Change your Words. Change your World.

Power of WordsThis is not a post about what headlines work better than others, or what power words you need to use, or how many syllables in the subject line of an email creates more interest. Rather this post has to do with something that every company needs to revisit since there will LOTS of marketing dollars put into play for 2016.  Specifically, this is about the need to change the words that your company may be using, in some cases for far, far too long, in order to change how the company wants to be seen by their customers.

You’re probably saying “Yeah, yeah, yeah.  I’ve heard that before. What else do you have?”  Well here’s the deal: so many marketing folks are hung up on using words and saying things that are either “ways we describe our product” or are industry-speak that they sound un-interesting, un-inviting and more times than not, just like their competitors…which isn’t a good place to be.  In turn, you’re valuable marketing dollars are wasted.

Over the course of my business career, I’ve been really fortunate to have worked with a number of really good copywriters. If you’ve ever spent any time in a marketing or advertising agency, you know just how critically important it is to have fantastic copywriters who know how to craft messaging so that in addition to being imaginative, original and fresh, the copy is so interesting that people want to buy the product. Unfortunately, and we all know this to be the case, many companies waste budgetary dollars on trying to convey an idea, a value proposition, or a reason for buying, with below par messaging that the prospective customer won’t even give second thought to.  I can’t tell you how many times my wife and I have seen an ad or commercial where we’ve looked an one another and said “What the heck was that?” You have as well…I know you have.

And let’s not forget about online…like websites for example. Visiting websites with bad copywriting can be cringe-worthy as well as just plain boring!  Product stories without a conclusion, meaningless purpose statements and yawning lists of statistics are a few other reasons prospects will click out of a poorly-written website. What a waste of money from the creation of the idea to the production to the media cost, right?

Well here’s something I learned over my 30+ years helping companies…from Fortune 100 to mom-pop’s alike… copy is not valued, and I mean really good copy, as it should be.  It’s primarily because of two reasons: First, people are becoming more and more visual in today’s world and second, Mar-com folks have done so much writing that they’ve devalued copy in favor of other advertising or marketing messaging components such as accompanying visuals, click-throughs, QR-codes, etc.

So as you take another look at your marketing materials, and I would suggest all of your marketing materials, here are 5 simple things to have your messaging be acted upon:

  1. The human brain is wired to react to words that inspire action and conjure up positive images or emotions. Three things happen when you do this:  You stand out.  You attract the right audience. You create stronger connections.
  2. Don’t use jargon — language that just dresses up the message with self-importance. In fact, you should use jargon in your copy less often than swear words, i.e. pretty much never. I saw a story online not too long ago about a tax recovery firm that referred to their service as “sales tax recovery,” which all the firms in their industry did as well.  They were told to change that to “sales tax refund.” Monthly searches for each of the two terms: 170 for “sales tax recovery” and 5400 for “sales tax refund”…all by changing ONE word.
  3. Take notes from the companies that know how to do it. They’re not hard to recognize.  Look at companies that are in similar businesses and take particular notice of how their getting their message across. The successful companies are probably saying it differently in tone and style which is something you can learn from.
  4. You may need to contact an outside advertising or marketing firm to help. They do this day-in and day-out, capturing people’s attention so that they want to find out more about what you can do for them. In short, they speak to people in ways that people want to be spoken to. And while we all think we can write scintillating copy, the fact is that professional copywriters are just like a plumber, electrician, or brain surgeon, in that they’re more of an expert at what they do than you are.
  5. Choose the biggest problem that you’re solving for your target audience and stick with it. Now take this one step deeper and determine the deeper benefit of your product or service. In other words, how does your product or service solve their biggest problem? And, why would they want that? This all goes toward keeping your message focused on your product without muddying up the waters with lots of other things you want to stuff into copy.

The big finish: You may have already seen this video. It’s been recreated in a number of different languages around the world and speaks to the connecting point between a blind beggar and those who pass him by. I find inspiration every time I see the video and think you may find the same as it serves to illustrate the power that your choice of words can have in marketing your products, your services and your business.


Rolf Gutknecht is vice president, director of account services for LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Rolf on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit  You can also connect with Rolf on LinkedIn.

This entry was posted in Advertising, Creativity, Direct Response, Marketing, Online Marketing, Production, Research, Sales & Marketing, Social Media, Strategy, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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