The power of euphemisms is something that most people don’t think about at all but we marketers obsess over.
I was in a board meeting and discussing new ideas when the guy at the head of the table commented on the concepts. He started with, “You know, it’s interesting…”
I think he said, “it’s interesting” without much preconceived intent, and no one else in the room seemed to notice, but my internal Lost in Space Robot sounded the alarm. “Danger, Will Robinson, danger!” Why? Because interesting is a euphemism.
“What do I think of your son’s portfolio from art school? Interesting.”
“Your wife has a flair for colors and wants us to make some changes to the Internet program we’re producing? Interesting.”
Interesting is a good way to say, “ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME??!!” when it’s not prudent to say exactly what’s on your mind.
Of course, interesting isn’t the only euphemism in the quiver.
“You wrote it by yourself? Wow, I never would have thought of that.”
“Now THAT’S a painting.”
“You know, you just don’t taste home-baked treats like these every day.”
No matter which ones you use, euphemisms can be a great way to avoid a difficult situation but they can become habit-forming. And when used indiscriminately, euphemisms can gum up copywriting and turn off potential consumers who can’t find relevant meaning in non-specific statements.
How do you police and purge euphemisms from your writing and speeches? I’m sure there are plenty of sophisticated technical solutions and grammatical processes, but for me the easiest way is to simply read my copy in my finest W.C. Fields’ voice. If the words sound duplicitous and smarmy, they probably need some editing. After all, the key to good writing is not in the writing but the rewriting.
My friend Chris Barr at Heinau Flowers creates incredible real flower arrangements that have been specially treated to last for at least six months. Really.
He has offered my friends and the folks in our office a special free shipping deal for Valentine’s Day. Because I believe in Chris and his products, I thought it would be fun to make the offer to all of you. This is not a paid promotion – I am not charging Chris to be on the blog and I’m not making any money on the flowers he sells. I just think it’s a great idea, a great deal and an easy way to take the pressure out of Valentine’s Day gift giving.
Here’s what Chris wrote:
“Roses are the perfect, classic Valentine gift. Their only imperfection is that they fade after just a few days.
Heinau Flowers are cut fresh at the farm and then carefully and naturally preserved. There’s nothing plastic or dried out or artificial here – the petals are as soft and supple as the day they were born, and they will continue to absorb moisture from the air. They’re maintenance free and do not need watering, ever.
Our flowers can help you make a small, subtle statement or a bigger, dramatic statement. Either way your gift will leave a truly lasting impression every day for a year.”
If you order before 10:00 AM, February 10th, Chris will give you free shipping and deliver by February 14th. Just enter the promo code LOVEBRUCE or LIKEBRUCEALOT (the codes were Chris’ ideas.) at checkout.