Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Get Some New Language! Why Customers Tune Out Your Ads

Has anybody ever seen a company use the phrase, "Now more complicated and breakable than ever!" in their advertising?

Me neither. So why do companies continually try to differentiate themselves with language like "Simpler, easier to use, better quality than ever!" over and over?

Part of the reason marketing & advertising get such a bad rap is because they reuse language. The same language everyone else uses. How many times do you need to hear, "the best in the business" before you tune it out? Not more than twice, I wager.

Here's a couple examples of what I mean. I pulled some worn-out business language (took a while to find, too - it's so worn out I couldn't think of examples right away!) and put in a better way to say the same thing.
Common LanguageBetter Way to Say It
"We're the best!"If we're not the industry leader in your mind after the sale, tell us. You're the one who decides who's the best.
"Satisfaction guaranteed!"Our return rate is less than 3%, but if you need a return for any reason, we have 2 service reps available 24 hours a day.
"We're dedicated to our customers!"We're proud to have won the Regional Chamber Customer Service Award 2 years running. Want to help us go for 3?

No, the Better Ways aren't as cutesy or snappy. That's the point. Cliches are easy to tune out because you hear them so often. Say something with some facts behind it. It may take another second to read. But if your customer is still paying attention, it'll keep their attention focused that much longer.

The problem with worn-out language is that, like I mentioned earlier, it's so stuck in our heads. People expect to hear cliches and empty words in virtually everything they read about a company. It becomes easy to perpetuate the cycle of old language use when it's literally a generations-old indoctrination.

I was reading John Forde's Copywriter's Roundtable yesterday (highly recommended newsletter - ). His main article was from a well-known travel writer about using descriptive language vs. empty adjectives. The article jumped out at me because I'd had half this blog post written before I started reading - and we were saying almost the exact same thing!

This tells me that others are aware of this language problem (which I'm ecstatic about). Evidently it shows up in travel writing because lazy writers keep using the same adjectives to describe a dozen different places. Doesn't work. Neither does using the same kinds of language for multiple markets. You end up with overworked, shallow copy that sticks in people's mind only because they keep hearing it. Not because it speaks to their personal needs & wants.

Wrong way to gain mindshare.

Marketers everywhere - invest in thesauri. Read more fiction. Go back over your work, your clients' work, and your competitor's work. Can you spot reused language? Cliches? Areas where you lose the buying trance and start to think, "Why'd they say that?"

Then get some new language to fill those spots in. Something meaningful, accurate, and more compelling than, "Don't be the last one to own it!"

How's that for a call to action?



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