Mobile Push Notifications
The Poetics of Push Notifications
Has a poem ever made you cry? If you said yes, you’re just one of countless people who’ve been deeply moved by poetry.
Now, has a push notification ever made you cry? Maybe not. In fact, we hope not. Or perhaps these were tears of frustration, courtesy of a brand that just won’t leave you alone.
Nevertheless, push notifications function similarly to poetry. The best ones spark emotion. They light a fire inside you. They drive you to act in a certain way. And crafting a good push notification calls for writing that is indelible, rich, mellifluous, euphonious … and, okay, yeah, sometimes using a thesaurus helps.
To better understand the poetry of great push, we spoke to two real-deal poets, Justin Boening and Laura Eve Engel, to unpack the structure, content, rhythm and voice of a handful of real-life push notifications. Here’s how they advise marketers to work some poetics into their push:
It’s a fancy English major-level word that refers to the repetition of vowel sounds in the middle of the words. A phrase like “simply tap back into the app” is assonant, for example. Using some assonance is an easy way to make your push notification punchy and pleasurable to the ear.
A word like “would” is technically the past tense of “will.” But to Engel, such a word suggests so much more. It’s uncertain, and it signals to the reader that “imagination and fantasy are at play.” Including a verb like this engages a reader’s imagination and brings the notification into a more hopeful sphere.
Greek for “carrying back,” anaphora refers to the repetition of the same word at the start of successive phrases or lines. Something like “New year, new update” is a good example of anaphora in a push notification. It’s rhythmic and rhetorically effective.
In your next push notification, consider using words or phrases that spark the senses, hearkening to pleasing smells, thoughts or tastes. For instance, “wine”, “glass of wine”, or “a whole bottle of wine” are a few words and phrases that can serve to remind us of a taste we love: a nice glass of wine.
Subverting the readers' expectations and putting a clever spin on a familiar phrase is a great way to get your readers laughing. It also helps make your push notification more memorable and engaging.
Engel leaves us with an important final thought that we should remember when writing push notifications: “All meaningful communication needs to argue for its existence by being compelling, by being urgent or impossible to ignore. By being true and unusual. The rest is just noise.”
Want to dig deeper? Check out Engel and Boening’s in-depth textual analysis of the language of push notifications.