Say It, Don’t Sell It: Marketing Speak to Avoid in Your Sign

  HTH Inc. has the best SALE on CHEAP tips that are GUARANTEED to be the MOST INNOVATIVE!!! Did that statement make you a bit queasy? If so, don’t worry–that is a perfectly normal reaction to an overdose of marketing speak, and proof positive that you should avoid it when creating your sign. Writing for signage is deceptively difficult for most people to master. Many think, “How hard could writing up a line or two about my shop’s sale or specials be? It’s not like this is rocket science.” True enough, but the challenge lies in the concise assembly of words that quickly, efficiently and thoroughly explain what your company is trying to convey to its customers. There are a number of marketing speak mishaps that your company can easily sidestep as long as you read your signage as a consumer, not as a marketer. This viewpoint is essential to writing lines that your audience will be receptive to, not just what your company thinks sounds good.

So, what marketing speak should you avoid in your signage?

  • Best: If you want to prove your worth, do so with numbers and facts, not subjective hyperbole like “best” or “greatest,” unless, of course, you can back up that claim.
  • Revolutionary: This is a buzz term that has been thrown around haphazardly for ages. Avoid the imminent eye rolls that come with such a claim that only companies like Apple and Tesla can claim with a straight face.
  • Cheap: One of the most negatively sounding words in the English dictionary, cheap comes off as just that–lacking of quality.
  • !: There is a big temptation to cheaply inject life into your message by simply throwing an exclamation mark at the end of it. In most cases, however, if your message isn’t well written or your wording is boring, adding an exclamation is akin to putting a party hat on cinder block–it’s still boring. In other words, don’t lean on punctuation to make your signage interesting. It can often come off as desperate.
  • Sale: “Now wait a minute,” you may be thinking, “what if I do have a sale?” OK, so using the word sale isn’t necessarily the worst thing to do when you need to, but overuse of it is a marketing speak sin of which many shops share guilt. If all of your signs promote sales or discounts, passersby may smell a hint of desperation and choose to shop elsewhere.
  • Guaranteed: Do not make promises your company cannot keep. If you include a satisfaction guarantee (or any other promissory claim) you better expect your customers to hold you to it. Words matter, especially when in the form of a promise.  
Like any good rules, there are always exceptions to the above marketing speak no-nos. However, many professional marketers would advise you to steer clear of terms that could leave your brand looking desperate or, even worse yet, like liars. So much of the business/customer relationship is trust, and if your signage gives off the wrong first impression, it can be hard to win them back over.