We’ve all seen those ads on TV or in oure-mail in-boxes that make unbelievable promises, such as “Double your income with this risk-free business opportunity,” or “Join millions of other customers who have already experienced the amazing overnight results.” Those ads are guilty of making a fundamental copywriting mistake– using misleading claims.
The objective of copywriting is to communicate the benefits of your product or service to existing and prospective customers. While copywriting can be used to persuade people to make a purchase and increase your profits in the short-term, using misleading copy will only end up hurting your business in the long-term.
The Top 5 Culprits
Here are some of the most common examples of misleading copy and recommendations for how to avoid using these words andphrases in your marketing:
The word”free” is one of the most overused words in copywriting along with similar phrases, such as “no cost,” “no investment,””no obligation” and “no purchase necessary.” Using”free” is one of the easiest traps to fall into because it’s a word that’s often associated with grabbing people’s attention.
A key componentof copywriting is appealing to consumers’ emotional triggers, such as security and trust. So it’s understandable that many entrepreneurs use the word”guarantee” liberally – “satisfaction guaranteed,””money-back guarantee,” “results guaranteed,” and variations such as “or your money back” and “results promised.”
- “Lowest price”.
What consumer isn’t concerned about price? Pricing is one of the easiest ways for businesses to differentiate their products and services from the competition, but pricing claims need to be clarified and quantified to make them believable. In fact, pricing claims have lost much of their power and impact simply because the tactic is overused.
- “Risk-free” or “norisk”.
This is another example of a phrase that has lost its effectiveness because it is used so often. In today’s society, many people, unfortunately, expect to be taken advantage of, so consumers find it hard to believe that a purchase doesn’t have some risk associated with it.
- Up to or at least.
Alone these two phrases are fairly benign, but when they are coupled with an offer or claim,they can be dangerous. For example, “up to 75% off” means only some items are available at 75% off, but the majority may be offered at a far lower discount or no discount at all. Consumers see “75% off” and act, but they could be disappointed when they arrive for the advertised sale and find just one unpopular item available at that rate. Customers are left dissatisfied and unlikely to make a repeat purchase.
Consumers Don’t Have An Attention Problem. It’s Just That Your Advertising Isn’t Very Good
With so much media available to consume, quality matters more than ever for ads.
If a brand releases an ad and no one sees it, is it still called “advertising”?
People have more tools than ever before to skip out on ads entirely. More than three-fourths of the people in North America engage in automated ad-blocking, and 10 percent of them block ads across four kinds of media or more, according to Deloitte. Much like the question of trees falling in forests, what good is a brand’s message at a time when people generally don’t want to hear its sound?
Ad units are shrinking in the wake of ad-blocking technology, but human attention span remains unchanged. Today’s consumers are surely more distracted than any previous generation, so they guard their attention spans more mercilessly. When advertisers can successfully command that attention for a minute or two, it means the consumer is watching an ad for the same reason he or she binge-watches Stranger Things on Netflix: The ad has managed to present itself as relevant or vital to the viewer. It wins every time.
Just 10 years ago, Gillette dominated the razor blade market. Its ads were comfortable, predictable 30-second units that reminded everyone of something they already knew: You need razor blades on the regular, so you might as well buy Gillette.
Related: Advertising Consulting Business Plan
But, the market had to reorganise itself with the appearance of Dollar Shave Club and its distinctly off-the-wall messaging. The notorious startup used quirky 90-second ads to spread its word online, presenting itself as unignorable by comparison to the competition. Even though we live in a time when people can skip ads, block ads and avoid ads, Dollar Shave Club’s marketing won major viral attention. It didn’t exactly kill Gillette’s Goliath, but it sure made Goliath sweat.
The lesson here is that people don’t hate all ads, they just hate the crappy ones. The bar for perceived quality in advertising is so low these days that many choose not to engage with anything on principle alone. People even close web pages they want to visit when the page auto-plays a video ad. When job number one of the advertiser is to interest consumers, it’s never been easier to annoy them.
Far from the rise of the six-second ad unit, there’s strong evidence that people generally want long-form content.
Ooyala reports that long-form video content consumption is up 30 percent from last year. Instagram used to be all about sharing individual photos and short videos, but now with the launch of IGTV supports 60-minute videos. The most widely subscribed YouTuber, PewDiePie, regularly posts 20-minute-long videos to a community of millions of fans. Joe Rogan’s podcast blends comedy, politics and philosophy for two to three hours at a stretch, and is one of the most popular podcasts on the internet.
People can, of course, handle stories and follow them over time. It’s one of the defining characteristics of humanity. But, there are so many stories competing for our attention nowadays that we are extremely selective about which ones we let into our lives. If any of these opt-in narratives will come from advertising, those ads must first run the ad-blocking gauntlet, then be immediately relevant and spectacular to the consumer upon arrival. The bar for perceived quality in advertising these days is actually quite high.
But, there is meaningful assistance on your way to clearing it. Social listening tools trawl the internet to learn what’s being said about and around different brands. With help from a company specialising in consumer insights and some Nielsen data, brands can better learn who their customers are, what they love and what they don’t love. This is key information in designing a vital, relevant message. In simplest terms, a brand must know its audience. The marketing needs to reflect what the audience is interested in, not what company leadership is interested in.
From there it’s only a matter of iterating and optimising. The great thing about digital advertising is that you get feedback instantly. You can iterate a campaign to make it better. Simple tweaks in copy, reframing key ideas and A/B testing can help make your campaign truly great.
Otherwise you run the risk of a mediocre campaign and a wasted media spend. No one wants to hear that sound.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
6 False Advertising Scandals You Can Learn From
Don’t stretch the truth the way Volkswagen, New Balance, Airborne, Splenda, Rice Krispies and Red Bull did.
New entrepreneurs are often tempted to exaggerate what new products or services are capable of. No wonder: Presented to a powerful investor, a stretch of the truth just might help land that series A funding.
And, less seriously, a bit of marketing flair or showmanship, in many cases, will help an entrepreneur accomplish his or her without many repercussions.
But, in other cases, if you’re that entrepreneur who is caught deliberately misleading investors or consumers, you could face false advertising charges – and the ruin of your brand’s reputation. Consider these six examples:
Forget Everything You’ve Heard — Fear Doesn’t Sell
If consumers associate your product with fear, they may not have a strong connection to your brand.
Sixty percent of Subaru owners have dogs. So in 2008, when the company decided to sponsor Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl, it made a major break from previous advertising campaigns — ones that showed drivers with other cars getting stuck in the snow, for example. Alongside a pledge to donate $250 to charity for every car sold, the company began to understand how to appeal to its core audience through their own interests — and how those tied together in a Subaru.
Since 2008, the company has been running a campaign called “Love,” one that brings together all the attributes that Subaru is known for — including safety and reliability. Instead of talking to customers by telling them all the bad things that will happen if they don’t drive a Subaru (e.g., getting stuck in the snow), the company began speaking in a more positive language — including bringing furry friends along on drives.
For many, the instinctive approach toward marketing is to tell an audience why they have to buy your product. Bad things will happen otherwise, and yours is the best in market. The others won’t help you reach your goal. The problem with that logic is that it doesn’t take into account the impact of brand image on product marketing. Sure, you might skid in the snow without a Subaru, but you need to think positively of the company as a whole if you’re going to be drawn to its products in the first place.