Diamonds in the Rough: Clever Copy Makes Gluten Tolerable

Ten years ago the term “gluten” was little known outside of food science. Today it’s a near-intolerable buzz term. Fortunately for many food, health, and lifestyle copywriters, it’s also spawned an entire marketing imperium. Whether you’re a firm anti-glutenite or believe the health concerns are hype, gluten is a hot topic in many circles. Breaking down this bloated subject into digestible content for lay-readers is a job for the brave of copy arts. When I spotted this GlutenEase Enzyme pamphlet on a friend’s coffee table, I had to grin (and Instagram it). Supplement companies don’t usually come to mind when I think of standout copy. Kudos to this copywriter for catching a fellow wordsmith’s eye! Here’s this writer’s three cents on what makes this random pamphlet a rare gem:

First of all, puns. I’m a huge proponent of plays on words—within the right context, of course. If you’re writing finance copy or crafting legalese, your quips may miss the mark. In the case of this trend-driven health supplement, however, “gluten for punishment” is a bullseye. Call it corny, but admit that this phrase itself is a gem—though I’m sure the writer was not the first to coin it (if so, I bow). The original “glutton for punishment” is prevailing enough to resonate with a wide audience. The pun is a direct, concise, and clever leading hook, prompting the amused reader to ask those soul-searching questions: Am I an unconscious masochist? Must I be gluten-freed?

Keepin’ it real: When it comes to gastroenterological subject matter, it doesn’t pay to put on airs. This writer gets right down to business with two leading questions: Does bread leave you bloated? Gluten leave you gassy? It’s clear that this copywriter knows his or her audience. The target reader is probably Googling “why does my gut feel like a hot air balloon?” or “is chronic farting a condition?” Leveling with readers outside of the privacy of their web browsers makes them feel like they’ve got a friend in their cruel, gluten-tyrannized world. There’s no need to pander to the gut-wrenched with sterile phrases like “lower abdominal discomfort.”

Alliteration goes a long way: Even if you feel strongly about the perils of the pesky protein, gluten isn’t a scintillating subject in and of itself. Various unpleasantries and scientific details make it a bit of a bore to handle (from a copywriter’s standpoint). A little alliteration (a lot, if you ask me) and cleverly placed assonance will make your copy sing, as is the copywriter’s goal. Great composition isn’t just about the words themselves—it’s the sounds that link the words to create flow. Observe:

Does bread leave you bloated?

[Pause]

Gluten make you gassy?

[Pause]

If you love to eat wheat but hate the way it feels, odds are you are among the 15% of the population who is intolerant to a protein molecule called gluten.

Music to a copywriter’s ears. (Though, for parallel construction, we’d add a second “does”)

The writer draws readers in with short, alliterative questions—with the breaks to ruminate—then a sonorous conditional clause leads the reader to the crux of the copy, wherein he is staged to be sold.

If this pamphlet sounds a bit like a late-night infomercial, that’s because the formula is classic…but effective. Well-wrought copy doesn’t have to be elevated or embellished, but it does have hook, line, and sinker. Follow a pun with sloppy or jargon-packed language and you’ve lost a good lead. For anyone with tummy troubles who still “picks up the phone today,” I see a future full of sweet gluten ease.

Image courtesy of Lauren Tucker.

Janine’s passion for words is rooted in her lifelong study of literature. Following a stint in boutique publishing and a beloved job as a journalist, she discovered an aptitude for marketing that led to SEO work, marketing strategy, and copywriting for (then) startups like FAB.com and major brands like Aeropostale. When Janine found that she could expound on T.S. Eliot, pen a hard-hitting piece on vernal pools, and promote panties with equal éclat, she knew she’d found a calling.

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