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5 poison words in marketing

Posted by Michael Bloch in web marketing (Thursday June 8, 2006 )

I just finished reading an interesting article about 5 words that shouldn’t be used in marketing, more accurately, in advertising. I must admit a couple of them are words that I do use in connection with other projects :).

The poison words are:


The BusinessWeek article points out that the first four words in the list are based on variables that will be different for each person. The last word, Integrity, supposedly leaves the impression on a consumer that the company may have something to hide, or they are stating that their ethics are of a higher level than their competitors – which could be perceived to be arrogant.

Regarding the second point in relation the word “Integrity”; with so many scams and shams in the online world, I feel it is a good word to use – but only if a company can walk the walk and has a real edge over competitors in this aspect.

If that describes your company, why not flaunt it? Advertising has never been polite when it comes to trying to put yourself ahead of the competition and people want to be reassured. I think mentioning this word also conveys a sense that the concept of integrity is something that’s highly valued by a company. I certainly don’t think it gives the impression of having something to hide. But that’s just an opinion from one person – me :). What are your thoughts?

Still, I understand the author’s general point that these words are mostly done to death cliches; devalued by the many business and marketers that use them, but can’t live up to what these words represent. Consumers are becoming somewhat blind to these words and therefore they just take up valuable ad space which could be stating something else that will actually capture attention.

But isn’t it getting to the stage where every word or phrase in connection with marketing a product or service is done to death? For example:

Special offer
Deep discounts
Money back guarantee
On sale now
Buy now

… yet, these terms still generally get good results when used in marketing; dependent of course on the demographic you’re targeting and product or service you are selling.

What’s the difference? The poison words are a given, consumers expect these things from a company at all times. The terms in the second list are more along the lines of calls to action to take advantage of a special deal.

That doesn’t mean to say the “poison” words can’t be used in marketing blurbs on your site, but if they are, they should be explained. What sets your company apart from the rest in terms of each point? What do you mean by quality? What exactly is the level of service you provide? How is your product such great value and to whom would that value be relevant to?

In off-site marketing, you usually have very limited time and space to get your message across, so use the common calls to action, but inject something a little different to replace the poison words to help set you apart from the pack – something that’s exclusively “you”. For example, instead of:

Quality – “Winner of 7 awards”
Service – “4 star rating”
Caring – “24hr live customer service”
Value – “Cheap on price, not on features”
Integrity – “Trade association member”

… these are all relatively short statements that relay the concepts that customers expect, plus a little bit extra thrown in to attract attention.

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1 comment for 5 poison words in marketing
  1. Another highly questionable word in marketing in my opinion is the use of the word “friend”. Read more:

    Comment by Michael Bloch — June 26, 2006 @ 5:19 am

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