A client raised my hackles recently by asking me to redesign a brochure with “more of a marketing appeal.” She presented an example—a mockup of a brochure cover with a huge photo that had nothing to do with the content and a few sparse blocks of words conveying little real information. The meager text referred to “all new world-class courses” that would offer “everything you need” to meet deadlines and budgets and would give you business analysis skills to “ensure flawless execution.” It sounded like unsustainable hyperbole to me—empty, meaningless phrases—but the client’s reaction to the piece was, “This is what I mean about a fresh sexy look. If you read each category you see the language of marketing coming through.”
My reply: “Maybe you need to look for a designer and/or writer who believes that the ‘language of marketing’ is a good thing.”
A week or two later, I received the following letter from Wells Fargo offering to lend me the spectacular sum of $1,076.55 at an enticing interest rate of 19.99 percent.
When I read the first paragraph of the letter, my first thought was, “Behold the language of marketing!” Is this the kind of thing my client wanted? Using ridiculous hyperbole to persuade someone to buy something he doesn’t want or need on terms that are completely at odds with his own best interests?
Editor’s note: A follow-up to this posting—last week, I received another copy of the same letter from Wells Fargo. I was surprised to see that the new copy didn’t say, “This may be the second-most-important piece of mail you will ever receive, next to the one we sent you before.”
© 2007 Edward F. Gumnick