RXBAR’s copywriting breaks the rules of prose, and I’m into it.
Effective copywriting doesn’t need to adhere to a stylebook.
Do me a favor before you hear me out. Read RXBAR’s origin story.
If you’re too lazy (TL;DR, amirite), just read the part from the below screenshot of their origin story.
K, you done? Great.
Their copywriting is intense. It’s to the point. Sentences are short. One word. Stilted. Direct. Just like this paragraph.
Ballsy! Writers aren’t taught to build sentences like that! We aren’t taught to use two exclamation points in a row, either, but you know what? I’m leaving them in because breaking the rules can be effective.
(Even if Fred sends me a side-eye emoji on Slack for using exclamation points. He thinks they’re lazy and add false emphasis to an otherwise boring phrase. Emphasis should be injected via copy, not via punctuation. He’s right, of course, but I’m stubborn.)
There’s a beautiful quote that I remember lettering on my notebooks in college:
“This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety. Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes, when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals–sounds that say listen to this, it is important.”
Fuck, that’s beautiful, right?
It teaches you how to use a run-on sentence in a way that is poetic, not tedious. It shows you the monotony of homogeny. And it details the impact a short sentence can have, when surrounded by something else. Impact in brevity, yes, but more importantly impact in variety.
RXBAR completely ignores Gary Provost’s advice.
But you know what? I think their love affair with the stilted sentence just might work. Because they write like their audience talks, and relatability matters more than the rules of style.
At least, it should. Especially for those of us who position brands and products through our writing.
RXBAR’s copy reads like an intense, passionate, high-energy person waxing poetic about that which they love.
When I wax poetic, I use sentences that are far too long and words that are far too aloof, because language is my favorite fascination. But I’m not their audience.
For RXBAR’s people, waxing poetic just might mean one-word sentences and high intensity. And the fascination is not language, but health. A perfect workout. A clean-label protein bar.
The structure makes sense with the context of their use-case, as well. Each one-word “sentence” feels like a jab to a punching bag. Reading their copy out loud makes me want to gesticulate in a very kickbox-y way. The brevity brings to mind HIIT. It reads like excitement and integrates undeniable energy into their story.
The tone isn’t for everyone; it’s certainly not for me. But it just might sing to a Crossfitter in a way that Provost’s prose does not.
This is not, after all, literature.
This is audience resonation.