Tech Trends: Groupon Uses Poetry and Humor to Grow Its Business

A couple of months ago I signed up with Groupon. Now I get an email “coupon” each day, offering me some deal within a reasonable drive from my house.

None of this is especially interesting. But what I have found interesting is the written copy that entices me to use my daily coupon. For example, a couple of days ago I received a half-off deal for Billy T’s Burger Shoppe in Alamo Heights (about 40 minutes away). Here’s what Groupon writes to get me to Billy T’s:

In some circles, cow tipping is a very disreputable act, as opposed to cow flipping, which is considered to be delicious. Enjoy a slab of flipped bovine with today’s Groupon: for $5, you get $10 worth of burgers and more at Billy T’s Burger Shoppe.

Billy T’s Burger Shoppe’s cadre of culinary magicians conjures up hearty platters of Tex-Mex fare and adorns their griddles with juicy burgers. Limber rigid chomping muscles for a marathon meal with appetizers, such as the bean-and-cheese nachos ($4.25) or chips looking to get dunked in Billy T’s signature red-and-green salsa ($2.49). The burger list builds beefy bridges to span the gap between bun halves, with offerings such as Billy T’s Famous Beanburger ($4.25–$6.75). The delectable disk is anointed with homemade refried beans, cheese, onions, and Fritos that fill empty stomachs while turning unadorned bowls of chili green with envy. Billy T’s also boasts a hefty menu of Tex-Mex-inspired dishes, such as chalupas ($5.25), which piles two fried corn tortillas high with lettuce and tomatoes before crowning them with refried beans and cheese.

Now that’s not your run of the mill burger restaurant hype. Where, except from Groupon, do you read phrases like “a slab of flipped bovine” or “Limber rigid chomping muscles”?

A recent article in the New York Times solves the mystery of Groupon’s unique copywriting. In “Funny or Die: Groupon’s Fate Hinges on Words,” David Streitfeld explains that Groupon has a team of more than 400 writers and editors who create phrases like “cadre of culinary magicians.” They work especially hard on their brand of subtle humor, which is called Groupon Voice.

If find all of this quite fascinating. If you were trying to pitch this idea to investors before you had a thriving company, I doubt you’d get very far. But, recently, Groupon was valued at $25 billion. So, there you go.

For me, the Groupon phenomenon illustrates the unpredictability of today’s technology world, even as it encourages people to be creative and do their jobs with excellence, even if this job is to write copy for Billy T’s Burger Shoppe, where “beefy bridges . . . span the gap between bun halves.”

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  • Rob

    It also illustrates the power of the word. You can use all the technology you want, but without the words Billy-T’s would remain just a burger shop. Words have power, which is why the Bible counsels us on their use.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, indeed.

  • This is just further evidence that communication skills are the only thing that can’t be outsourced!

  • I subscribe to two areas’ groupons. The only thing I’ve bought so far is a pair of two-for-one roller derby tickets, but I love reading the offerings each day.

    They have indeed developed Groupon Voice. I would love to know how they get 400 writers on the same page, if you’ll pardon the pun, with maintaining the voice.

  • Anonymous

    Good question. I have yet to use any Groupon coupon. But the writing is fun.

  • Anonymous

    Indeed. Hard to outsource love, too, I think.