Advertising is a lot like politics. Both require their constituency to take action. Both are judged by that outcome and both use persuasive language to get results.
The winners did just that.
The losers did not.
But, herein lies a dilemma for marketers and politicians: What is the language that will work? What words will inspire people to think differently, or…God willing, MOVE into action?
The history of language shows the value of consistent meaning to words. That sounds obvious, of course, as we must know what words mean in order to communicate. But, in reality, we do allow words to take on different meaning by allowing them to represent something, as well.
In advertising we use words like “great” or “best” to represent a unique quality of an event or sale. We say “never before” or “for a limited time” to convey urgency. We find the superlative-du-jour to stay fresh; words like “fresh” and once upon a time: “hip” (or “groovy”).
What “great” actually means is: an extent, amount, quality or intensity considerably above the normal or average. However, we attach it to anything, in order to motivate. When was a sale advertised as “GREAT” actually “to the extent of being considerably above average”?
“Best” means, literally: to the highest degree. Was, then, the sale that said “Our best savings all year” really the highest degree possible?
Probably not. Sometimes, maybe, but the general public hears these adjectives and adverbs, day in and day out, not dozens of times, but thousands. They have come to be “representative” words and not meaningful ones. For advertising in this age, therefore, to be really effective we must either live up to the meaning of the words, or find new words without the stigma associated with those that have been worn out.
Perhaps, “best” becomes “excellent.” Perhaps, “great” becomes “above the rest.” The trick is to say the same thing by saying something different; something that hasn’t become noise, or even worse, perceived as dishonest.
That’s the challenge for copy writers in this day and age. And they’d better jump on board now, because this offer to improve copy effectiveness is for a limited time only! Or should I say….”Hurry! before you’re out of a job.”