The Power of Adjectives in Marketing

B Y   T O M   T O R T O R I C I

In case you’ve forgotten your fourth-grade English lessons, adjectives are descriptive words. They’re placed before nouns to add some detail, context and ‘color.’

In marketing communications, using the right adjectives can help highlight the shining qualities of your products or services. They can also be used to throw shade on the alternatives.

The thing to remember is that specific, descriptive adjectives are more compelling and revealing than general, common ones.

Let’s try some examples. Now, which sounds better:

Great Coffee
Fresh, Steaming Hot Coffee

Enjoyable Roller Coaster Rides
Screaming, Heart-Thumping Roller Coaster Rides

Quality Software Support
Attentive, Friendly Software Support

See the difference? If you were in the market for any of those offerings, you’d likely pick the second one, and perhaps not even be aware of what prompted that choice.

As mentioned, adjectives can also work the other way, when you’re warning people away from competing options, including not taking action. So, which seems more disturbing:

Inexpensive Back-Up Drives
Cheap, Unreliable Back-Up Drives

Your Original Kitchen Decor
Your Outdated, Faded Kitchen Decor

Other Auto Mechanics
Inexperienced, Uncertified Auto Mechanics

A couple of words of caution, though. First, be sure that whatever you’re claiming has a basis in fact. Patently misrepresenting the offerings or capabilities of your or competitive businesses is always wrong, and will bite you in the end. But since this is marketing, and not an academic paper on spine surgery, you have more leeway in wording things to put your firm’s best foot forward. In fact, readers expect it.

Second, be careful not to overdo it with the adjectives, to the point where your writing seems spammy or hard to believe. Because if what you say seems fishy to the reader, your company will likely never have a chance to win their trust back:

Jaw-dropping, world-changing tax accounting services

It pays to stay more or less within the realm of reality. People are persuadable, but they’re not stupid.

If your product or service includes a unique feature, the right descriptive adjective can help you rise above, in the prospective buyer’s mind. Some classic examples include:

Self-Cleaning Oven

No-Wax Floors

Vitamin-Enhanced Water

When searching for the right adjective, a thesaurus has always been the classic reference aid for writers. But these days, you just search online for, say, “dependable – synonym” to describe your lawn maintenance service. A number of reference websites will come up, each with a list of possible words, to help you find the exact nuance you’re looking for.

Of course, a search for “dependable – antonym” will serve up some opposites, for describing the lawn service the homeowner is currently frustrated with.

Why are the right adjectives so effective? Because they help engage people’s emotions. And emotions have a lot more to do with people’s purchase decisions than most marketers realize.

Plus, that qualifying word can also provide a helpful data point to someone who’s trying to make a decision.

Now get started on editing your website or other marketing, and put the power of adjectives to work for you.

Or, if the ideas here make sense, but you’re not sure where to start, a professional copywriter will know how to craft words that compel, engage and delight the people you’re trying to reach. And that just may turn out to be your competitive advantage.


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Tom TortoriciAbout the Author:  Tom Tortorici is an Atlanta copywriter and web content writer who helps companies make a genuine connection with their audience. His classes and conference presentations have focused on how writing, strategy and design can work together to grab attention and interest even among readers with short attention spans. In addition to working directly with businesses, Tom regularly partners with web designers and marketing agencies.

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