The Effect of Using Influential Power Words in Your Marketing – #Winning

Smug bastard perhaps, but Mr. Sheen did a brilliant job of combining his insanity with well concocted random diatribes loaded with power words (some made up) to ignite his notoriety and fame and even launch a world tour. Did you go? Shame on you.

Well, apparently Charlie Sheen had it right. Who would have thought “Winning” was the right word for him to use when he was in the midst of his nervous breakdown/publicity blitz last year?

Winning is one of those words that copywriters have designated as a “Power Word.”

And because words have the ability to connect readers with emotions, savvy advertisers have been secretly (and not so secretly) influencing you by slipping these words into their marketing to create compelling copy.

But, do they work? Maybe. –> Watch the video below and decide for yourself…

Words emote feelings when used correctly. (Image source)

Experts claim that there is a finite list of words that subconsciously grab the attention of a reader and can unleash never before seen success, but even the best psychology majors who ended up in computer programming have not been able to devise a test that isolates and analyzes the true benefit of power words within the copywriting context.

It’s easy enough to determine whether emotionally charged words are more easily recalled. That’s been proven in a number of studies.

But the best way to decipher whether or not power words make a difference for you is to change up your content to include them and then run an A/B test. Test your current dull, drab copy against a jacked-up power-words version.

Case Study Example

Let’s take a look at a case study from our friends at Visual Website Optimizer. Their client, Scandinavian Outdoor Store, decided to run a split test to see if some subtle changes to their copy would make a difference. They focused on their headline which simply read (in Finnish) “Men’s Clothing.”

The headline here is nice and obvious (design-wise) which helps it be a dominant communication area and prime real estate for an A/B test.

How the Test Was Won

Understanding the power of words, the headline was changed to “Order Men’s Clothing easily for bargain prices” (Which I’m sure translates much more eloquently!) The new version, saw a 127% increase in conversion rates, simply by adding a few key words.

Easy and bargain are listed on nearly every power words list. By simply maximizing the power of this headline the company was able to sit back and let the profits roll in. (It doesn’t hurt either that it turned a blasé header into a call-to-action.)

Power word tip

Challenge your copywriters to find value in the words they choose. Remember that the descriptive words that illicit emotions are the ones that work. I can guarantee that words suggesting your customers are going to save money will be effective. For ecommerce: Think FREE, SALE, DISCOUNT, CLEARANCE and AFFORDABLE.

Choose Your Words Carefully – Video

So why does it matter what words we use? Because the human brain is wired to react to words that inspire action and conjure up positive images or emotions. Words like quick, improve, quality, new, unique, exciting and convenient all have an uncanny ability to draw a reader to action.

This video does a great job of capturing the true power behind the right words. Plus it’s Scottish – as am I (Oli) – I think it’s in Glasgow – so it had extra meaning for me.

Words can hurt too. Using words that trigger feelings of dishonesty and distrust could alienate your visitors faster than a HIPPO on a power trip. The goal is to create a need based on fear or avoidance to convince prospects to buy, not to make readers uncomfortable and force them to leave. Unfortunately, there’s a fine line between the two that even the most skilled copywriters struggle with. (And that’s another reason why A/B testing is SO important.)

But, a conglomeration of the right words doesn’t mean success is imminent. It’s as simple as Marketing 101: The right message + The right people + The right time = Success aka Conversions. And the right message in the web world is different than in traditional media. It’s a mix of good copy, good design and tons of other factors (context, readers’ moods, etc.) that all must come together perfectly to compel a reader to take the next step. Otherwise, engagements are limited, conversions sink and bounces skyrocket.

Power word tip

Be conscious of the words you are choosing when writing copy. If a power word fits, use it. Steer away from words that insinuate uncertainty like try, might, maybe, perhaps, etc. People are smart (well, at least some of them) and will see right through a company that is unsure of itself and its products.

With a simple Google search you can find list upon list of power words. Most are pretty similar, sharing a majority of the words. Words are powerful. There is no doubt about it!

So, the next time you are writing copy consider adding a few in. Or, if you’re not seeing the conversions you think you should, run that A/B test to see where the breakdown occurs.

Oh, and did you notice, this post is chockfull of power words. How many can you uncover?

— Angela Stringfellow

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About Angela Stringfellow
Angela Stringfellow has spent the last few years of corporate life working in marketing management in the healthcare industry before transitioning her real-world marketing experience to the web. For the past several years, Angela has worked as a consultant with businesses small and large to build comprehensive social media campaigns, blogging and editorial strategies and enhance overall brand reputation and media presence, with a primary focus on Web 2.0 technologies and content marketing.
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