Sunday, May 14, 2017

Braggin' (or How to Blow Up Sales)

Folks got no use for braggin'.
— Jimmy Shirl

Playing with adjectives is like playing with dynamite.

You can blow up potential sales.

The copy pitching National Retail Federation's annual convention ("Retail's Big Show") illustrates the hazard:

The three day event offers unparalleled education, collegial networking with 34,500 of your newest friends, and an enormous Expo Hall full of technologies and solutions.

Do the adjectives make the nouns that describe the event more vivid?

You decide. In my view:
  • I understand the unparalleled education isn't a geometry lesson; but—besides being without peer—what is the attraction? Is the education useful? Practical? Advanced? Intensive? Digestible?

  • Collegial networking sure sounds more attractive than its opposite (adversarial networking). But, practically speaking, how do you network with 34,500 people in three days? That would require—provided you never slept, ate, or took potty breaks—speaking with each attendee no more than 7.5 seconds. That's a tough way to make newest friends.

  • An enormous Expo Hall also sounds more attractive than it opposite (a puny one). But how enormous is it? Bigger than Dallas? Than Ben Hur? Than a breadbox? And does every attendee equate vastness with productivity and time well spent?
It's safe to say the adjective-slinging copywriter strove, not to sell, but to please her client. Whatever happened to modesty, restraint, sincerity, dignity and good taste?

Here's the same copy adjective-free:

The event offers education, networking, and an Expo Hall full of technologies and solutions.

That's certainly clear, more sincere, and less preposterous. But does it sell?

The answer: it doesn't unsell.

Adjectives like unparalled, collegial, newest and enormous unsell, because they lack credence.

Nixing the adjectives and substituting stronger nouns and verbs would improve the copy's salesmanship:

Retail's Big Show arms you with insights, enriches your relationships, and introduces you to hundreds of technologies and solutions.

If that's not to your liking, substituting specifics instead would strengthen the copy's salesmanship:

Retail's Big Show equips you with a choice of over 125 educational sessions, countless opportunities to network with colleagues, and access to technologies and solutions from 490 providers.

And if that's too dry for you, using emotionally laden adjectives, instead of bombastic ones, would work:

Retail's Big Show outfits you for survival, delivering three full days of trend- and strategy-sessions designed for tomorrow's retail winners... countless opportunities to widen and renew your professional network... and nearly 500 chances to test-drive the tech innovations your competitors are considering—this very moment.

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