What Sells and What Repels in Marketing?

Sell or repel? When Weird Al Yankovic sang “Word Crimes,” he didn’t have optical advertising and marketing in mind. But we do! Let’s face it. We all have favorite words and phrases. The problem? Some may ring true with you, but not with consumers. To help, here’s a look at words and phrases that sell, along with ones that definitely do not.

Tip: Remember that all CAPS looks like you’re screaming. And, too much punctuation (like !!!) rings insincere.

16A not-often-used number will get remembered. Something like “on sale for 16 hours only,” will also add credibility to an offer.


  • SALE. It’s the Old Faithful of marketing. The fact is, everybody loves a deal.
  • OFF. Nothing piques interest like an incentive.
  • NOW. A great call to action that creates a sense of immediacy.
  • NEW. How new? Tell them in your message.
  • BEST SELLERS. Everybody wants to be in the know about what’s hot.
  • THANK YOU. Saying thanks offers an incentive to do business with you again.
  • TIPS. They position you as the expert. Though soft sell, they often build the bottom line more than “asking for the sale” approaches.
  • YOU. Don’t talk too much about your company. Focus on the customer or prospect instead. Whenever you want to talk from your company’s perspective, resist the urge and change it so that the consumer is the subject instead of the business.



  • HUGE. Long before it became a politically charged word, “huge” was overused. Try “big” or “biggest” instead.
  • CYBERSPACE. Using words like that and phrases like “information superhighway,” make people think the last time you learned about technology was the 1980s.
  • HASSLE-FREE. Don’t mention anything with negative connotations like “hassle.” Use “easy” instead.
  • FEATURES/BENEFITS. Naming them is not going to help you sell. If you must mention them, turn it around so you are stressing how you (and they) will help achieve the customer’s objectives.
  • BUT. Here’s an example of how “and” works better than “but.” You be the judge of which sounds better. “I see you only have a budget of $100, and let me show you why these frames you like cost a little more” OR “I see you only have a budget of $100, but let me show you why….”



Speaking of words, how you put them together is almost as important as what you say. Two tips? All CAPS feels like you’re screaming. And, too much punctuation (like !!!) rings insincere. And, the numbers you use matter, too. For example, a very special and not-often-used one will get remembered. “On sale for 16 hours only,” for example, has been determined to add more credibility than the common 5- or 10-hour offer.

Sources: HubSpot, Vertical Response,  Daily Egg, Engage Selling Solutions, Sales Coach Seamus Brown.


So, what phrases do you use in your marketing and advertising? Have you ever tested to see which words sell, and which ones don’t? Let us know and share in the conversation on Facebook here.



Erinn Morgan