“Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department.” ~David Packard, cofounder of Hewlett-Packard Company

Secret BunkerI remember as a child when the biggest brands looked and sounded like this: “New! IMPROVED! BUY! NOW!” Their words shouted figuratively and their announcers shouted literally.

But the world has gotten emphasis fatigue. We’re all sick of it. So the best brands are now turning down the volume. They are being more subtle. They are inviting us rather than ordering us.

It’s easier to yell, so that’s what new, inexperienced and poor marketers do. Even in everyday life, shrieking gets the wrong kind of attention. Raise the alarm too many times and people will just consider your communications to be noise. Nobody likes noise.

Consider the difference between these two messages:

A pure expression of performance and luxury — Jaguar.

We’re going crazy down here at Loco Joe’s Discount Car Emporium!

There is a reason why Jaguar is getting $60,000 for their cars but Loco Joe is only getting $6,000 for his.

It is harder to come up with subtle language than to just use brute force. But herein lies the rub: subtlety is powerful but shouting is merely forceful. Power wins every time.

Being harder does not mean it is not worth the effort. Come on, would you rather be driving one of Loco Joe’s clunkers or a sleek new Jaguar? (Say “Jaguar” to yourself with a British accent to get in the proper frame of mind…)

The emphasis isn’t always inflicted with caps, italics or exclamation points. Sometimes the words themselves do the shouting. There is a whole marketingspeak vocabulary out there and we all recognize it. The words in this lexicon didn’t use to have a marketing connotation but they have been taken over so that the rest of us good folks can no longer use them without getting their marketing stink on us.

I have my own (growing) list of verboten words in marketing. Right at the top is “secrets”.

It blows me away when someone, in broadcasted advertising, claims they are going to tell me a secret. Aren’t secrets supposed to be private? If I told you a secret and you then blabbed about it on Facebook, I would be none too happy. But if you ran it in an ad on Facebook, I would be flipped out. Broadcasting “secrets” is silly at best and disingenuous at worst. Don’t do it.

Another ignoble word is “insiders”. You can’t claim exclusivity when you broadcast to anyone who is willing to pony up $37.  It just isn’t that inside. In fact, what does the outside even look like?

The list of words to avoid is a moving target. Those who coin such words or are the first to bring them to a marketing purpose are geniuses. But these words have a shelf life for any particular use. “Guerilla” was genius back in the day. “Masters” and “gurus” were once enticing new concepts. What gave them value was two things: they had a known meaning and it was being put in a new context. If it is no longer new, the power is gone.

Many of us are not experienced marketers so we do what everybody tells us to do: model the best. The problem is currency matters in the marketing realm. Tony Robbins can get away with still calling his training program Mastery University because he said it first and he said it big. If I try to use Mastery Academy  or Mastery Formula or some such to model the form, it will not have the same power. In fact, it may have no power at all as the most powerful word gets tuned out by those who have heard it too often.

“Are you driving people away with the words you choose?” click to tweet

Marketing is communication. Communication is a fundamental means of connection. Connection is a base requirement for human vitality. So when you write that headline, title or subject line, don’t get lazy and just say the stale words that are echoing in your head from their constant overuse. Don’t worry that you aren’t some kind of master copywriter. Genuineness comes through. Sincerity shines like a beacon. Love conquers all.

What words are you over and done with? Tell us about it by commenting below.

Photo credit: maromos

Are You Driving People Away with the Words You Choose?
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7 thoughts on “Are You Driving People Away with the Words You Choose?

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    I’ll tell you what gets me is all the breathlessness out there. Even the big guys, the successful guys are doing it all the time.

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      While it is true that some big players are getting away with all the “breathlessness” as you put it, it is not the reason they are succeeding. In fact, I believe that if they would rise above this kind of shrillness that they would have even more success. The big, big players are not doing it.

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    The phrase, used by an upscale car manufacturer – and is several years old and likely a sign of those pre-economic downturn days – that most rankled my nerves was: “The relentless pursuit of perfection.” Upon hearing it, I felt both unworthy AND exhausted. LOL! Thankfully, times have changed!

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      Ah yes, I remember that one, BMW as I recall. I don’t mind calling companies out. 😉 Having grown up in a community that was almost entirely of German heritage, I know exactly what they were talking about. It is hard not to believe that the whole world thinks like you do, even in advertising. In the end, communication is about the other person.

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    Knowing your audience and communicating authentically really is the first step. What type of communicator are they? How “into” internet marketing are they? How “into” self-development are they? Understanding the language that your ideal client uses in every day conversation helps you understand the words to choose.

    If your ideal client follows Tony Robbins (Isn’t he going by Anthony now?) then the use of “Mastery” would be a re-use in the self-help world. However, if you are a music instruction coach to say that same word could still hold power. Context makes a difference.

    I could not agree more with the concept of quiet power in communication and marketing conversations. YELLING has never really worked with me and I’m thrilled that we are moving to authentic conversation.

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      You make a very valid point that context matters. Borrowing from another genre can be very useful.

      BTW, the last time I talked to Tony Robbins it was Anthony to the world but Tony to his friends. 😉


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