Don’t Worry, They’re Just Words

Words have power.

We use words to communicate ideas to other people when we talk, sing songs, write articles, or even send messages on social networking sites.

However, we often don’t think about the words that we are using. Furthermore, other people don’t always interpret what we are trying to say in the way that we intend them to interpret it.

Business Implications

Keep in mind, I haven’t studied linguistics, but having spent a decade conducting survey research, this is something that I have thought a lot about.

The way that you word a question on a questionnaire could have a huge impact on the survey results. In fact, where the question is placed relative to other questions could also influence the way that respondents answer the question.

In other areas of marketing, the words that you choose to use can be even more important.

Changing just one word in an advertisement could possibly make a huge difference in how effective the advertisement is.

In his book, titled “Ogilvy on Advertising,” (affiliate link) David Ogilvy gives some suggestions about how to write effective body copy for print advertisements. He states, “It pays to write short sentences and short paragraphs, and to avoid difficult words. I once wrote that Dove made soap ‘obsolete,’ only to discover that the majority of housewives did not know what the word meant. I had to change it to ‘old-fashioned.’ When I used the word ineffable in copy for Hathaway, a reporter telephoned to ask me what it meant. I hadn’t the faintest idea.”

In the online marketing world, the words that you choose to use are equally important. Changing even just one word could have a huge impact on click-through rates. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you create multiple versions of your ad copy and test to see which version works the best.

To complicate things further, the words that we use can have different meanings in other cultures. This can cause problems for businesses that are trying to sell products to people who have different cultural backgrounds.

Final Thoughts

We use words to share ideas each and every day. Without words, it would be nearly impossible to live our lives the way that we do.

The problem is, sometimes the words that we choose to use have a different meaning (or no meaning at all) among the people who we are trying to communicate with.

In the business world, this can impact the efficacy of your marketing campaigns.

Therefore, it is highly suggested that you test your marketing messages to make sure that consumers are getting the message that you are trying to send.

Furthermore, even if consumers do understand the message that you are trying to send, you should also test other ad copy to see if it is even more effective.

Finally, make sure that the words that you use don’t have a negative meaning in other cultures, particularly if consumers with these cultural backgrounds are in your target market.

In the end, the words that you choose to use could make or break your marketing campaign.

Indeed, words have power.

Photo credit: Horia Varlan on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: