Are there particular words you should never use in your marketing materials?

According to Steve McKee in a recent Business Week article there are five words that you should never use in an ad.

Here is his list: Quality, Value, Service, Caring & Integrity.

He makes some reasonable points. He reminds us that these words are usually lacking in credibility. And they are over-used by all your competitors. Everyone is going to say they offer quality products or services, deliver great value, really care about their customers, and so on.

If everyone makes the same claim, then the words become entirely generic and meaningless.

That said, we think he’s wrong in his assertion that these words shouldn’t be used at all.

However, if you do want to use them…provide proof of your claim.

– Include a third-party validation that confirms the “quality” of your products.

– Prove and quantify “caring” in some way. Maybe offer a far higher quality of customer service, with real people on the phone, 24 hours a day.

– Use Bizrate or some other shopping comparison service to demonstrate that you do offer better “value”.

McKee is right when he says, “Those that win the hearts and minds of consumers don’t talk the talk, they walk the walk.”

But that doesn’t mean you can’t use words like “value”. It simply means you have to validate or quantify your claim in a credible way.

You’ll find an example or two of how quantifying a claim in a site headline can increase conversation rates in our recent Headline Tested brief.

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