By Ann Pruitt, Associate, 60 Second Communications
1. The power of the carefully chosen word is often underestimated;
2. Choosing your words carefully can be the difference between a successful marketing campaign and a failed one.
Communication in American English has got to be the most confounded conversation there can be. Our language is a mixture of many other languages, and the people we are communicating with have diverse backgrounds and thus understandings of our intended meanings. Finding just the right word combination to get our idea across can be challenging. But isn’t that the fun of it, especially in marketing, where words have to be extremely precise and impactful?
1. Here are a few tips to get you thinking about how to harness the power of the language.
Have a knowledge of and a respect for the language. George Orwell (1903-1950), the British author known primarily for his stories 1984 and Animal Farm, made this observation:
To write or even speak English is not a science but an art. There are no reliable words…. Whoever writes English is involved in a struggle that never lets up even for a sentence. He is struggling against vagueness, against obscurity, against the lure of the decorative adjective, against the encroachment of Latin and Greek, and above all, against the worn-out phrases and dead metaphors with which the language is cluttered up.
Taking the time to avoid the overused, trite words can be rewarded with more powerful marketing materials that move just the right audience with just the right message.
2. Watch the Translation.
The Marketing Idea Shop found these marvelous marketing examples of our English language (which is tough enough on its own) losing a little something in the translation:
• An American T-shirt maker in Miami printed shirts for the Spanish market which promoted the Pope's visit. Instead of "I saw the Pope" (el Papa), the shirts read "I saw the potato" (la papa).
• Pepsi's "Come alive with the Pepsi Generation" translated into "Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave," in Chinese.
• Coors put its slogan, "Turn it loose," into Spanish, where it was read as "Suffer from diarrhea."
• When Gerber started selling baby food in Africa, they used the same packaging as in the U.S., with the beautiful baby on the label. Later they learned that in Africa, companies routinely put pictures on the label of what's inside, since most people can't read English.
The marketing moral suggested by Marketing Idea Shop: If you are planning to market your products in another country or language, make sure you understand the cultural system and the language.
3. Five Words Never to Use in an Ad.
BusinessWeek.com had an interesting article Five Words to Never Use in an Ad, that pointed out some overused, clichéd words.
• Quality: Way overused and what exactly does it mean? It’s subjective to the situation.
• Value: This is an overused word, and value is subjective to the purchaser.
• Service: No company’s going to claim lousy service.
• Caring: Caring is obvious – otherwise the company wouldn’t be in business.
• Integrity: Most people already give the company the benefit of the doubt that they have integrity.
4. Use Proven, Powerful Words.
Kim Gordon, in an article called, “Words to the wise: has your marketing copy lost its punch?” writes some ideas from Herschell Gordon Lewis, marketing copy guru. “From print and broadcast ads to direct mail, e-mail and even billboards,” she writes, “it's the language you use that motivates response and produces results. Try these tips for fine-tuning your marketing copy.”
• Use informal language. She suggests that building rapport happens through informal language, for instance thanks instead of thank you.
• Use contractions. These have become more accepted, except where you need the full impact for emphasis. This is not sold in stores is more impactful than This isn’t sold in stores.
• Open with a question. Questions immediately involve the reader. Use a question that requires an affirmative answer. Would you like to save 30%?
• Emphasize the "what." The word value requires a why answer. Why is there value? Instead of using the word value, just go straight to explaining what the value is.
• Be careful how you use numbers. Using numbers makes an amount seems larger or smaller, or a time longer or shorter. Consider the McDonald’s 4-Ouncer. I’d rather have a Quarter Pounder.
• Avoid passive, patronizing words. Use active, direct language that doesn’t condescend. Replace endeavor with try, utilize with use. Gordon writes, ”Consider how much weaker We'll refund the cost of shipping is compared to We'll even refund the cost of shipping."
• Be asterisk-free. Avoid making an already skeptical reader more skeptical. If there’s nothing to hide, Lewis suggests putting it in parentheses right in the copy.
5. Ten proven words.
Every marketer has their idea of what words are more impactful. These words seem to have received general agreement of their power:
• Thank You: Dale Carnegie believed in giving sincere and honest appreciation, and campaigns that use these words, and offer something to loyal customers, do well.
• Free: The old standby still works. Use it carefully, though, so you don’t sound like a scam.
• Immediate: We want it now, don’t we?
• Bonus: Yes! Yes! A bonus!
• New: The other old standby still works, especially when it’s new and improved. Again, be careful not to sound “scammish.”
• Money: How to get it or save it always appeals.
• Results: I want something that provides results, especially if it’s new!
• Trust: The customer wants to trust the product.
• Help: The customer can always use some help.
• Know: When the reader feels like they're learning something not everybody knows, you have impact.
So there you have it. Yes, the English language can be convoluted. Yes, that’s the challenge, and the fun of it. With carefully planned word strategies, your marketing can be more impactful.
Author Bio: Ann Pruitt is an Associate at 60 Second Communications and has a spent her career showing business professionals how to enhance and grow their careers. She wouldn't tell you this herself, so we'll spread the news for her -- she has two, count 'em two, Masters Degrees, one in Management and the other in Education.
5 Words Never to Use in an Ad.