copy isn’t going to offend anyone – and to check this, you may want to run it by someone who’s not in marketing or PR – you need to make sure you’re not making yourself sound lame. Even using the word lame is pretty lame, but I think it gets my point across. Don’t use words that were “cool” 20 years ago (like cool). Or even 5 years ago. Unless you can pull off comic irony – which most people can’t – you just sound tired, dated, and out of touch. Is that really the impression you’re trying to make?

Clever copy isn’t really clever if you miss the mark with your target audience.

Friends don’t let friends settle for bad copywriting.

5 thoughts on “Bad Copywriting: Turning Your Dud into a Dude”
  1. A Press Release like this wouldn’t even get opened by me because I’d assume it was for herbal viagra or some other spammy product. I’d hit the Spam button and into the Spam Black Hole it’d go. Then again, not knowing the actual product behind the bad pitch, perhaps it *was* herbal viagra and/or it *deserved* to be treated as such.

  2. I saw a banner ad in the mall that turned me off completely: “Surf the Internet while your wife buys you slacks.”

    Slacks? Seriously? How OLD was the MAN who wrote that, because I don’t know too many women who buy their husbands pants, let alone slacks. He can buy his own damn pants! I’m busy buying my own stuff!

    I can’t even look at that product now. They offended me twice over.

  3. Wow, Lori. That really is bad. The only person I’ve heard use the word slacks in years is my 76-year-old grandma.

    I do buy my husband’s pants, because he’d walk around with giant holes in the ones he’s got if I let him… but yeah, I share your sentiment regarding the message.

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