What's wrong with words, anyways?

Well, it had to happen eventually…

I'd get up on a soapbox and bitch about why I like words and writing long-winded product descriptions...

I received an email newsletter by some "content marketing people" that pontificated that consumers on websites apparently are more interested in just looking at pictures to make their purchasing decisions than they are in reading descriptions about what they are purchasing. It’s kind of sad, actually…

And these "experts"- well, are they fish geeks? 

Okay, good and bad. But being told that consumers don’t want to read descriptions of products made me kind of…I dunno…nostalgic? Or maybe just grumpy.

Yup. Grumpy.

Wow, the “twitterization” of e-commerce appears to be complete. Apparently, in a mere decade, our culture has evolved to the point where we are only capable of absorbing a maximum of 140 characters about anything, complete with absurd "hash tags." (says the guy who loves them now...)

Somehow, the human race has gotten so busy that we are no longer able to carve out a niche of time, even for stuff that we love, like our hobbies, to be able to take the time to read descriptions of something that we want to buy. 

Really? Is this true? I mean, a picture really IS worth 1,000 words, but...

We’re so busy, and time is so limited, that we can’t even listen to voice mail. Ever had this scenario?: You call someone on their cell phone number. You get their voicemail and leave a brief message about what it was you needed to convey to them. Seconds later, you receive a phone call from the person you just left a message for…And you ask them if they received your message…the answer is “No- I saw the number and redialed…”

Really? We can’t even listen to voicemail messages?


Somehow, we’ve all gotten ourselves into a big damn hurry and have apparently added so much to our daily lives that even basic, time-honored communications functions are just... too time consuming.

Some things are pretty cool, I will give you that. In years past, we had catalogues. Now we have websites. We used to have Yellow Pages ads, and then we had QR codes. Social media has allowed anyone with a web-enabled device to let their opinion and presence be known to anyone who will listen. We can all pontificate about stuff like which colored M & M is better, or wether a "Wabi Kusa" style approach to aquascaping is more logical than a “natural” approach, or any number of a myriad of topics. It’s an age of empowerment. Attention. It's great! Consumers can let marketers know instantly if their product is a piece of garbage, or how it’s changed their life forever.


But the sad thing is that, despite active hobby discussion boards worldwide, with threads about every arcane aquarium keeping topic imaginable, “new marketing” experts tell us that providing information about a product you offer on your website in any form other than brief bullet points constitutes “clutter”, and is viewed as “fluff.” 

Woah, that sorta sucks. Or does it?

I’ll give you that some of our product descriptions for stuff like Catappa leaves can be, well, superfluous. I mean, if you see a leaf in the picture, you don’t need us to tell you it’s a leaf, or that it’s pretty cool. Maybe you DO like to see the “bullet points” about its use. I mean, restating the obvious IS a waste of time. I get it. My problem- I like words. I like enthusiasm and emotion that can be generated by reading words. Somehow, bullet points or other dryly expository stuff doesn’t do it for me. Well, far be it from me to stand in the way of progress. If copy is superfluous, I’ll evolve with the times. I’ll whine a bit, though. 

Wait a minute. Nope. I won't. I like language.

And I just read in another blog that micro content is big again. So I'm back in business! 

And again, I’ve read some of our descriptions of botanicals and such off the website. Some of them are awesome, if I say so myself, delivered in the best “Trader Joe's” style. Others are just, well- admittedly…dopey. But endearing, I think. We have phrases like “...a featherweight pod" or “will be an anchor in your leaf litter zone.” Arrgh.

Remind me of “Gets your teeth their whitest!” or “Saves you time and money!”


Okay, so I get it.  Some stuff is..geeky...However, I've decided that I'm not going to stop "romanticizing" our merchandise. I mean, yeah- it is kind of hard to find new ways to describe the virtues of a mesh filter sock or a sponge filter....but I'm not gonna stop trying! I guess the problem for me is that I love the power of words, the interest or richness or enthusiasm you can convey. If you called me up and asked me about how cool that $16.00 variety pack is, I’d still probably give you a 3,000 word dissertation on why it would be perfect for your aquascape, and how amazing the texture of the pods is.

Far be it from me to resist change for the better!

So I guess the point is- if you want to hear just how nicely that Savu Pod you see on our website would fit into your aquascape, and how it’s one of the coolest botanicals around, you'll still be able to read about it on our site. Or, you can just call me. Of course, if you miss me and I call you back and you don’t pick up, I won't leave a message, or should I?

I actually should rejoice, right? Because today’s consumer is better, smarter, more educated about what they purchase, having taken the time to research BEFORE they make a buying decision. Or so they say.

But I’ll give you that today’s empowered consumer is really smart. Absolutely. And that is a good thing!

I just have a problem with the fact that, according to “some marketing experts”, today’s consumers no longer like the romance of product descriptions. They see it as “fluff” or “smoke and mirrors”, being too sophisticated to be charmed by the virtues of say, a description of a Cholla branch. They just like pics. And maybe, just maybe, a bullet point or two.

Ok, sure.

Why am I being grumpy about this? I dunno…I’m waxing philosophical about stuff like marketing and communications with customers, and I obviously want to create an environment that creates the best possible experience. And apparently, the best possible experience is created by providing as little to digest as possible. In the decades since I earned my marketing degree, it seems as though much of what I learned back in those days was proven to be not only wrong, but actually counter-productive in today’s society. 

I get it…sort of. I mean, now days, it makes more sense to talk WITH consumers than AT them, as we were taught for generations in business school. A conversation is a two-way deal, not the marketer simply delivering a message…The forging of relationships is a more solid way to create lasting customers. I have no problem with that, and I think I personally have gotten quite good at it. 

Of course, I will take heat from readers now and then about me “getting up on my soapbox” and “preaching” about stuff in my blogs, and come across as arrogant, small-minded, or OMIGOD- occasionally biased about MY OWN company, talking about some of the good things we do. Yikes- mustn't do THAT in MY OWN forum which I pay for, right?

Well, you can’t teach an old dog EVERY new trick, right? 

So, seriously, we’re going to continue to give you the information you need to make an educated purchase decision. I'm resigned to accept THIS as my idea of progress: The fact that many of you might enjoy reading about stuff you're into. And judging by the average time a visitor spends on our site, I think I just might be on to something!

Man, I just felt like vomiting while reading about the urgent need to change with the times for some stuff. But hey, I’m over it now. I even understand how our website back-end works. 


But I do use some hashtags and stuff...

Oh man, I’ve just validated Instagram…”Tweet” that! #fellmansoldouttothefuture.

Is this the "death of words" in marketing? Or the beginning of empowerment?

I could philosophize on that, but it would take more than 140 characters. Just give me a call. 

But don’t leave a voicemail, because I won’t listen to it before I redial.

That’s 1,400+ words to tell you that we’re going to continue to use lots of words in our product descriptions. 

Super efficient.

Tweet THAT!

Yeah. Nothing's wrong with words, IMHO.

Until next time,

Embrace change, think objectively…

And stay wet.

Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics

P.S.- So I just read an article in an online business magazine that Google and other search engines "reward you" with better search placement if you use "original, longer descriptions or product..."

I LOVE change...Almost as much as I love being historically right! For NOW.

Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman


3 Responses

Gregg Martin
Gregg Martin

November 01, 2017

Nicely written! Frankly, I don’t own a cell phone or device, no twitter account or any other than FB groups. So saying, I really prefer a hard copy, even if it is out of date within days due to instant experts. But it is not, really. Classics remain that way, and always something to reference by. Actually I’d rather sit and read at my leisure, without hauling a machine about. So there, I’m with you you on this one. I to would just as soon have thorough information as bullet points gathered from Google.

Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman

October 26, 2017

Awesome! And I love that SO many of our customers said “Yeah! We want long descriptions about stuff!” Love..


October 26, 2017

If it makes you feel better, I read ‘em! In fact, I won’t buy a product if it doesn’t tell me as much as possible about itself… part of why I’ll be engineering my own lighting hoods is that the systems that don’t cost as much as my mortgage payment generally have three bullet points. What are the lumens? White colour spectrum? Who cares, it can strobe, shift automatically through the rainbow and it’s cheap! Bleh…

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