I just got exceptionally frustrated with some changes I saw made to a piece of copy…
And I’m going to vent to you. The good news? There’s a lesson in it. A really powerful one.
It’s about what I consider to be the single-most powerful word in advertising.
… And, an even more powerful selling secret it reveals!
But I have to warn you…
Not everybody agrees with me.
In fact, I just Googled “most powerful word in advertising” and went through all 10 of the first-page results.
One promised, “The 10 Most Powerful Words In Advertising.”
But it missed this one…
Another, “189 Powerful Words That Convert.”
Yet one more, “100 Most Powerful Words to Use in Advertising.”
In fact, there was even a really good article from Gary Bencivenga that someone ripped off and published on their own website titled, “The Two Most Powerful Words in Advertising (No, They’re Not ‘New’ and ‘Free’).” (Shame on that schmuck for ripping off Gary B. — I have great doubts that this guy got permission to do so, but at least he left Gary’s byline.)
Gary’s article was the best of the bunch, but in the end it wasn’t even talking about words you write into your advertising.
And even though I learned this lesson by watching Gary, I have to admit — his article didn’t reveal this single-most powerful word in advertising, either!
Here’s the consensus on the most powerful word in advertising…
And I think you’ll recognize it.
Lame institutional advertising spends all it’s time going “We” all over itself.
“We’ve been in business 827 years.”
“We’re the best at what what we do.”
“We love ourselves, and so does our mom, so everybody else should, too.”
When a reader is inundated with corporate claptrap nonstop in nearly every piece of advertising, “You” is a breath of fresh air.
Someone is finally speaking to ME?!
Even better if that someone actually appears to know something about me. My dreams, my desires, my destiny. My fears, my frustrations, my failures.
When they speak directly to me, and offer to help me overcome my challenges and solve my problems, I’m in hog heaven.
In a world full of advertisers that care far more about themselves than me, to show me any sense of empathy or caring is enough to get me all twitterpated.
And yet… “You” is the MERE PENULTIMATE advertising word!
Okay, so I know I’m using a big word here. To save you a trip to the dictionary, penultimate means “second best.”
And I’ll tell you what — second place is a whole lot better than last.
Everybody wants to be best, but…
Does anyone here pity Amancio Ortega’s $67 billion fortune that only landed him in second place on the Forbes 2016 list of the world’s billionaires?
Does anyone pity the success of the second-best player in the NBA, NHL, NFL, MLB, or any other professional sport?
Of course, first place is better. But second ain’t half bad.
So you should absolutely keep using “You” in your advertising. In fact, that last sentence has two different instances of the word, plus the one in quotes — which makes it a great example of how much you should be talking about your reader.
But here’s a little twist on “you” that will make your copy even more effective!
I’m going to share one of the most famous pieces of Gary Bencivenga’s copy, which I consider to be the best example of how to do this that I’ve ever seen…
Lies, Lies, Lies!
Why we investors are fed up with everyone lying to us!
But getting rich is the best revenge…
Smartest ways to do it in 2007
Best & worst investments now
Did you catch it?
It’s actually an advertising dirty word, used in a different way.
Here’s the salutation and first four paragraphs…
Dear Fellow Investor,
The “experts” say that individual investors like you and me are motivated by only two emotions — fear and greed.
Well, they’re wrong.
I’ve seen another powerful force shaping investors’ attitudes as never before, and that’s anger — righteous anger with all those who are either lying to us or dreadfully mismanaging our wealth. In this letter, I invite you to join a powerful grassroots movement of investors who are no longer putting up with it.
But who, exactly, are we revolting against? I’ll tell you who…
Have you figured it out?
In that copy, there have been EIGHT variations on my most powerful word, and only TWO uses of the word “You” (… And, one of the uses of the word “you” was used as a variation on my power word.)
Drum roll, please!
But wait, Roy! You just made fun of institutional advertisers going “We” all over themselves, and now you’re telling me “We” is the most powerful word in advertising!
Here’s the difference.
In the examples above, I gave examples of advertisers using “we” to talk about themselves.
In Gary’s piece, his eight variations on “we” were all ways of saying “you and me.”
— we investors
— everyone lying to us
— Dear Fellow Investor
— investors like you and me
— lying to us
— mismanaging our wealth
— join a powerful grassroots movement
— who, exactly, are we revolting against?
Eight separate variations on “we” — and yet, you can hardly accuse Gary B. of going “We” all over himself.
Why is this use of “We” so powerful?
Here we get down to the principle behind this language that takes it head and shoulders above “You” to claim the top spot among the most powerful words in advertising.
Imagine yourself in a selling situation.
When you’re being sold to, you hate to feel like it’s a combative experience. You hate to feel like it’s you against the salesperson, with one of you winning and the other losing. Even if you do buy, you feel bad about it afterward — and you may ask for a refund, and you most certainly won’t be returning to do more business with them.
Contrast that with the salesperson who feels like they’re on your side. They’re not fighting you to close the sale. They’re trying to help you make the best decision. They want to do whatever is in your best interest. Of course, they’ll admit they have a personal interest in closing the deal. But they’d rather you walk away happy with no sale, than have begrudgingly bought and left with a bad impression.
Picture this: there’s a table you’re sitting down at, with the salesperson.
The “closer” who uses pressure tactics to get the deal always sits across from you. It’s the posture of combat. It’s head-to-head.
The consultative salesperson who is working with you to fulfill your best interests sits next to you. It’s a posture of working together for mutual benefit.
“We,” in terms of “You and me,” is side by side selling — you’re in it with your prospect…
That’s not guaranteed through the use of “You” alone.
Even better when your use of the word “We” comes with shared experience.
Perry Marshall is great at this. A simple story that shows, “I’ve walked a mile in your shoes, and I know how it feels.”
This also applies when fighting a common enemy. We can’t avoid a reference to politics here. One of the easiest ways to rally the herd is to point at a big, bad boogieman (and it doesn’t matter who or what), and proclaim that “We will fight it together.”
If you can put yourself on your prospect’s side and speak believably in terms of “We,” you’ve discovered the single-most powerful approach to generating advertising that gets response.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,