The Secret of Transparency: A New Year’s Resolution Every Marketing Copywriter Should Make

If "greater transparency" isn't on your company's New Year's resolutions list, it should be. Join us in taking a closer look at what transparency looks like in action and learn more about why it works so well to win hearts

Transparency in Marketing Copywriting
The more transparent your copy, the more trustworthy your brand.

Another January, another New Year’s resolution. In your personal life, this resolution is likely one (or more) of the usual suspects: lose weight, eat healthier, read more. But what about work-related New Year’s resolutions? Are they worth making?

The answer is yes, and if marketing copywriting is your work, the answer is YES!!!! (ALL CAPS + excessive exclamation points is me digitally shouting at you!!!!) But making a resolution works best when you make the right resolution.

And in 2019, there’s only one resolution marketing copywriters should make: Be transparent.

Why? Simply put…

Consumer trust is on the wane.

(And if there’s one thing we know for sure, it’s that trust converts.)

The evidence: In 2017, the Edelman Trust Barometer, a respected annual survey that has measured trust among global citizens for 17 years, saw its first ever decline in public trust across all of its survey measures.

Specifically, it found that the average level of trust across business, media, government, and NGOs was below 50%. Moreover, a mere 52% of survey respondents said they trust businesses to “do what is right.”

Add to this a recent Consumer Reports study showing that Americans view 247 marketing messages per day, and the fact that nearly 70% of people associate advertisements with fake news, and it becomes clear that consumers are simultaneously overwhelmed by the number of ads they view and turned off by the content in those ads.

Thus, your New Year’s Resolution: Be Transparent.

Two familiar words. One challenging task. Pull it off, however, and you’ll reap the rewards.

Transparency 101

Surprise! Transparency isn’t just about honesty, though honesty does play a role in its execution. The “secret of transparency,” as explained by copywriter Michael Masterson in 2011, is that effective persuasive copywriting isn’t about highlighting every product specification and key differentiator. It’s about highlighting the benefits your product delivers.

This is because most consumers care more about the way a product makes them feel than what a product actually does (or how it does it).

In fact, the “secret of transparency” is in hiding your product. Yes, you read that right: Hide the product.

Indeed, this sounds like the complete opposite of transparency. But remember, we are talking about marketing copywriting, not your actual product page. The latter is where you list your product’s specs and tech capabilities and all the other number-laden / jargon-centric stuff most consumers don’t actually understand. (A 1.5 terabyte ocular gigalaminate subconnector? Yay!… And also, WHAT?!) The former is where you evoke a feeling.

Transparency in Action

Being transparent in marketing means clarifying your product’s benefits; specifically, its psychological and emotional benefits (sometimes called “deeper benefits”). Ask yourself: Which goals will it help consumers achieve? How will it improve their day? What positive impact will it have on their lives?

Below are a few examples of marketing copy that brilliantly employ the secret of transparency to answer these questions.

Example 1: First Round Capital

  • Highlighted Feature: 80 annual networking events connecting entrepreneurs
  • Feature Benefit: Consumer gains advice from fellow entrepreneurs
  • Emotional Benefit: Consumer feels understood as s/he embarks on professional journey that is risky, lonely, and difficult.

transparency 1

Notice the language the copywriter uses in the first line: “lonely” and “difficult” impart empathy and tell the reader that the copy’s author understands the experience because s/he has been through it. Subsequent lines amplify the empathy with words and phrases like “In our experience,” “safety net,” and “vulnerable,” then suggest the antidote to the fear and isolation is the networking benefit First Round Capital provides; specifically, where the “magic happens.” The copy brings a mundane product—entrepreneurial networking events—to life by using evocative language that emphasizes two fundamental humans needs: to be understood and to feel connected.

Example 2: Dead Pony Club California Ale

  • Highlighted Feature: Hops, hops, and a lower-than-average ABV
  • Feature Benefit: Consumer can drink more and feel less drunk
  • Emotional Benefit: Consumer arrives at “fun” fast.

transparency 2

This copy’s author wastes no time stating the case: the beer packs a “huge, hoppy punch” and is “low amplitude, high voltage.” Its language invokes the lore of renegades and fast living, themes that are hammered throughout the text, comparing, for example, “Being shot from a happy Howitzer” to trotting around a “submissive paddock.” The result is a psychological wallop that identifies with a reader who either is or yearns to be a rebel.

Why Transparency Works

It’s authentic

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that in a world of user-generated content where photoshopped “I woke up like this” images and hyper-curated messaging that deletes all imperfections are the norm, consumers are increasingly skeptical of advertisements. A recent Olapic study showed that only 25% of millennials and 24% of boomers in the U.S. trust branded content. No longer interested in generic copywriting and product specs, they instead crave honest content that creates an authentic brand-consumer dialogue.

Enter the secret of transparency. With its focus on experiences, emotions, and positive life benefits, it’s the antidote to the sales pitch-y copy of yesteryear, and the hard right turn writers must make if they want to survive in today’s share, like, and recommend market-verse. 

It creates connection

Transparency puts consumers in contact with a real person (the author) versus an inanimate object (the product). First person narratives (written using “I” and “we”) address the reader (“you”) directly, making products more relatable. Masterson notes that consumers buy more when they feel a personal connection to products and brands.

It skips specs (and specs are a snooze)

Of all oft-repeated marketing truisms, one of the truest is that lists of product specifications are boring—and as well all know, boring doesn’t convert.

Transparency in copywriting is the opposite of boring. By writing in a conversational style, painting a picture that elicits emotions, and using words that tell readers you understand them—and know what they’re looking for—marketing copywriters increase trust, thereby increasing sales.

Effective New Year’s resolutions set intentions, hold you accountable, and keep you on task. As such, they are as applicable to your professional goals as they are to your personal ones. To make transparency your top priority in the new year, contact the marketing copywriters at MarketSmiths.

Amanda Cargill

Amanda Cargill

Amanda Cargill is a Brooklyn-based writer, video producer, and marketing communications strategist specializing in food, travel, culture and lifestyle content in domestic, multicultural, and international markets.

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