Taking a closer look at microcopy
By Carolyn McMurray, SOCIATE’s Junior Copywriter & Blogstar
A little appreciation piece for all the tiny tidbits of copy etched into the tiniest of places.
Microcopy. A miniature musing of words scribbled into places that you probably take for granted.
In fact, you’re most likely wearing a bit of microcopy right now. Take a little dig around your shirt/hoody/whatever it is you’re wearing and find a teeny-tiny label. The one that tells you how to wash your clothes. Yep, that one.
All the words that are stuffed onto that micro square are perfect examples of microcopy. The reason that it’s taken for granted is that it’s often a little dull. The words ‘do not iron’ and ‘made in X’ don’t exactly get you buzzing. They serve a purpose, but let’s be honest. They’re BORING.
So, this isn’t an appreciation post for that kind of microcopy. It’s an appreciation post for microcopy that dazzles and shines and makes you do a little happy dance.
Let’s take a closer look.
What is microcopy?
As you’ve probably guessed, microcopy isn’t a bunch of miniature words strung together. It’s not micro. The only reason that it’s called that is that it’s short. It’s tiny in length, not font size (though clothing tags are a bit of both).
It’s found on labels, websites, and everyday products that you’ve probably not paid much attention to but it’s there. Sitting right under your nose. The purpose of this teeny-weensy copy? To tell someone how to use a product. To give info. To provide a little bit of context.
So, all those ‘made in X’ and ‘do not iron’ tidbits are important.
They serve a purpose; they let customers know how to use the product.
But I’m more interested in microcopy that goes the extra mile.
Examples of microcopy that make me proud to be a copywriter
It’s not often I realise how amazing being a copywriter actually is. Most of the time I’m too busy drafting captions and running away from ‘Anonymous Crocodile’ in Google Docs to think about it (if you know, you know).
But then I think about all the copy that’s floating around out there and I get excited. It’s a bit like seeing a leaf. They’re everywhere. But you don’t really ‘see’ them that much because you’re used to them. You sort of forget that they’re there until you stumble across a really exquisite golden one.
It’s the same with copy. It’s everywhere. It’s on your toothpaste. The punt of strawberries you buy. The signs you see dotted around the road. It’s on your laptop. But then sometimes you come across a really rare find. A toothpaste label that makes you giggle with a joke or a packet of strawberries with a quirky tagline. And then you’re jolted into the realisation that we’re surrounded by so many words, but only a handful actually stand out.
These are the microcopy heroes that do just that.
1. Sassy clothing tags
If you do a quick Google search, you’ll find a whole array of quirky clothing tags that make you say, “that’s pretty cool.” For brevity’s sake, I’ve just included two but the message is still pretty strong.
They’re bold. Comedic. And best of all? They play on the element of surprise. Not many people expect a sassy line of copy when reading a label. I know I don’t, probably because I’ve yet to see it in the flesh.
2. Zen tea messages
The brief? Teabags that serve up delicious herbal infusions and a slice of wisdom.
The result? Miniature musings on life and zen living. That’s exactly how Yogi Tea did it.
It’s cute, Insta-worthy, and immediately aesthetic. Cue lots of media attention and Yogi Tea essentially got itself some free marketing.
3. 404 redirects that turn that frown upside down
You know the feeling. You search for a page and then BOOM. ‘Sorry! The page you’re requesting is unavailable.” Instant turn-off (and by that I mean, leave-the-site-in-a-rage).
404 redirects can’t always be helped, but what they say to users can. METRO and an anonymous goat company are just a few of the brands doing things a little differently.
Instead of ‘pull my hair out’ copy, you’re met with humour. It makes you smile. It makes you forget how angry you are at the brand for giving you a redirect. You forgive them.
And you might also take a snap of it because it’s funny. #freemarketing
Another place to slap a line of cute microcopy? Loading time bars.
In an age of quick-fix ‘give it to me now’ internet, waiting for a page to load feels like something out of the dark ages.
Users might even be tempted to leave your site. Reassure them that they’ll get what they want soon with an enduring line of microscopy.
Cool microcopy is a bit like an endangered animal
After sifting through pages and pages of dull microcopy that made me want to fall asleep, I came across those eight examples. It got me thinking. Really good microcopy is a bit like an endangered animal. It’s rare. Everyone wants a piece of it. And when it does show up, crowds flock.
There are lots of endangered species out there (41.5k to be exact) but dazzling microcopy is a very select breed of ‘endangered.’ It’s not like the blobfish (too weird to even imagine) and it’s not like the African toad (a bit scary). It’s colorful and magnetic. A bit like the Resplendent Quetzal (a super snazzy bird with a name that sounds like it was made by a copywriter).
Check her out!
The key to crafting genuinely exciting microcopy?
Tell a little story. Use words to speak to your users, not throw information at them. Take a look at all the not-so-obvious places that you can jazz up with a few lines. And most importantly? Get creative with it.
As a rare breed of copy, it’s A-OK if you haven’t exactly got it figured out yet. Anyone can lash out a couple of boring lines but it takes a seasoned copywriter to get the job done properly. Hit us up at [email protected] to inject some life into your words. We’ll help you find all those hard-to-reach places that could do with a bit of copy makeover.