What's in a Name?

By Ron Rosenberg

Hello, my name isPeople have different nicknames at various times in their lives. For example the name on my birth certificate is "Ronald" but no one ever calls me that except my 12th-grade math teacher and my mother...when I was in trouble - and then she used my full name - middle name and all.

When I was growing up, people knew me as "Ronnie" - in fact my adult nieces still refer to me as "Uncle Ronnie."

To the rest of the world, I'm just "Ron." The thing is that in all three cases it's still me - the only thing that's different is the perceptions and memories people have of me based on their experiences and expectations.

Words Matter

We have many different tools to use when crafting the messages we present to our prospects - the offer, the media, the timing, and the specific wording used in the in the message.

Here's a fairly classic example: asking a guy the question, "So...when did you stop beating your wife?" The wording makes an assumption that's probably not true.

You see the same thing in formal surveys - the order of the questions, the method of asking them, and, again, the specific wording of the questions can actually influence the responses and lead to specific results that may, in fact, be desired.

Immigration Questions

Border patrol vehical in the field.

For example, look at the immigration debate the country finds itself embroiled in. Regardless of your own personal leanings, there are two definite and distinct views, which can be summarized by the choice of words used to describe the population: "Undocumented Immigrants" or "Illegal Aliens"

The first term makes the assumption that they are in the country legitimately, while the second operates from the position that their very presence in the country is a crime in and of itself.

It's the same group of people in either case, but the words we use to describe them carry a different weight and feeling.

Is It "Raining" or Just "Green"?

Tropical locations are fun to visit because the temperature doesn't have the extremes you see as you move farther away from the equator. For example, the central valley region of Costa Rica ranges in temperature from between 75 to 80 degrees year-round, while the average daily high temperatures in Bismarck, North Dakota, range throughout the year from a low of 21 to a high of 85 degrees.

Bismarck has four clearly defined seasons: winter, spring, summer, and fall. Costa Rica also has two well defined seasons: the "rainy" season (May to November) and the "dry" season (December to April).

If you had a choice of taking a vacation to Costa Rica, would you rather visit in the rainy season or the dry season?  I can tell you from personal experience, you don't want to be there in the rainy season.

But how about the "Green Season?" That's how vacation destinations started marketing the time of year when it's so damp that when you hang your clothes out to dry, they actually end up wetter than when you put them on the line!

Words That Sell

So with these examples in mind, here are some other powerful words and phrases that really connect with prospects and a quick explanation of why this is so.

  • How to... - People are always looking for the "magic pill" or the "silver bullet" that will solve all of their problems. If you can present your product or service in this light, your prospects will pay attention.
  • Who Else... - This is a great phrase to use in a headline, a sub-head, or in the main body copy, as in, "Who else wants to retire at age 40 and live the lifestyle of the rich and famous?" The implication here is that others are reaping similar benefits, so why shouldn't you?
  • The Truth About... - The "conspiracy theory" is a powerful hook to grab people's interest. Along with "Exposed!" and "Revealed!" anything that purports to share the "hidden secrets" that "only a few insiders" know can be a powerful incentive to respond.
  • Imagine... - Part of the psychology of engagement is getting prospects to actually visualize themselves in a different situation, one that, hopefully, is more desirable than the one they're currently in. Something like, "Imagine what it would be like to come home from work at 4:30 pm each day, knowing that your business is running smoothly without you having to be there!" This can be just the incentive someone would need to pique their interest.

The words you use, and the way in which you use them can make the difference between a campaign that gets real results and one that doesn't work but wastes everyone's time.