The Importance of Avoiding Negativity in Your Message

by Michelle Salater on April 9, 2012


The drawn-out Republican presidential primary race illustrates the dangers of going negative with a marketing message. But even if you’re not running for the highest office in the land, you’ll attract more prospective clients with honey than with vinegar, as the saying goes.

Focus on these areas to ensure that you’re not turning off your readers with too much naysaying.

Keeping on the Sunny Side in Marketing Materials

  • Start on a high note. Even if your clients come to you because they’re in real pain or struggling through serious difficulties, it’s generally a good idea to begin communications in a positive manner. For example, instead of saying, “Your pain will end,” try, “Your healing will begin.” This strategy forces your clients to associate you with positive emotions and solutions, rather than with the problems they’re currently facing.
  • Provide solutions. Be specific when you offer them. If you claim that you’ll begin healing your clients’ anxiety, explain how (e.g. by giving them strategies to practice at home, at work, and in social situations). If possible, include statistics or numbers to illustrate what kind of solutions you’ve provided in the past or cite studies that relate to the services you provide.
  • Avoid bashing the competition. We’ve seen how turned off voters become when negative ads run. Maintain the high ground by highlighting your benefits. Caveat: if you need to distinguish yourself from a peer group, it’s perfectly fine to hint at or suggest ways in which your competitors fail. But criticism that’s too negative will have clients turning and running in the other direction.
  • Stay positive on the sentence level. The more concrete your language, the greater impact you’ll have. At the sentence level, this means that positive verbs are stronger than negative ones. For example, lifeguards are trained to yell, “Walk!” rather than “Don’t run!” to children caught running near the pool. “Walk” gives specific, concrete directions, telling a child exactly what to do. “Don’t run” merely eliminates one option, leaving the child free to dance, canter, leap, skip, or do any other dangerous activity.

The takeaway? In your online marketing materials, try to be more “I Have a Dream” than “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Your clients will associate you with positive emotions and imagery, which will eventually convert into sales.

 What really turns you off in marketing and advertising?  


Leave Your Comments

If you like this post, you might also like:

  1. Prime Your Audience to Hear Your Message
  2. Paint a Picture to Sell: The Importance of Being Concrete
  3. The Importance of Sticking with Your Online Marketing Strategy

Previous post:

Next post: