Do certain words have more marketing power than others?

Today’s marketers have an ever-growing choice of how they can reach their targets. Besides traditional media such as print, TV or radio, marketers can use email, podcasts, text messages and social media. Yet, marketing experts say regardless of the medium used, one thing hasn’t changed — certain words hold more marketing power than others.

Identifying powerful and weak words

The first step to incorporating more powerful words into your marketing communications is to know them. A common example of this comes from the real-estate industry.1,2 Agents often realize a few key words in a listing could be the difference between enticing a prospective buyer and creating suspicion.

Powerful or weak?

Research on 24,000 home sales reveals that certain real estate terms are  linked to higher sale prices.1 In this listing, the words captivating, updated, granite, stainless, impeccable and landscaping are deemed more powerful (linked to a higher sale price)1, while nice, opportunity and potential send negative signals (linked to lower sale prices).2 Straightforward, descriptive words cannot be misinterpreted, while vague words may have a different meaning to each reader. The exclamation point is typically associated with false enthusiasm.

Word choice matters even more for online marketing

As more marketing takes place online, making careful word choices to drive search engine optimization (SEO) has increased in importance. SEO increases the likelihood that your content is ranked in searches using Google and other search engines, and it starts with choosing the right keywords. Targeting the right words for your audience can help them connect to your brand. You’ll want to make sure your online marketing content includes terms related to your brand and business. But adding power words to create “long-tail keywords” can draw in more intentional prospects. For instance, “best organic dog food for a puppy” will result in a more targeted search than “dog food.”3


  • Using the right words in your marketing tactics can improve or diminish the strength of your message to your audience.
  • Knowing which words are powerful is a prerequisite to using them effectively in your communications. Power words are typically very specific and descriptive.
  • Some words should be avoided altogether because they are overused and often misinterpreted (see below). The top four offenders are value, quality, service and price because these “neutral” words may be viewed negatively by some.
  • Power words come in two categories: “sell” and “scare” words (see below). Both categories have a place in marketing when used in the proper context.

Four marketing words to avoid

Some words used in marketing can confuse, and worse yet, result in loss of a sale. These are usually words most would assume to be universally understood as a positive by the audience. The trouble, however, is that some words have multiple or varied meanings depending on who is interpreting them. For this reason, it might be wise to simply avoid these common offenders.

VALUE. Since this term is in the “eye of the beholder,” it’s a risky word for marketers to tout about their own product. The customer will ultimately determine if value, as they define it, was there. Without using the word “value,” you can build your case for it by focusing on specific features and benefits of your product or service.

QUALITY. Technically, quality means conformance to a set of requirements. However, consumers ultimately define quality in their own terms based on how well a product or service met their expectations. You can let third parties confirm your product’s quality and then communicate it with a level of credibility. J.D. Powers and Consumer Reports are two examples.

SERVICE. This is a word that is often overused. It’s much like “quality” because the consumer defines it personally. That means it’s better to just provide good service and let the customer spread the news. Rather than say “great service,” try to be specific. For example, you could say, “All calls answered in 45 seconds or less.”

PRICE. This is sometimes referred to as the “ugliest” word in marketing, because once you start talking about price, the consumer will start comparing you and the competition on that basis right away. This can distract your customer’s buying process and make you a commodity seller. Consider your brand image and ask yourself: “How does a low or high price affect long-term perception?”

Value: An elusive definition

If all customers and prospects interpreted word meanings alike, marketers wouldn’t need to worry about misunderstandings. But since that’s not reality, you might want to take steps to reduce the odds of saying something you didn’t intend. In particular, you may want to steer clear of four words that often trip-up marketers — value, quality, service and price.

What’s all this mean to you?

Certain words add more power to marketing tactics than others. As it turns out, some of the more commonly used terms in marketing can lead to negative results. Words that can boost marketing power come in a couple of general categories: sell and scare words. Depending on how they’re used, both types of power words have a fit in marketing and can help improve the results of your efforts.

Use the right word at the right time for even more power

Marketing power words tend to come in two categories: sell and scare. Both types of words offer tools for marketers if used in the right way for their situation. If you want to sell your audience on a new product, then use sell words. If you’re trying to create fear of a consequence, which in turn will lead them to your product, use scare words. Maybe you can even use both sell and scare words in the same communication. Keep in mind, in addition to the words, it’s how you use them that adds power to your marketing.

Sell words

Free Fantasy
New Love
Now Romance
Sex Desire
Hope Dare
Dream See
Compare Touch
Smell Rich
Passion Fun

Scare words

Cost Pay
Contract Sign
Try Worry
Loss Lose
Hurt Buy
Death Bad
Sell Price
Decision Hard
Difficult Obligation

1 Sherman, C. (2016, February) 15 Words That Could Add Value to Your Listing. Zillow. Retrieved from /15-words-that-add-value-171182/

2 Sherman, C. (2015, March). Talk Ain’t Cheap: 9 Listing Keywords That Could Cost You. Zillow. Retrieved from /9-listing-words-that-could-cost-you-170940/

3 DeMers, J. (2017, March). How to Pick Your First SEO Keywords. Entrepreneur. Retrieved from: