Certain words convey certain emotions. But not all words are created equal; some combinations of words work better than others to convey certain emotions or themes. An advertiser might lure shoppers to a big sale by saying, “Hurry! This is a limited time offer!” It would not be as effective if the advertiser said, “Want to feel panicked and rushed to buy something under the pressure of a deadline? Come to our big sale!”

Before we look at which words advertisers use to manipulate our emotions, let’s discuss what responses they want to provoke. Many advertisements appeal to our thrifty nature, calling attention to a bargain. Others appeal to our love of something new and exciting. We are goaded into purchasing items when confronted with a time-sensitive offer. We gravitate toward products and services that make us think of love and belonging, and that generate positive emotional or physical responses. We also like to know what we are buying is safe and reliable.

Here are some commonly used words that appeal to our interests and values:

• Value for money: free, reduced, clearance, low-cost, discount, budget
• Novelty: amazing, starling, sensational, new, introducing, miracle, discover
• Urgency: opportunity, buy, hurry, today, limited
• Love and connection: family, friends, bonding, invited, you, popular, welcome, personalized
• Reliability: guarantee, proven, promise, dependable, safe, results, trustworthy
• Positive sensations: delicious, aromatic, smooth, soft, luscious, silky, tasty, luxurious, yummy

In an article by Jeffrey Schrank called “The Language of Advertising Claims”, posted on the University of Mississippi website, the author writes about “weasel” words in advertising. Weasels suck out the inside of an egg, leaving it to appear intact while actually being hollow. Claims with “weasel words” look substantial, but completely disintegrate when analyzed. Some examples used by Shrank include:

“Helps control dandruff symptoms with regular use.” Phrases like “helps control” and “with regular use” does not mean the product stops dandruff.

“Leaves dishes virtually spotless.” The weasel word for this claim is “virtually.”

Even though we scoff at silly commercials and think we are immune from advertising, do not be fooled. We are affected on a subconscious level by everything we see, so it’s important to be aware of how we respond emotionally to certain phrases and buzzwords. What advertisements you find appealing may reveal more about your values and interests than you realize.

John Bradley Jackson
Entrepreneur, Professor, Author
Deja New Marketing
© Copyright 2013

About the author
1 Comment
  1. Joe Burke

    Amazing post, virtually defines the lines between a word and a weasel. Buy JJ Jackson’s books now, you can’t afford to live without them. (How did I do?) :0

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