One of my all-time favorite marketing books is Guerrilla Marketing by Jay Conrad Levinson, first published back in 1993. In the book, Jay talks extensively about advertising and the power of words.
He references a list of the 12 most persuasive words in the English language (words that might get people to buy), from a research study done by psychologists at Yale University in 1970. Jay recommended using these words in headlines, signage and any other forms of your advertising.
So, in no particular order, these words are:
Now this study was done over 40 years ago, so maybe things have changed. Therefore, I thought I would take a look at some current print ads in popular magazines and see how many companies are still using these words to get you to buy their products.
After looking at over 50 ads, for everything from food products to cosmetics to cars to books, here is what I found:
Still Commonly Used Adjectives
The word safety seems to have been replaced more with peace of mind and reliability.
New, Popular Adjectives
Grand phrases like must-have, essential, breakthrough, unprecedented, industry-leading and revolutionary are also very common in describing products.
Still Commonly Used Verbs
Surprisingly, I didn’t see that many companies offering a guarantee, but I did see the word promise a lot.
One really interesting fact I did notice was that not many ads used the word “you“. Copy was written in very general terms, and, for the most part, no pronouns of any kind were used. Your was used a lot, such as your family, your home, your health, your safety, but not “you”, in the sense of “you’ll love” or “you need”.
The words money, love, health and safety were used, but only specific to certain types of products.
FINAL WORD: So are words that were effective in a study done 40 years ago still effective today? Do certain words work on men and not women, and vice versa. And what about teens? Do they care about health, safety or saving money?
Think of who you are selling to. Then find media, such as magazine covers, that target this age and gender group and see the words they are using on the covers. Those should be the words you use in your product descriptions and advertisements. They’ve done the research, so they know which words work, and you can benefit from that.
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