It's Not a Cockroach...

By Ron Rosenberg

Sometimes our perceptions of a situation can have more of an impact than the actual reality.

I was recently presenting for a group in South Carolina. I had presented a lunch program, and was more than halfway through an afternoon workshop, when I happened to see something that appeared to be moving on the ceiling, near the top of the projector screen.

I had to do a double take to confirm my suspicions - it was a cockroach. I tried to pretend there was nothing there, in case one of the attendees might have a phobia of disgusting brown insects, but it was too late - at that point, everyone was looking up to see what had captured my attention.

"It's a cockroach!" one of the people shouted.

"No it's not," calmly said another. "This is South Carolina - it's a palmetto bug."

Actually, I wasn't sure what to call it, since I grew up in The Bronx in New York City, where the cockroaches were "super-sized" - and this particular one didn't even come close to what I was used to.

So, when I got home, I looked it up, and they're basically the same insect with only minor variations, most of them geographic. In other words, what passes for a cockroach in Newark is identified as a palmetto bug in Florida.

Which brings up an interesting point: say the word, "cockroach," and people will wrinkle up their noses, and say, "Ewwww!"

But "palmetto bug" sounds like it could be something cute and adorable, like a "lady bug." I mean, it has the word "palm" in it, right? As in "palm trees" and "palm dates."

The bottom line is that the words you use to describe a product, a circumstance, or a situation can have a tremendous impact on the reaction people have. That's why copywriting is such a valuable skill - one you must master if you're going to have the maximum influence on your market