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Monday, January 05, 2009


"Examples of exaggeration can be found in almost any advertising medium. The use of the superlative is altogether too prevalent. Phrases like; the finest, the best, the greatest, the purest, the most economical, and so on ad infinitum, are hurled at the public everywhere. Surely not all products of the same class can be the best or the finest." —Daniel Starch

No one should be using these words on their landing page: greatest, hottest, best, fantastic, amazing. These clichés have been used so much over the last 50 years that they have lost the ability to ping a reader's emotions. The average American hears or sees about 12,000 advertisements each week. They have become experts at picking up on weasel words and sensing when they are the target of a snow job. Your sales pitch should come off as being authentic and personal, not like what a carnival hustler yells at everyone walking by his stand.

You want to avoid sounding like a hustler. For example, the worst headline you can use is, “Best Deal on the Most Amazing Book on Earth!” When your prospect sees this kind of headline, it is a huge red flag that signals that what they are reading is nothing more than hype, and certainly not a solution to their problem or need. As soon as your reader feels like she might be the target of a hype job, within four seconds she will hit the back button and take her business to one of your competitors.

Not only can you spot an amaeture marketer by the clichés that he uses in his headlines, but how often he uses an exclamation point. The idea is that using an exclamation point pings the emotion of excitement in his reader. This is simply not true. A business that came to me for help with their sales copy had the headline, "Buy! Buy! Buy!" As if yelling at someone is going to make them buy your product or service.

A property management company asked me to write an ad that would increase call volume on an apartment complex. The units were priced competitively to other similar units in the area, and the location of the apartments were in the middle of town. Defining the unique selling proposition (USP) for the apartments was a challenge, but it seemed to be location. Being that the apartment complex was located in the center of Fresno, it was not really far from anything.

When I looked at the current ad, the headline read, “Best Deal.” Using Claude Hopkins’ reasoning, I dropped the cliché “Best Deal” and used specificity to create a new headline: “Last Chance At The Cheapest Close To Everything Homes In Fresno.” To strengthen the “last chance” claim, I had the price removed from the ad and added a starburst bubble below the headline that read, “Rent So Low We Won’t Publish It Here—Call Now.” To bolster the “Close To Everything” claim, I used specificity in the text of the ad to make a personal connection with readers (pinging the emotion of anger which is a subset of fear): “Angry At Rising Gas Prices? Near Freeways 41, 168, and Over 100 Businesses.”

The ad was a great success, causing an increase in call volume of 250% and resulting in the manager renting all the vacant apartments.

Here is what the father of marketing, Claude Hopkins, wrote about using clichés in your Internet marketing:

Platitudes and generalities roll off the human understanding like water from a duck. They leave no impression whatever. To say, “Best in the world,” “Lowest price in existence,” etc. are at best simply claiming the expected. But superlatives of that sort are usually damaging. They suggest looseness of expression, a tendency to exaggerate, a careless truth. They lead readers to discount all the statements that you make.

By Lance Jepsen author of Profits That Lie Hidden In Your Website

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