If you're doing anything creative in your day-to-day work, chances are, you're going to have days when you're not feeling so creative. When I'm in a creative slump, I feel like I'm literally pulling the words out of my body. Not fun. But if your living depends on you being creative, you've got to get out of that rut -- and fast.
There's no one way to do so, but for me, I love reading what other people write to find great content examples I can learn from and become inspired by. And often, those excellent pieces of writing aren't in places you'd think to look: the back of a shampoo bottle or underneath a shoebox top, for instance.
Once I know where to find inspiration, I'm good to go -- but it's often a random and fragmented discovery process, which isn't great if you need to get out of a rut right this instant.
So, being the blogger I am, I compiled a bunch of brilliant copywriting examples from quite random places that have inspired me and my fellow content creators at HubSpot -- and I hope that they inspire you too. Some of these have some risque language -- not quite NSFW, but definitely on the edge. So read on and get inspired!
1) Ben & Jerry's Flavor Descriptions
Confession: The reason I gained the "freshman 15" in college was entirely due to my late-night addiction with Ben & Jerry's delicious, delicious ice cream.
While I was facing the hardest decision of each day (Chocolate Fudge Brownie or Half Baked?), I read Ben & Jerry's cartons ... and they're surprisingly creative and well-written.
The tone of each flavor description is perfectly on-brand and the word choice is out of this world. If you want to read all of the product descriptions without tempting yourself to down a pint of Cherry Garcia, check out its flavor descriptions on its website.
2) McSweeney's Rants
This is the semi-NSFW language that I warned you about before ... but it is one of the consistently great places for copywriting inspiration I've ever found. I know it's a blog -- and that's where you expect to find great writing -- but the reason I've included it is because it's owned by a publishing house in San Francisco.
I'm gonna be frank here: I pretty much never go to other business blogs for writing inspiration even though I write for a business blog (thanks for reading, by the way ;). Still, each article is solidly written in a perfectly sarcastic tone and includes obscure yet completely relevant literary and pop culture references. Bonus: Most articles I've read sound like they could be written personally for you.
Case in point: One of my most recent reads is called, "Dynamic Marketing Firm Seeks Greatest Mind of Your Generation (Unpaid)." The article is basically a fake job posting for an intern featuring every piece of jargon you've ever wanted to read -- and a few that are made up. Because of its superb and often hyperbolic word choice, it's always a pleasure to read its articles.
3) Innocent Drinks Labels
While we're kind of on the subject of food labels, there's one UK company that absolutely takes the cake -- or should I say smoothie? Innocent Drinks' labels and packaging are so creative and well-written that the company has a whole section of its website dedicated to showing them off.
Take a look at them here, and notice how well the company's brand comes off when reading them. Even in the fine print, Innocent Drinks is friendly and very family centric -- phrases like "Fancy a chat?" and URL structures like www.innocentdrinks.com/family all communicate its brand message perfectly.
After reading all of its labels, I get inspired to think small: How can I do small little things in my marketing to delight readers, leads, and customers?
Pro tip: Click through the rest of Innocent Drinks' website to see fantastic examples of inbound marketing content in action.
4) The J. Peterman Company Product Descriptions
Another creative place to discover expert copywriting is within the product descriptions of is on one vintage clothing store's website.
The J. Peterman Company takes them to the next level by expert storytelling devices. Each product description tells a vibrant short story that you can't help but get lost in. Look at this review, for example.
You're immediately drawn in because the company describes something almost all of us have wanted in childhood: the ability to fly. I'm impressed with two things about this company's copy: 1) its ability to tell a story, and 2) its ability to tell a story in such a small place. These descriptions make me think about being more concise yet descriptive in my own writing.
5) Seamless Subway Ads
Sometimes, even outbound tactics have fabulous copywriting.
Again, of the bordering-on-NSFW variety, this Seamless.com ad was spotted by our very own Shannon Johnson on the NYC subway. She told me that this ad made her stop, read, laugh, read it again, laugh some more, and then read it again. (The jury's still out on if she laughed a third time.)
I love how this ad combines three seemingly weird things (twerking, unicorns, and eating sriracha) to describe how "hot" something is. The pure ridiculousness of it all and its play-on-words with "hot" make this ad one to remember -- and inspire.
6) The Oatmeal Comics
Okay, okay, I know The Oatmeal is technically also a blog ... but I didn't include it here because of Matthew Inman's (the creator's) fabulous internet presence. No, I'm talking purely about the comics he creates.
Because comics rely on concise and hilarious storytelling, The Oatmeal has to have copy that's always on-point ... and it does. Check this grammar lesson, for example.
Besides it being a fabulous grammar rant, I love how he uses simple yet very vibrant language to explain a confusing topic.
7) Songza Playlist Descriptions
This source of inspiration is actually what ... well ... inspired me to write this post. I was jammin', as I usually do, to my favorite early-00's hits while finishing up a blog post and a coworker asked me what I was listening to. I read off the name and description of the playlist, and I was blown away by how perfect and descriptive they were.
Seriously, look at that playlist -- somehow, Songza set the scene in which you would play this playlist in just one sentence. If you're ever trying to test the boundaries of your creativity, that's an exercise you can try.
8) ThinkGeek Product Descriptions
All good writing is written for a specific audience -- and that includes product descriptions. Like The J. Peterman Company's descriptions, ThinkGeek tells stories in its own, but that's not why I included it here. The storytelling is great, yes, but its buyer personal alignment is something to marvel at.
In this product description for spy glasses, the story revolves around you being a spy -- and of course, wearing the glasses featured above. Using second person and vivid imagery, ThinkGeek makes people who have always wanted to be spies (cough the potential buyer cough) feel like they're actually a spy.
Bonus: The accompanying images also have perfect themed captions to make the whole page tell the story.
Now, when it's an advertisement that's been worked and reworked over several months, the copywriting isn't impressive ... but when it's written in a matter of minutes, that's a different story. Take the below video, for example.
As part of a campaign, Old Spice and Isaiah Mustafa (the actor in the commercials) sent personalized video messages to people on Twitter -- all written and filmed within minutes of being asked. Check out the video below and admire how well Mustafa's words seem to flow -- they're easy to say on camera, yet are quite vivid.
If you're ever creating video, think about how you can write concise copy for your scripts and use this video as inspiration.
10) Boston Red Sox Emails
Last, but certainly not least, I had to share this amazing email from Boston's one and only Red Sox. In case you don't follow baseball, the Red Sox won the World Series a few weeks ago. In celebration, the team sent out this email to its followers.
Now, I don't know about you, but I never expect sport teams to hook me with great writing -- they have so much more in their marketing arsenal that I never think they'd rely on solid writing. But this email just blew me away.
Because of the copy, read it and please tell me if you don't feel inspired after. Words have that kind of power -- and this email definitely inspires me to try to use mine wisely.
Where do you find content creation and copywriting inspiration? Share your favorites with us in the comments.
Originally published Nov 11, 2013 8:00:00 AM, updated August 28 2017