Advertising is the eternal search for the answer to two simple questions:
- What the customer is thinking when buying a product, and
- How can a seller influence that decision?
However, to understand what makes a good marketing message, we will first have to go through a short analysis of human motivation.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
American psychologist Maslow argued that human behavior is always the result of one (or more) of the five basic human needs, such as:
Physiological needs – hunger, thirst, shelter, clothing and sex;
Safety – the need for physical, emotional and financial security;
Social needs – the need for love and belonging;
Esteem – need for achievement, care and respect;
Self-actualization – the need to achieve one’s own full potential.
Successful message should address at least one of these five needs, in order to meet the user’s needs, desires and aspirations.
After this explanation, we can start with our list.
Which are the 13 most powerful words in advertising?
Now – A word that has been used so often that it’s slowly beginning to lose its power. Its power lies in the fact that it creates the feeling in a consumer that they must act urgently in order to take advantage of an offer. This is associated with the primordial fear of man not to lose something that could ensure survival. This principle is also called the scarcity principle, and is increasingly used in modern advertising, through messages like “Only two vacancies remain” or “Offer is valid only today”.
Easy – Believe it or not, it is embedded in the human consciousness not to do any work the hard way, if there is an easier way to do it. Thousands of years ago, a man would pick an apple from a tree from the lower branches, just because it’s easier that way. Today, this concept of ease and speed is even more important if one considers the lack of free time which modern man faces, which is why they tend to go with simple, easy solutions that will not require any additional effort.
Free – Consumers are not willing to take risks, because excessive consumption of money creates financial uncertainty. Therefore, the human brain leans towards a positive reaction when something is offered for free, because any dissatisfaction with the purchased product will not lead to financial imbalance, and the concept of free offers brings benefit to the brand as well because it creates a viral effect, positive reactions and the word-of-mouth.
New – Everyone wants to have something new, because the new is better than the old – it’s improved and nicer. New products are not always more favorable or more useful, but when making the purchase decisions, users don’t think rationally. Neurologists found that the pursuit of novelty is rooted deep in our consciousness. New things activate the center for rewards in the human brain, which may be related to several millennia of development of human civilization and the constant striving for progress and improving existing technology.
Saving – Saving money is another principle deeply embedded in our consciousness, because it is associated with the need for financial security. Of course, the willingness to spend money on our product depends on user’s financial situation, but the experience of sellers say that even the wealthiest consumers are not immune to discounts and good deals.
Safe (secure) – Whether it comes to financial security, the safety of toys for a child, or airbag in the new car, it represents another basic human need (just behind the physiological needs).
Proven – The use of this word is associated with the elimination of the fear of risk and fear of the unknown. When you have a brand new product that you want to put on the market, you are facing a situation in which consumers are exposed to something that is unknown to them. In human consciousness, new types of products, or products from unknown manufacturers, create a feeling of fear and suspicion. Therefore, a good solution to offer a product to consumers is to immediately offer some proof that this new product gives good results (for example – “Proven – eight out of ten women claimed that this shampoo improved the quality of their hair within a week.”). That’s why today you can often see brands communicating a product through product reviews or testimonials in which a person says that the product is incredible. Even UX designers recommend that the sales page of your site includes several “user” statements about the positive effects of your product in order to encourage visitors to click on the Buy button.
Love – From advertisements for diapers that “protect the ones you love most,” to the message “You’ll love the floral notes of your new perfume”, associations with love give the product a strong emotional basis on which the later (ir)rational purchase decision is based.
Discovery (Discover) – When copywriters use this word, their goal is to encourage the feeling that consumer will get something new to learn, and that the product is worth one’s attention and time. Like opening a gift, discovering something unknown causes excitement in users and the desire for adventure. This is further connected with the fact that the insistence on discovery brings users back to childhood, the period of security and new knowledge.
Guarantee – In advertising, a guarantee is a promise that the company gives to the consumer, and that gives credibility to your offer. This sort of thing is especially effective when it comes to financial guarantees that promise a refund if the product does not meet the expectation, as it further reduces consumer’s fear of risk and fear of adverse outcomes.
Health(y) – This not only refers to physical health, but in general the wellbeing in the sense of physical and mental, financial, emotional… The concept of health is linked to the issues of life, because the instinct for survival is the essence of the most basic physiological needs.
Results – This is a word whose power lies in the fact that the consumer has the feeling that this purchase is rational – “I’ll buy it because it gives results, then it makes sense to invest in such a product.” A result is a confirmation that the product has a clear function and brings a change in one’s life, because it’s not about mere meeting of some desire, but there is a clear intention and positive consequences. This word tells the consumer what they will gain from this purchase, what will happen after use of the product and why it is important that they buy the product and achieve the results.
You – In its rightful first place! When the message contains the word “You”, it is personal, because it speaks directly to the consumer. This word addresses the person’s personal desire, need, passion, one’s personal problems, offers solutions for personal dilemma… And every man wants a product that is designed exactly for them, for their tastes and habits. The follow-up of this personal address is the creation of many portals, microsites and blogs whose names begin with “my”, which further encourages the feeling that the product or service is something owned.
Emotions, not rationality
Advertising messages should address consumer’s rationality, because the process of buying is not rational itself. Instead, focus on messages that penetrate deep into the subconscious and emotions of users. If you don’t believe me, see for example how you react when on a product it says it is environmentally friendly, it doesn’t pollute the environment, and the factory in which the product is made uses special filters, etc. Such a message will delight a small number of those who have a developed environmental consciousness, because they rationally think about the future of the planet, but most will not be touched by that message on the emotional level. Although it is a very important issue for the future of mankind, such messages need to be enriched by evoking some of the basic needs, such as “Save the planet because it is the future of your children” or “Save the planet because, due to global warming and the increase in water level, your home might be affected too.”
When creating messages, keep in mind what is it that the consumers want to receive from you and what is it that drives them, because by discovering consumer’s motivations you also discover the path to their emotion.
Original text is available at the agency’s blog.