The most powerful word in marketing, it’s not a keyword, nor an AdWord…

You’ll have probably noticed dear reader, the cancerous spread of fake marketers promoting their thought leadership, has resulted in an increase in the use of adjectives, particularly in headlines.

You see them everywhere. For example, you no longer need normal marketing tools, you need “killer” marketing tools. Or you can download “mind-blowing” secrets for your online success. Don’t you love how these aren’t just secrets, they’re mind-blowing secrets? How mind-blowing is it to sell something to someone who wants to buy it?

The problem with much of this digital dross, is that it rarely focuses on you, the customer – except the spurious claim about blowing your mind. The content is nearly always about the self-centred thought-leading internationally-published super-effluencing, fake marketer and their miracle secret sauce for digital success.

It’s never about you.

And “you” is the most powerful word you can use in your marketing messages.

The You Rule is simple. Always use more of you, your, yours, you’re, you’ve than I, our, ours, us, we, we’re, we’ve, my and mine. People are only interested in one thing – themselves, so write from their point of view, not from yours.

There has always been some debate about whether “you” or “FREE‘ is more powerful.

When I was National Marketing Manager at TNT back in the dim dark 1980’s I ran a split-run test. I wanted to see which was the more powerful word for helping to generate a response.

This was the time in life when fancy digital calculators and branded business card holders, were all the rage as corporate gifts. I’m sure anthropologists in future centuries will just look at marketing incentives to determine a specific time in history. Digital calculators & Business Card Holders = 1980’s. iPods = 2000. USB sticks = 2005. iPads = 2010. Fidget spinners = 2015 and so on.

The test was in a direct mailpack, flogging the first-ever payroll software for desktop computers. It was in the heady days of disruption – when mainframe computers were being replaced by desktop computers. Sorry, that can’t be true – disruption was only invented by cyber hustlers and fake marketers in the last decade.

But I digress.

Heady days they were folks. The mailing had an insert. It promoted the incentive you would be given if you responded for a demonstration of this innovative and disruptive software.

The test was in the headline. We tested two different headlines, but kept the image and copy the same on both inserts.



My experience told me the first headline should get a better result. However, you guessed it, the second headline generated the higher response.

It addresses the reader and implies they’re smart. They’re taking an initiative, not just responding.

Then we combined the headlines for greater impact:

Subhead: Complete the enclosed envelope and return it today for your FREE EXECUTIVE BUSINESS CARD HOLDER

I dug it out of the archives:

What an offer dear readers – how could you resist?

We then tested different headlines for some of the other divisions I was marketing. Here they are:

That’s the beauty of testing – you don’t have to decide, the market does it for you.

You have to love that, don’t you…

You think that’s too many you’s?

You’re right…


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