Repetition: six alternative ways to use it

Repetition can make you want to sing, laugh, empathise or remember something.

It can also, as advertisers, sales and marketing people know, stimulate the must-have or buy-soon neuron in our brains. I believe it’s somewhere at the back, near the lame excuse gland in the male and the chocolate node in the female.

I was reminded recently of the fun to be had with repetition on seeing that old Apple ad from lordy knows when: What if “what if” isn’t enough?

Repetition of What If in Apple ad

It also got me thinking about repetition beyond ads, emails and the net, so I decided to see what I could up with on this morning’s walk.

(A pair of hare, three deer; the former lolloping along, unwilling to break into a searing sprint and burn off their breakfast unless absolutely necessary; the latter, stock-still in the frozen field, trying to be invisible).

So without further ado, some random recollections around repetition. I came up with six by the time I got home.

Repetition when it’s funny…

Strictly speaking not really an ad as such, more of a mickey-take.

K-tel records never stick. Never stick. Never stick.

Well, we thought it was jolly funny at school.

Typically, the next one was Monty Python. From Monty Python and The Holy Grail.

Repetition of Camelot in Monty Python and The Holy Grail




It’s only a model.

Why is that so funny. I think it might be the fervour followed by the curmudgeonly put-down. (You can see it again here)

(Which film is where the actor says something like, “Despair I can take, it’s the hope that I can’t bear!”? Please let me know if you do.)

When it’s literary…

The obvious one is from Tom Stoppard’s 1966 Edinburgh Festival Fringe play (no, I wasn’t there, cheers for that) Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead.

Rosencrantz: What are you playing at?

Guildenstern: Words, words. They’re all we have to go on.

(It was about two bit parts stuck in a plot they couldn’t get out of. Or something like that.)

Repetition when it’s literary – and enchanting

Some supernatural force drew Kitty’s eyes to Anna’s face. She was enchanting in her simple black dress, enchanting were her full arms with the bracelets on them, enchanting her firm neck with its string of pearls, enchanting her curly hair in disarray, enchanting the graceful, light movements of her small feet and hands, enchanting that beautiful face in its animation; but there was something terrible and cruel in her enchantment.

Yep, you got it. Anna Karenina (1878) by Leo Tolstoy. Six uses, again and again, of ‘enchanting’. In just 60 words.

When it’s rather gloomy

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day…

(Macbeth by William Shakespeare)

Repetition when it’s very fun

James Taylor’s song, Jellyman Kelly. A verse and the chorus for your delectation.

Here’s a song about Jellyman Kelly,
He loves jelly the most.
Ah, but most of all,
Jellyman Kelly loves jelly on toast.

Oh, can he come home, Jenny,
Can he come home, Jenny, can he come?
Oh, can he come home, Jenny,
Can he come home, Jenny, can he come?

Watch how much the children get into and enjoy singing along with James Taylor.

Repetition in Jellyman Kelly

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PS I wrote this post without saying resonate. Well, almost.

Features and benefits and how to untangle them

Huh, features and benefits. That old chestnut. It’s often seen as a conundrum, but knowing how to write around ’em can be a gift that keeps on giving.

If you’re a manufacturer or product manager, the wonderful world of features is where you like to live and breathe. Okay, wallow. You get off on specs and long lists of attributes, aspects, particulars, lots of numbers and acronyms.

Product people are amazing. Without their attention to detail we wouldn’t have so many fab products.

More often than not a product person will understand the headline benefits of a product they’re producing or managing, but they unravel when trying to articulate the benefits in a compelling way.

That’s when they usually hire a copywriter. Wrestling with features and benefits is bread and butter to a copywriter.

Or a scone. With jam on top. And maybe a splodge of cream.

A scone will benefit from a bit jam and cream.

Some people like to put the cream on first. Not me. nom.

Writing benefit-driven copy

I thought of an example the other day while writing a blog about creating your own brand on Amazon for Repricer. It’s a good, raw simple one, so I’ll repurpose the example here.

Features are all about your product and benefits are all about your customers

So here’s how to write about your product with its benefits to the customer in mind.

Stand back and think about what will make the customer buy your product. This is not hard if you get in the right zone. It’s okay to sit and stare at your product a while. Sometimes it can help to actually use it for its purpose.

Okay, let’s pretend the product you’re trying to sell is a mug. You know, the thing you put coffee or tea or hot chocolate in.

The feature-speak: 300ml Lidded Mug with Large Handle.

Well, wow. They’ll be a sales rush for that. Not.

Okay, let’s take those sterile and uninspiring features and turn them into benefits that actually mean something to the customer.

Ask yourself this: how is your customer’s life going to be improved by buying and using your mug? What are the advantages to them?


Now how about this to be included somewhere in the product description. This mug’s large capacity, that’s above the size of your average mug, means you can have more to drink and you don’t have to keep re-filling so often. It’s even got a lid to keep your coffee or tea hot longer, and its large handle means you can hold it when wearing gloves in the cold.

See how much more engaging and compelling that is for the customer? Indeed, what you’re doing is you’re talking about those more-engaging benefits rather than just about yawny product features.

In writing about benefits you’re articulating the value to the customer and helping to drive those sales.

Fun, eh? No, I mean it. Get in the habit of thinking about products in terms of benefits and your writing – and product – will come alive.

Finally, I’ve also reminded myself while writing this of that oft-used how-to-sell quote used in sales training:

“Don’t talk to me about your grass seed, talk to me about my lawn.”

If you’ve got any good examples, do share.

Got to go or the scones will burn.

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