The Worst Four Letter Word in Marketing

the worst for letter word in marketing by denise fayThere is a four letter word that is used quite often in marketing content – whether it’s on a website, poster, presentation or social media tweet.

And it generally doesn’t have the effect that you want it to.

Back in 2010 when I was researching for my book – 31 Days to Write Better Copy, I came across it. What’s that four letter word?


The reason it doesn’t have the result you want is because the sub-conscious mind can’t process negatives. So it can’t process ‘Don’t’.

What if I were to say to you –

Close your eyes but don’t think about a sunny day. Don’t breathe in and don’t smell grass being cut with that wonderful smell only fresh cut grass can produce. Don’t listen to the birds singing and chirping. And especially don’t think about kids laughing as they throw a ball.

Just writing the above has put me in a good mood and I’m looking forward to summer already.

But you thought of the sunny day, didn’t you? That’s how our mind works.

It’s the same when someone says ‘don’t touch the kettle’. We generally do touch the kettle.

You see, writing for your business is really salesmanship in print. Whether you want sales, leads, relationships, awareness – whatever your purpose, you need to sell yourself.

I advise my clients – business owners, service professionals, coaches and consultants – that they should always put a positive spin on their marketing and writing.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again if you’re a first time reader (a big hi to you if you are). People buy on emotions and then rationalise with logic.

You need to pull at emotional strings to trigger action. So if vanity or greed are emotional triggers within your market, try discussing the benefits of your product or service. Take a positive spin on your product. If you say something like ‘Don’t be like everyone else, buy this”; it really means “You’ll be like everyone else if you buy this.” Our sub-conscious really can’t digest negatives.

So instead of saying ‘Don’t go anywhere else to buy your widget.’

Say something like ‘Head on over to our store to get your widget with a friendly smile and awesome coffee‘.

(Here you are playing into an experience. Buying a widget with you will be an experience. People immediately imagine a friendly smile and attach that to your copy).

Or how about this one:

Don’t miss this exclusive offer.


Miss this offer at your peril. Your neighbours are availing of it so you should aswell.”

(This plays into emotion and turning things into a positive and negative. You’re starting with fear – miss this offer at your peril. So if you don’t buy it, something bad may happen. And then there is the other emotional trigger of Keeping up with the Joneses. Depending on your marketing, there is nothing quite like it as a persuasion tool).

Have a play with it. Sometimes it’s easier to say ‘don’t miss out’. After all, it does play into fear which is a powerful emotion. But it’s not enough to have your lead pick up the phone to order. And it’s in ordering that the sale comes. If you’re not there in person, you need to do everything in your power to encourage an action. So don’t use don’t in your copy. (But by now, you know to flip it into a positive and say So stay away from using ‘Don’t’ in your sales copy.

Your bank account will thank you.

Key Takeaway

Making simple, small changes like this can make a huge difference to your sales. Focus on the positive, that way your reader will to.

Let’s chat

If you would like to talk to me about this or improving your own content or copy, please do not hesitate to book in a discovery call with me. It’s on me, I have a few open windows a week so book your slot now so we can make your sales copy sizzle all the way to the order book.




About the Author

Denise FayI'm Denise Fay, an international marketing communications advisor. For over 16 years, I've been helping corporations and business owners to promote themselves by communicating the right message with the right audience. They achieve clarity, leads and sales. I'm also an award-winning author, engaging speaker, entrepreneur, business owner and mum of two, I have written copy that has won awards, won clients and most importantly, built relationships. Because at the end of the day, it all comes down to how we relate to others. And writing great copy that engages with your reader is well worth its weight in gold. You too can find wealth in your relationships. I can guide and help you find your words, create an engaging message and build a relationship that results in repeat sales with your customers & leads. Contact me today to get started. Come find me on Google+View all posts by Denise Fay →

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