How to sound good while saying nothing.

 March 9, 2017

Back to the basics: Health Care Marketing Revisited

How to sound good while saying nothing.

Advertising copywriters—and the lawyers who edit their work—are often masters of seeming to say something while actually saying nothing at all. Or appearing to make big promises without really promising anything. Or making what look like guarantees that turn out to guarantee nothing.

It’s a part of marketing communications that many who practice the art dislike. But it’s there. “Weasel words” is what we used to call them. Words or phrases that allow advertisers (and their lawyers) to “weasel” their way out of any claim of falsehood or misdirection.

“Virtually” is, perhaps, the all-time favorite among weasel words. Use our dishwasher detergent and your dishes will be “virtually spotless.” Which means, of course, they’ll be sort of spotless, kind of like spotless, similar to spotless, but not really spotless.

Toothpastes want you to believe they prevent cavities, which is an altogether different thing than “helps fight cavities” (“helps” is right up there with “virtually” on the weasel word ladder). Facial potions don’t reduce wrinkles, they reduce the “appearance” of wrinkles. Often, they only “help” reduce the “appearance” of wrinkles. There are all kinds of herbal remedies that say they “support” this or that aspect of your health. They may not actually do anything to make you healthy. But, by golly, they “support” your health. Whatever that means.

There’s a way to avoid all this, of course. It’s as simple as telling the truth.

Or, as someone once told me, don’t write a check with your advertising that your product can’t cash.

Next time: Say what?

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