Copy fatigue: seven words for product owners to avoid


Resist describing your product with generic marketing speak to ensure your business stands out to its target audience

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We get it: your product is amazing. It’s so amazing that it’s the most amazing thing the world has ever seen.

The trouble is, everyone else’s product is amazing, too, so you’re describing what you do in exactly the same way as thousands of other people. 55% of visitors to blog posts read the articles for 15 seconds or less so unless you’re setting out your business's stall effectively and efficiently in your writing, most of the people who come across it won’t even know what it does or what it stands for. Here are seven overused words in marketing copy that should be approached with extreme caution by product owners.

1. Amazing

Red flag alert: if you need to tell me that your product or service is amazing then you’re doing something wrong by not showing me it’s amazing. What benefits will it bring me? Will it zap my wrinkles, ease my commute or solve an issue in my local community? If so, talk about it; if not, you’re targeting the wrong person and you need to go back to the fundamentals.

Remove all of the adjectives from your marketing copy. What do you have left? Does it sell itself?

2. Innovative

Everything and nothing is innovative these days so this is a lazy way of saying that your product demands my attention. If it’s truly innovative, I’ll understand that from the way you describe it.

3. Ground-breaking

Is it? Is it really?

4. Disrupt

I do not wish to comment on the work; if it does not speak for itself, it is a failure.
— George Orwell

When even General Motors are talking about disrupting themselves, I think we can assume that whatever impact ‘disrupt’ once held has been well and truly lost. And while you may be on board with the concept of change, it may be off-putting to your audience. Think again about the benefits of your product and how you will communicate them effectively as these are what people will buy into.

5. Authentic

We can blame social media for the rapid rise and fall of ‘authentic’ because if that's what people's interiors really look like then they clearly never eat/move/walk in mud/receive any post/kill their plants. It's gone beyond aspirational and into the phoney so that the word litters the experience market – from immersive theatre to intrepid travel – and the beauty market, where anything other than a size zero woman with perfect skin is seen as ‘authentic’.

Contently hated it so much that they banned it and offer some straightforward alternatives: ‘genuine’, ‘honest’ and ‘self-aware’. Phew, I think my blood pressure is returning to normal.

6. Holistic

The beauty world seems to have a lot to answer for, given that ‘holistic’ is so often associated with lotions and treatments that will cure my acne, scars, wrinkles, dry skin, oily skin, headaches, body aches and pains, sleep troubles, anxiety and probably my dog’s random barking, too. And actually, 'holistic' has its place in the marketing world, much more so than the other words on this list, but think carefully about how you use it. If you’re targeting people with a specific problem, as you should be, then ‘holistic’ risks watering down your message and could suggest that what you’re offering is a jack of all trades. And if you do that, you’re going to glide right past your audience.

7. Everything

Yes, friends, the world is rife with copy that says things such as ‘These shoes are everything’. Please tell me you will never use it in a context other than instructing removal men when packing up your house or when surveying the Krispy Kreme counter.

Have I missed anything off the list? Or were you too busy ignoring the words to even notice them? Let me know your own bugbears in the comments.