Five Words That Won’t Work in an Ad

Very good reminder here about the way words get diluted, and then useless. In my early days in the PC industry all software was supposedly “user friendly.” And that phrase ended up mocking, humorous, a caricature of hype.

In this same vein, Steve McKee writes Five Words to Never Use in an Ad in BusinessWeek. And they aren’t what I would have thought, but, as soon as I think about it, he makes a great point.

The words? Well, for example, he finds the same underlying problem with “quality,” “value,” “service,” and “caring.”

The above four words all fail for essentially the same reasons. Not only are they overused, they’re based on variables that will be different for everyone. There’s a quality/value/service/caring continuum in each person’s mind for every purchase occasion, and it is a continually moving target.

And the fifth word, “integrity,” is one that you have or you don’t; and you don’t get by proclaiming it.

A company either has integrity or it doesn’t. It’s either honest or it isn’t. And most people give companies the benefit of the doubt in believing that they operate with integrity. When a company talks about integrity in its advertising it’s for one of two reasons, neither one of them good: They’re either trying to cover up some lack of integrity (which never works) or they’re implying they live by a higher standard than their competition. That’s impolite, to say the least. Every company needs to have integrity. No company needs to advertise it.

I agree.


  • Words That Dont Work In Ads - Business Opportunities Weblog says:

    […] And that phrase ended up mocking, humorous, a caricature of hype.I read a recent post by Tim Berry that listed five words that just don’t work in ads anymore today that i had to agree with […]

  • Are Your Words Communicating? | says:

    […] Here’s the problem. I have no idea what this company does. It is using generic phrases and words to describe itself, and it thinks that’s marketing. Here’s the other problem. You and I do the exact same thing. We know the story behind our words, so they make sense to us. But do they communicate anything to the person who knows nothing about us? This hearkens back to an article I read recently from Tim Berry, called the Five Words that Won’t Work in an Ad. […]

  • A Quick Jargon Check | says:

    […] If you like this site, you may want to subscribe to my RSS feed. Thanks for visiting!The words we use in business and their meanings has been a topic that is bouncing around in my head of late. This is due in part to Tim Berry’s excellent post, the Five Words That Won’t Work in an Ad. […]

  • ALex says:

    Wow, I would’ve never guessed… This will be one of those posts that’ll stay with me for a long time. Short, sweet, and to the point. Thanks!

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