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The Power of Words: How Each One Signals to Prospects to Pay More or Less

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Why fantastic and marvelous can mean cheap and nasty.

Using specific words in your marketing copy instead of glowing generalities can land you better sales.

In fact, adjectives like fantastic, wonderful and incredible value may turn buyers off. They read these words as code for mediocre.

That’s the message from some interesting research that examined the link between words used in ads and the final sales price.

It examined the link between 10 common real estate ad terms and the final price:

  • Fantastic
  • Granite
  • Spacious
  • State-of-the-art
  • ! (an exclamation mark for emphasis)
  • Corian
  • Charming
  • Maple
  • Great neighborhood, and
  • Gourmet

The five winners were granite, Corian, maple, gourmet and state-of-the-art. Three of the five terms were specific, verifiable and useful.

In contrast, fantastic and charming are dangerously ambiguous, says Steven Levitt, the author of Freakonomics.

He says an exclamation mark is nearly always bad news. It signals to prospects that the seller is trying to hide shortcoming with false enthusiasm.


Implications for Any Marketer
You don’t have to be in the real estate business to find this research useful. To spot words that telegraph value to buyers, you may want to:

  • Ask prospects to compare marketing copy for the same product using different words.
  • Follow up by asking them how much they’d be willing to pay.
  • Review marketing copy by rivals of similar products that are much cheaper and more expensive to see which adjectives they favor.


Source: “Breaking the Real Estate Code,”

Reprinted with permission from The Marketing Report
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