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A copywriter’s plea: please stop using ‘marketingese’

Girl reading dictionary to find better words to use in her marketing copy

What is marketingese? For those unfamiliar with the term, it refers to a category of boastful, over-used, and highly subjective terms or phrases employed to elevate a brand or product’s status and coerce action. When used carefully and sparingly, they can be effective – but so often this isn’t the case.

Consumers are ever more savvy when it comes to the tactics marketers use to communicate with them. They are no longer wowed by grand, exaggerated statements: they face thousands of the same marketing messages every day. They want brands who show intelligence, honesty and relevance. More importantly, your brand’s credibility will suffer if you choose to use these words too regularly or without sincerity.

Below, I’ve picked out the worst offenders (in my opinion) and have provided a little guidance on how to work without them.

The light-weights These are the words that usually evoke the reaction: “Really? Says who?” This group sound great but often have no grounding in truth or evidence to back them up.

  • Leading

  • Best

  • Number 1

  • First

  • Only

  • Unique

  • Proven

  • Exclusive

  • The place to be

  • Hottest ever

  • Internationally recognised

  • Award winning

  • Luxury

  • Premium

There are two ways you can work around these:

1. Use them sparingly and ensure that you immediately follow up with evidence to back up your claim. For example: “We are the number one chocolate brand in the UK as voted by an expert panel from Chocolatier’s Monthly.” 2. Avoid them entirely. Instead concentrate on talking about the benefits your product or service provides and your unique story to make an emotional connection with your audience.

The promise-breakers This group sound wonderful but offer customers empty promises unless they are truly embedded in the organisation’s culture. Use them with caution – if you break a promise, trust in your brand is irrevocably damaged. • Guarantee • Promise • You can trust • Customised, personalised or bespoke • Fastest • [insert claim here e.g. spill]-proof

My suggestions are: 1. In the case of statements of guarantee, promise and trust, use them only in conjunction with multiple case studies or testimonials that back up the claim. You must also ensure this communicated internally as you put your reputation at risk if the service or product is delivered inconsistently. 2. When using customised, personalised or bespoke, ensure you follow up with how far this extends e.g. you can personalise the colour and size of your frame. Unless all aspects of a service or product can be customised, avoid ‘fully customised’.

The over-worked This group are self-explanatory. They are used far too often and are a sign of lazy copywriting. They are often used in headlines as click/reading bait but are rarely ever justified. They often mean very little.

  • Must-have

  • Fashion-forward

  • Last remaining

  • Urgent

  • Cutting-edge

  • The only (insert product here) you need

  • If there’s one thing you should…

  • Any puns or clichés you can think of

My advice:

Don’t. Just don’t. There is no need to use these at all.

Where relevant, give people real benefits and USPs rather than catch-all statements. When it comes to time or quality dependent terms, be honest with your customers and tell them exactly how many of something are left and exactly how long they have to act.

A word on ‘must-have’: beware using this one – you only really ‘must have’ food, air, water, shelter and sufficient clothing to avoid indecency charges. Try and use ‘most desired’ or 'best-selling' instead – at least it can be backed up with sales figures or examples.

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