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5 FREE power words to INSTANTLY boost your Christmas and New Year advertising (they work 365 days)

Updated: Oct 24, 2023


An image suggesting that an attorney's power words are powerful enough on their own
Not that kind of power. Wait!

Words have power. But some words are more equal than others.


I'm mixing my awesome metaphors here, but there is an important point to be made:


Power words and phrases are good for sales.

In fact, using power words for headlines and in other important places your copy appears can give it a sneaky boost.


Here are five options to help you start building your secret power words resume.

First though, an apology:


If you're a human being, you may feel insulted by this article. In it, I might at least hint that you always want something for nothing and that everything is always about you, you, you.

Sorry about that. It's nothing personal.


That proviso in place, let's ask ourselves:


What is a power word in advertising?

American football helmet, suggesting the way using power words for sales works is insulting to the average person
Part of the equipment one needs when making sweeping generalisations about one's likely readers (humans)

Use of power words in sales has been exploited by marketers such as advertising execs and humble freelance content writers right down through the ages.


For all our vaunted modern outlook, things don't really change much where what drives the human brain is concerned.


The definition of a power word is:

Noun. “A word that often evokes an emotional response, positive or negative, in the target audience, leading to a desired outcome ”


Thought power word was simply a phrase that sounded good? You were wrong.


(This is merely the first of the many explicit and implicit insults in this article. It's a mild acclimatising sting. Pace yourself accordingly.)


5 FREE power words to instantly boost your advertising

Here are some of the most powerful words in marketing. Words that will bend your customers to your will! Mwaha. Mwahaha!


They're quite persuasive is what I'm saying.


See how you feel about these:


1) Free

Humour-inspiring image of a man shopping, relating to the power word "free"
"And it's free, you say? You sir, have made a sale."

Let's start with an obvious one. Everyone loves a freebie.


Advertising something for “free” has been shown to have a powerful effect on the human brain (yes, I'm calling you cheap).


But it's even more weirdly powerful than you might think:

Something that is very cheap – even an objectively better product that is very cheap – will rarely compete with something that is outright free.


So, I guess that's that sorted then.

Everything should be free! You get infinite customers. The world is yours. Someone turn off the economy before they shut the door on their way out.

But aside from the serious deficit that your company accounts will be running, there are some problems attached to over-using “free”:

  1. You need to actually deliver on that oh-so-attractive price point. If there's a hidden cost somewhere down the line, you will not make many friends.

  2. Many people will be attracted by your freebies. But not all of those people are going to be worth your time – they only came for the “free”. They didn't come for literally any other thing you might offer to sell them.

Still, “free” has power. Use it well.


2) Instant

They want it all and they want it now. So sang Freddie Mercury, pretty much. And boy, he was not wrong.


If there's one thing the human mind identifies as almost as good as something that's free, it's something that's free and that it can have right now.

Instant gratification is a phrase for a reason. But hold on. Isn't delayed gratification the thing we should be aiming for?

Well, it is a thing. The idea that delayed gratification is desirable probably links back to the famous 1960s study that usually goes by the tasty title of the Stanford marshmallow experiment.


Here's what happened:

  1. In this experiment, some scientists apocryphally asked each child participant whether they wanted one marshmallow now or two later.

  2. The scientists then linked those who selected delayed gratification (and thus the better reward) with better life outcomes like good careers and so on.

  3. This, they said, was because of these kids' awesome willpower. Ergo, delayed gratification means better human.

However.

It's worth saying that a more recent study published in summer 2018 pointed to a wholly different motivation for some kids preferring to get that instant win.


This article was entitled “Why Rich Kids Are So Good at the Marshmallow Test”. It should give you some clue as to what those kids had in common.


(Hint: if you're less well fed and less sure where your next meal is coming from, you are probably more inclined to take the food now.)

Image showing instant gratification is an important concept in the freelance copywriter's toolkit
I'm not going to underscore that with any "witty" caption. Draw your own conclusions!

In any case, “instant” gratification – particularly in the modern world of online services and same-day delivery of products – is, perhaps increasingly, the norm.


Consumers demand instant. Businesses want to find new ways of delivering it.

Yet for all its growing ubiquity, it's still a power word for sales.


