Puffy words dilute the effectiveness of your marketing.
Companies are always striving to make their products and services stand out so they puff up their marketing copy with words like,
- Premium quality
- Customer oriented
- State of the art
- World class
These words sound good, but they lack meaning. Consider these three automotive slogans that are based on the word innovation:
- “A tradition of innovation.”
- “Driving American innovation.”
- “Innovation that excites.”
Do you know what brands each slogan is associated with? No? I’ll give you a hint. Firestone, Ford, and Nissan — in that order.
(Sadly, I had to deliberately memorize this analogy for my keynote speaking, because I couldn’t remember the slogans even after using them dozens of times.)
Puffy words may look good on paper, and they may even feel good to say. But these words lack meaning. There’s nothing to anchor the word “innovation” in your mind. As a result, each slogan is completely forgettable.
The Secret Sauce to Memorable Marketing Copy
A group of researchers at Cornell University conducted a study on memorability. They wanted to know what makes phrases and quotes stick in your mind.
To answer the question the researchers studied over 1,000 movie quotes in IMDB dating back to 1967. Quotes like,
- “May the Force be with you.”
- “Here’s looking at you, kid.”
- “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.”
The study cracked the code of memorable quotes, and the lessons apply equally to marketing copy. Memorable phrases possess three traits:
- A pearl of wisdom. There’s a concrete message or idea to be conveyed.
- Unique combination of words. The idea sticks because it’s expressed in a unique way.
- Ordinary sentence structure. There’s no magic to the copywriting. Memorable phrases tend to use very ordinary grammatical structures.
The takeaway I pulled from the research is to focus on the idea. Too much time gets invested in puffing up and over inflating features and benefits of a product, versus simply articulating what your brand delivers.
Memorable Marketing Relies on Concrete Words
Memorable marketing is based on “concrete words.” These are words or phrases that stimulate visual images in your mind. These words are far easier to understand and remember than abstract words like “innovation” or “revolutionary.”
For example, for over 50 years M&M’s have told us the candy, “Melts in your mouth, not in your hands.” There are no abstract words in this statement. It’s clear, succinct, and direct. You may not know what the candy tastes like, but you know it won’t make your hands messy when you eat it.
Under Steve Jobs, Apple did a remarkable job clearly articulating the value proposition of new technologies with concrete words:
- iPod offered “a thousand songs in your pocket.”
- iPhone provided “the first touchscreen smartphone.”
- iPad was a “tablet computer.”
In the launch of the first iPhone in 2007 Steve Jobs said, “An iPod, a phone, and an internet mobile communicator. These are not three separate devices! This is one device. And we are calling it iPhone! Today Apple is going to reinvent the phone. And here it is.”
What made this introduction so effective is Steve Jobs used concrete words that everyone understood:
Perfect the Idea Before the Words
Memorable marketing copy is based on conveying a pearl of wisdom, and this is the hardest part of branding.
Distilling your brand into a singular, core idea is easier said than done. As a result, marketers gravitate towards the easier yet less effective option: adding puffy copy to differentiate a weakly positioned brand.
The first step to creating memorable marketing copy is to distill the idea. What is that pearl of wisdom you want to convey to prospects and customers?
Once you understand the core idea of your brand, it becomes a lot easier to express it in a compelling way that’s hard to forget.