In 2020 there are, apparently, 1.7 billion websites in the world.* What’s daunting is if there are that many websites how do you stand out? How do you get a website that people remember and come back to more than once?
There are lots of important bits and pieces that help make a fantastic website — design, copy, optimisation, accessibility, and UX are a few — but coming at this from a copywriting point of view, I want to highlight something interesting I’ve spotted…
Over a billion websites is a big number. But for context, there are over 7 billion people inhabiting this blue and green rock. Many of us stand out to the people that matter just fine. How do we do it? We use our personality to attract our ideal people. Exactly the same principle can be applied to your online marketing.
After years of reading and writing copy for websites, it’s dawned on me that the ones that stick in my mind or I visit repeatedly are websites with personality. In this article, I’m going to share examples of my favourite business sites that fizz with personality. I’ll explain what they’ve done to get on my list so you can use those ideas to influence your own website copy and messaging.
My top 6 websites with personality
1. Ministry of Waxing
I discovered this company when I worked at Scarlet magazine. I think they were advertising with us or there was some sort of review we were going to do. Anyway, what stuck in my mind was their playful ads with an orangutan and two bikini-clad women. Without getting into a big D&M about body image or body shaming, the ads prompted me to check out their site which turned out to be a copywriting delight.
First up, Ministry of Waxing gets a big thumbs-up from me because of their subtle pun use (‘the naked truth’) and their willingness to use colloquial language (‘waxed over four million bushes worldwide’). These fit with the little bit cheeky, little bit naughty brand personality. Which is odd when you think about it…
I mean, waxing isn’t sexy. You’ve only got to read the opening paragraph of their about page to understand the general feeling towards waxing.
The result of waxing is often what we consider the sexy bit rather than the process itself. Yet Ministry of Waxing uses their tone and playfulness to make the idea of getting a wax appear fun and a bit risqué.
The last point I want to make about Ministry is their use of ‘Waxperts’ to refer to their staff. Coining your own phrases and labels within your business can be a great way to show your personality, as well as set yourself apart. ‘Waxpert’ helps differentiate their staff from other, every-day beauticians who offer waxing. Which would stick in your mind more?
See the site in full: http://ministryofwaxing.co.uk/
2. Knobby Underwear
I have no idea how I found Knobby Underwear, but this business was the first Australian, small brand business that knocked my socks off when it came to finding an Aussie website packed with personality. And the point I want to make with this company is their use of local dialect to establish their personality.
Let’s look at their homepage headline first.
The use of ‘bucks’ and ‘bloody comfy’ are very Australian turns of phrases. From this you understand their personality is very down to earth, they’re “true blue” as the Aussies say of their own. And this is carried onto their about us page, where phrases such as ‘Australian as a 6 pack and a plate of meat pies’, ‘some bloke’, the grammatically incorrect but human-sounding ‘me undies’ and ‘a guy’. All appear in the first few lines.
When you chuck in phrases like this, you’re forced to read the copy in the accent in which most of the staff and employees have. You may never hear anyone at this company talk, but through their language you know how they sound. You know they’re Australian. And, as the reader, you may start to attach some of the (hopefully) positive personality stereotypes attached to being Aussie.
See the site in full: https://knobbyunderwear.com.au/
3. Freaker USA
These folks I found through a copywriting group. Someone started singing their praises for a very well-done FAQ page, which I’ll get to in a moment, but I heart Freaker because they do a good line in weird, eccentric personality without alienating people. It’s a tough balance to strike but makes sense for a brand with ‘freak’ in their name.
So, how do they show this personality in their website copy? Let’s start with the first chunk of copy that explains what Freaker Feet are.
In this paragraph, they deal very matter-of-factly with what Freaker feet are. They’re ‘Socks made with combed cotton picket in GA, then spun, dyed and knit in North Carolina!!’ And that’s important to note. Adding personality to your website, or any type of copy, shouldn’t get in the way of clearly communicating your message and giving your reader the information they want. The personality is added elsewhere.
For example, the use of the double exclamation marks (‘North Carolina!!’) breaks grammar rules. That says this brand has a personality that likes to do things their own way, rather than the correct way. And if you watch the videos on the site you’ll get more of a feel for this. In this tiny bit of text that’s only 42 words long, we also get the vibe that Freaker has a young personality. Reference to on-trend crime shows and the playful ‘at least share it with your mom,’ suggests youthfulness.