There are a few synonyms of “instant” that have much the same effect too:

  • Immediately

  • Quickly

  • Fast

  • Prompt (possibly)

  • Swift (maybe)

3) New

At first glance, “new” shouldn't work as a power word at all. Which brand do you trust? The new kid on the block? What do they know about anything?

You want the brand that's been established since 1865. Good year, 1865. The American Civil War ended. The original Salvation Army was founded.


That's the kind of history I want backing up my confectionery maker. How else would I know if these sweets are really tasty or not?

This makes it a slightly risky proposition when you apply it to anything to do with your brand. If it's new, your audience might not trust it.


Your products are a completely different story though.

How many times have you seen a “new” product or design or flavour of product advertised and felt a little flicker of interest? “New” works on people.


Synonyms of new are used in product descriptions all the time:

  • Fresh

  • Advanced

  • Current

  • Modern

  • Cutting edge

  • State-of-the-art (tenuous, but officially a synonym)

The real power of “new” seems to come from the implication of exclusivity or novelty.

But why is that?


4) Because

Well, because. Because! How much of an explanation do you need?

Apparently, quite a bit.


Various psychological studies have indicated the power of reason (shocking as this might seem given the state of global politics at any one time).


Specifically, these studies show how important it is to give people – in this case, your customers – a reason why something is important for them to do or know.

[Your brand]'s new product comes with the world's most modern timing doohicky attached.”

Well, that is quite the feature. But so what? What does that actually mean for your customer?

As any copywriting agency or marketer will tell you, the most important question to answer in any advertising is what your customer will actually get.


What's the benefit to them? What's the “because” of your feature?

[Your brand]'s new product comes with the world's most modern timing doohicky attached. Giving you a way to brush your teeth and know exactly how long you've been doing it at the same time.”

We didn't even use the word “because” in that entirely realistic and “gee I'm glad I probably possess copyright to that – watch out dentistry industry” example.


What's important is that you gave a reason for this feature being important.

“Because” has a truly suspicious amount of power behind it. Even objectively poor reasons work.

  • “Because you have to”

  • “Because you're worth it”

But it's nothing compared to the psychological oomph this next little three-letter word beings to the table...


5) You

Playful image of a woman posing, showing the power word "you"
"Finally! The pay-off I was promised!"

Oh, you. That's right, I told you things were all going to be you.


Now you can relax. Turns out, they are.


“You” is perhaps the most important word on this list.

Or, more precisely, your customer's identity is the most important word on this list.


Seeing the word “you” makes a person more likely to start thinking about themselves. Or start picturing themselves using your product.


Which is what you want.


You selfish, selfish human, you.

If you ask your friendly neighbourhood freelance copywriter (or whoever writes your sales emails and letters), they'll tell you the salutation “Dear Sir or Madam” is never as effective as, for example, “Dear Ben”.


There's a reason for that. People like to see their name in print or on the screen.


Identity has power. It's the reason why people spend hundreds or even thousands of their default currency on personalisation in video games.


Or why successful apps in China, Japan, and Korea – and other places where it could be said that conformity is sometimes viewed as desirable in the real world – come with a wealth of personalisation options for the virtual space.

On the screen or in print, it comes down to making it all about you, you, you (meaning, your customer).


The dangers of power words in sales and marketing

With all the proven psychological power of these tiny, simple words, you might be wondering why advertisers don't just use power words 100% of the time.

Well, there are a couple of reasons:


1) Over-promising

Never promise what you can't or won't actually deliver.


Not only is that called false advertising, a.k.a. lying, but it's a sure and certain way to develop a bad brand reputation.


With several of these words – free and instant in particular – be very wary of promising something your customer will not get.


2) Overusing

You can have too much of a good thing. Not every power word is suitable or necessary everywhere.

Finally, try to avoid any outright weird uses.


There's no need to try and force every element of your carefully researched strong words list into everything you write.


There are a lot of positive power words out there. You don't need to limit yourself to these five. Or any five.

Because you can instantly find new free options all around you.


 

Need someone to combine power words and more normal words in your copy?


Let's have a chat. The Maiden Standard has been providing SEO copywriting services to businesses in Bristol and much further afield for over a decade.


Reach out and chat about what you need at benjamindmaiden@gmail.com or fill in the contact form below.

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