Today is the anniversary of standup comedian George Carlin death. It’s a sad day when intelligence and creativity leave this world.

Being a professional entertainer in my past life (improv comic, magician and ventriloquist), I’ve always admired and studied great standup comedians. And Carlin was one of the greats.

In honor of Carlin I’ve created the “7 Things You Can Never Say In An Advertisement.” That is if you want it to be effective. Here it is. It’s not funny…but it’s real.

  1. One Stop Shop: People don’t buy everything all at once. At any given time they are interested or can be persuaded to want one thing for a very specific reason.  You may be a one-stop shop but that’s not really a selling benefit in most cases. It’s actually a deterrent. Too many choices lead to fewer sales. Once someone becomes a customer, it’s fine to let them know you do and sell other things they may need. But in an advertisement you should be focusing on selling one thing, to one very specific group of people.
  2. [My Company] Can: Who cares! People do business with people, not companies. If given the choice they would choose to do business with family or a friend first. Why? Because they are looking for confidence and value and only a human being can deliver that on a personal level. Speaking in corporate speak doesn’t help you create a personal connection. So write your ad like you’d write to your wife or husband when you’re on an extended trip.
  3. We’re The Best: Unsubstantiated clichés don’t Gravitate, Captivate, Invigorate or Motivate (the 4 steps of Gravitational Marketing) anyone. This is just ego-nonsense and lazy writing.  Generics like this phrase don’t really deliver anything concrete that can be used as a buying preference. It’s just hyperbole. Make statements that are detailed, factual and have a reason why. Back up your claims with proof and your selling argument will have substantially more power.
  4. Good Quality and Good Service: People aren’t looking for good service and good quality. They are looking for much more than that. And they expect good quality and excellent service from you. Do you think someone is making a choice and thinking “I hope they have good quality products and good service?” No, they expect it and if it isn’t delivered they get upset. Saying you deliver something someone expects isn’t very alluring or motivating. If the quality of your product or service is better than normal then you better be able to describe why it’s better, how it’s better and how you will guarantee your customer will experience the high degree of quality or service.
  5. Got…?: This is an overused headline from a big brand advertiser that so many small businesses and entrepreneurs like to steal and use for their own.  We once had a pest control client that used it. “Got Termites?” That was it. This is a lazy marketer’s way out of having to create a powerful marketing message that works. Avoid copying what you see the big, wasteful companies doing on their scented, glossy print ads and TV spots. Most of it isn’t test or designed for direct response purposes. It’s meant to build a brand. Us guys don’t have time or resources to build a brand. We need to attract leads and customers today with every dollar we spend. If you want to do that, keep things like “Got Waste?” out of your ads.
  6. Your Company Name: This is a bit of an exaggeration. In many cases, your company name should be in your ad but I’ve included this here because so frequently the company name is used incorrectly in the ad. Often placed at the top of an ad as a headline. No one cares about the name of your company especially until after you’ve given them a reason to care. First, you must demonstrate how you can help them solve their problems, then they “might” care what your company name is. A person’s name is always more important than a company name because people do business with other people. They relate to one another and they create bonds and have feelings for other people. That doesn’t happen with companies.
  7. Timidity:  People with a pain and people looking for a solution to their problems are in desperate need of someone to help them rid them of the pain or show them a solution. They are looking for a leader. Someone who is confident and will provide value for the money they ask in return. They are looking for a shepherd who can lead them to safety and to a better place with green grass and shelter. In order to help your prospects, you need to capture their attention and respect. You do this by exuding confidence and telling prospects exactly what to do next. Being timid in your advertising doesn’t accomplish this goal. Being wishy-washy about what to do next or how to take the next step doesn’t help anyone. You must be straightforward, clear and deliberate in telling the prospect what actions you want them to take now.