The 20 Most Powerful Words in Advertising
These 20 proven words will bring you big results
Words sell. They always have and they always will—especially in today's social media-driven world, which is primarily text-based. People have forsaken newspapers and television and now connect to brands via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and blogs, where advertisers have three seconds (not 30) to sell a product or service.
The question is, which words connect?
Here are 20 words that—if used properly and judiciously—should be considered because they resonate with consumers and help sell goods and services.
Top 20 Words in Advertising
- You. "You" is the most powerful word in advertising for a reason: it's personal. "Let's talk about you." People are invested in themselves, so if you promise to make people rich that's one thing, but if you say, "I'll make you rich," that's a different story. "You" is also a word you must use when talking to your customers because that's who you're addressing. And when you do that, you're talking about a person's favorite subject.
- Results. This word is synonymous with success. We all want results, whether it's from a household cleaner or our bank manager. It's also a powerful word because it's a promise that helps the consumer rationalize the purchase.
- Health. This word is used a lot these days, and not just when talking about physical health. Perhaps the most commonly used variation is "improve your financial health." It works because we all know what good health is. If you can make a promise of good health, be it in a food or service, you are doing well. But don't abuse the word, nor make a promise you can't keep.
- Guarantee. This word is a safety net. Just think of the way you use it in everyday life. "I guarantee I will be home by 5 p.m." is your way of removing any doubt. In advertising, a guarantee is a promise made by a corporation to a consumer, and it's viewed as a commitment. Money-back guarantees are particularly powerful because you remove the risk from trying a new product. And if you're worried about going broke, don't be. Invariably, few people are so annoyed by a product that they ask for a refund because it's usually too much trouble to return it. Again, only use it if you can back up the guarantee, or your credibility will be damaged.
- Discover. "Discover" is a prompt that advertisers use to say, "You're going to get something out of this." Or, when it comes to products, it's worth trying. "Discover" is a promise of something more to come.
- Love. This one has multiple meanings. You can be "in love" with something (like new shoes), or you can "love" how well something works or performs. Either way, love is a strong word. Of course, you must be judicious in its use. It's one thing to say, "You're going to love the way it smells" when talking about perfume. It's quite another to say, "You will instantly fall in love with our toilet cleaner." No one falls in love with a toilet cleaner. Remember, love may work well, but don't lay it on too thick.
- Proven. When you have a brand-new product, not a new version of an existing product, there's a hump that you need to get over. That's because customers are dealing with an unknown. They can wait to read the reviews, ask friends and relatives, or you can help potential customers get over the hump by providing the proof yourself. Just be sure you can back up any claims you make.
- Safety (or safe). We demand safety from our products. We want to know that our investment is safe, or that our children are playing with toys that meet the highest safety standards. We want food that has been inspected, and we want safe choices in clothing and shoes. The question becomes how to talk about safety. Sometimes, it naturally comes up, such as with baby products or items that are designed to provide safety. However, sometimes the word safe is negative because it raises an issue considered a given. For example, "our burgers are 100% safe to eat."
- Save. Even the wealthiest people like getting a deal. If you can genuinely promise to save someone money, you'd be foolish not to point this out. And as for saving time, time is money, which is something everyone wants to save.
- New. Except for vintage Gucci, many people want the latest, even if it's not all that new in reality. A certain brand of consumers always want the next new smartphone, the newest model car, the latest fashions, the hot new espresso maker—and are willing to pay for it.
- Best. When used correctly—like "best in class" or "winner of Car & Driver's Best New SUV of 2019," "best" has real power. However, what's best is subjective in advertising. You can't back up "the world's best cup of coffee" unless you have concrete evidence to prove it.
- Now. Instant gratification is important to people, especially in this age of fast, free shipping and immediate downloads of movies and music. Just make sure when you say now, you mean now. And don't forget about the converse usage of now in advertising; getting the customers to "act now." The word has power, especially when coupled with language that creates urgency. For example, "Call now, and you'll get free shipping and an additional product free."
- Free. When something is genuinely free, a consumer will sit up and take notice. However, often the word is followed by the dreaded asterisk that leads the consumer to the fine print that reads, "free trial." However, free samples, free shipping, free returns, buy-one-get-one-free, and other truly free offers make this word a consistent power player in advertising.
- Sex. Just like "free," a word like "sex" has suffered from all kinds of misleading statements. For example, "This mattress will put sex back in your marriage." That's an awfully big leap. However, humans are sexual creatures and respond to the word. So, when using the word, be mindful of relevancy and context. You can use variations on the word, like "sexy" or "sexual," but it should be applicable, such as "sexy lingerie." One of the reasons magazines like Cosmopolitan, Redbook, and Seventeen consistently have the word "sex" on the front cover is because the word sells copies.
- Increase. This word is an absolute must for B2B advertisements. When decision-makers look for products, they are looking for a lift in return in investment or productivity. This word highlights how your product provides tangible value, such as in increasing sales, intelligence, or time with family.
- Try. If you think the word "buy" is too aggressive, try something softer. One variation is the word "try," which is motivating and action-oriented, but won’t overwhelm people not quite ready to commit.
- Opportunity. Chances are that your target audience has some kind of goal that they’d like to reach. Give your customers the opportunity they’ve been looking for, whether it's a career opportunity or the opportunity to relax.
- Easiest. Consumers and decision-makers want products that make their lives easier. They don’t want the hassle of something complicated. If your product or service has the potential to make a task easier, then advertise that selling point.
- Compare. If your company’s rates or offerings qualitatively or quantitatively beat the competition, use the word "compare" by challenging your prospective customers to run their own comparison. With this word, you’ll be showing confidence in your ability to stand behind your brand and empowering customers to make their own conclusions about why your product is the best.
- Unique. By using this word, you’ll generate a sense of allure that will catch people’s attention. Begin by thinking about what makes your products stand out from the competition. If you have a unique secret sauce, let your customers know.