The FAQ page is the best. It asks the questions customers want to know but in unexpected, freaky sorta way. For example, care instruction. Sure, they could have put, ‘How do I wash my FREAKER?’ but where’s the joy in that? Instead they create an unusual mini-story about someone who stuffed their FREAKER on a fire hydrant and now it’s stretched. This gives them space to talk about the washing instructions. It’s a little offbeat, a little weird which fits with the personality, but still gives the reader their answer.
See the site in full: https://www.freakerusa.com/
OK, so far all of these brands come from industries that lend themselves to big, bold personalities. But what about more serious “grown up” industries? Ya know the ones I mean, law, finance, any industry where the word ‘solutions’ is spoken or written a gazillion times a day. What about them?
Good news. There are lots of personality types in this world, so these too can still burst with character. They don’t have to be drier than a Jacob’s cracker sunbathing in the desert. I’ll show you how.
5. Legally Shalini
If there’s one industry I vow to never write for, it’s law. Unless, there are more legal folks out there like Shalini. What I love about the Legally Shalini copy is that it gets the eff away from long-winded legalise talk, or death and doomsday chat. Instead it uses simple, positive language that’s warming and reassuring.
Here’s the copy from the first fold on the homepage.
You can ‘stop worrying’, take ‘simple steps’ to sort out the legal stuff your company needs so you can ‘enjoy your business.’ By using plain English and short sentences that are easy to follow, as a reader you start to understand that Shalini is the type of person who wants to keep all of this simple and easy for you, the client. She’s not out to confuse us. The use of alliteration in ‘Love your business? Then let’s look after it by giving your legals some love’ also softer and friendlier.
Skipping a little further down the homepage to her mission, there are really nice everyday phrases many of us will be familiar with when talking law-suff:
- Being sued or ripped off
- …having a legal expert in your corner
- …make sure your legals are sorted.
‘Legals’ isn’t a real word, but it’s one many of us use in everyday conversation. By embracing that, Shalini shows us that she’s the type of legal person who’s on the side of the everyday business owner. She speaks our language.
See the site in full: https://legallyshalini.com.au/
6. Forescout Technologies
I stumbled across this site while writing for another cyber security company. During the project, I read dozens of product sites. While it’s not perfect — it has its share of personality-sucking jargon dotted around the place — Forescout is the only one that managed to fix itself in my mind at all. The ‘You need [this]. We do [this]’ language in their homepage and company headlines are very straight-talking. Using short sentences and statements gives the impression that the Forescout personality is one of order and efficiency. (I have no idea if that’s true in practice.)
From what I saw, Forescout also did something different to their competitors by putting themselves in their audience’s position using a relatable story.
“It seemed to happen overnight. Your organization became a veritable Enterprise of Things (EoT). PCs, mobile devices, cloud workloads and other traditional IT systems. Agentless IoT and OT devices. Device diversity is thriving at the cost of security as your users connect from all over the map – literally.” For the ideal customer, this is a situation they’ll recognise. And phrases such as “It seemed to happen overnight” and “Here’s the thing…” are conversational which makes it accessible.
See the site in full: https://www.forescout.com/
Creating a website with personality is tied to your branding
From these examples we’ve seen how it’s possible to create a website with personality using copywriting techniques such as:
- using local dialect to create familiarity
- keeping language conversational
- aiming for short sentences
- breaking grammar rules
- using alliteration to soften copy and messaging
- being playful and still giving the reader the information they need.
You can only know which of these writing techniques to use once you have your branding and positioning sussed out. Creating a personality for your company influences the tone of voice you adopt in your marketing copy. Injecting your company with the wrong type of personality is damaging, so before you switch up your website copy, make sure you’re clear on who your target audience is, what they need from you and how you do it differently to your competitors. If you’re unsure on any of this, you can work with a branding consultant to help you.
Once you have all of this worked out, you may be ready to work with a professional copywriter. Want to know a little more about personality-driven copy? Here I reveal the three ways I capture your business personality and sprinkle it through your marketing copy.
*Source: for the number of websites in the world in 2020, Websitehostingrating.com