Thursday, December 10, 2015

Words That Sell

There is a book by this name. It was written by Richard Bayan and first published in 1984. A companion book, Phrases That Sell, was written by Edward Werz and Sally Germain and first published in 1998. I have both books. 

My last post was about Using Symbols in Branding. Symbols are triggers to emotions associated with hopes, fears and self-image reinforcement. Words and phrases can also be powerful. They can evoke strong emotions - both positive and negative.

When I was a new business strategist at Hallmark, I knew how to increase the score of a new business concept (in concept testing) by using the right words that I knew would evoke positive imagery and emotions. I didn't however because I did not want to inflate the results. I used neutral language to describe the concept so that its score would be more predictive of its market potential in our volumetric forecasting.   

What are some of the words and phrases that can help a brand? Here are some:

  • Imagine
  • Finally
  • Now
  • Long-awaited
  • Unique
  • New
  • Irresistible
  • Enchanting
  • Captivating
  • Stunning
  • Amazing
  • Adorable
  • Picture-perfect
  • Engaging
  • Innovative
  • Leading-edge
  • Revolutionary
  • Groundbreaking
  • Unparalleled
  • Unsurpassed
  • Authentic
  • Original
  • Legendary
  • Refreshing
  • A breath of fresh air
  • Empowering
  • Passionate
  • Bespoke
  • Heir apparent
  • The chosen one

Now think of some words and phrases and other labels that have been used to turn people off. Politicians and political parties use these to create negative emotional associations for their enemies. Here are some more recent ones:
  • [insert the issue]gate (to imply a cover up of an illegal or immoral activity)
  • He's a flip-flopper
  • He's a carnival barker
  • He's a Nazi
  • He's another Hitler
  • He's a socialist
  • She's out of touch
  • She's ambitious
  • She's a liar
  • He's a wackadoo
  • He's a terrorist
  • He's a racist
  • He's a government insider
  • He's polarizing
  • He's a dinosaur

Or, consider modifying or replacement words to make people feel better about something (often resulting in oxymorons). Here are some examples of that:
  • Peacekeeper missile
  • Peacekeeping force
  • Clean coal
  • Sanitary landfill
  • Compassionate conservative
  • Friendly fire
  • Smart bomb
  • Troops (instead of soldiers/humans)
  • Partial cease-fire
  • Energy Citizens

My point in all of this is that words can evoke strong associations and emotions. Words can also mollify situations and people. And they can change the meaning of things and make them more acceptable and even compelling. As marketers, we need to be masters of words and phrases. 

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