Words that Win Over Potential Buyers

Dr. Frank Luntz is a Communications Consultant for .. let’s just say one of the major political parties in America. I have purchased two of his books and believe they present some insightful things worth sharing.

Mr. Luntz focuses quite regularly on words and phrases that people use. But, not just what words people use, rather what words are used to inspire people to action. I tend to think of Luntz’s approach as inspiring action through compelling language; and I think that’s probably how he would see it too.

(Side note: I am not much for the intended manipulation of minds, of which marketing as an industry is sometimes accused of doing.  And this is really a fine line, potentially where the ‘approach’ toward marketing can go from (a) educating people about products and services with compelling stories, to (b) hoodwinking potential buyers with manipulative language). But, what’s the golden rule? Let’s give him, and us, the benefit of the doubt (for now).

Words that Work

I first came across Dr. Luntz’s book, Words That Work while on a trip to Border’s Bookstore. The book is something I read on the way to the Interactive portion of SXSW 2010.

Cover of "Words That Work: It's Not What ...
Cover via Amazon

It begins by laying out Ten Rules for Effective Language, including…

1. use small words;
2. use short sentences;
3. credibility is as important as philosophy;
4. consistency matters;
5. offer something new;
6. sound and texture matter;
7 speak aspirationally;
8. visualize;
9. ask a question; and
10. provide context and explain relevance.

Words that Work is a good book. It touches on political case studies (language used, and perhaps, should have been used), as well as corporate case studies. There are slogans and jingles and an extensive review on effective language throughout. In the political case section (chapter 8), Luntz applies the ten rules to various situations. Here’s an interesting snippet, directly from that section, page 177.

“Rule Ten – Provide Context and Explain Relevance:

For some issues, context, and relevance are the same. In the illegal immigration debate, they were distinct and needed to be addressed individually. I tested dozens of words, phrases, principles, and concepts to determine the most universally acceptable context. The one that came out on top was all of three words: rule of law. Here’s how I told Republicans how to explain it.

“Respect for the Rule of Law is a core fundamental American principle. A nation that either cannot or will not enforce its laws- including immigration law- is inviting abuse of ALL of its laws.””

Win: Principles to take your business from ordinary to extraordinary

This book is similarly laid-out in the sense that a principle (or set of principles) is presented, then associative words and phrases are listed along with each of the principles. First, Luntz defines what a winner does, then he suggests 9 principles that all winners abide by.

So, what is a winner? According to Luntz these things help signify what it means to be a winner.

1. the ability to grasp the human dimension of every situation
2. the ability to know what questions to ask and when to ask them
3. the ability to see what doesn’t yet exist and bring it to life
4. the ability to see the challenge, and the solution, from every angle
5. the ability to distinguish the essential from the important
6. the ability and the drive to do more and do it better
7. the ability to communicate their vision passionately and persuasively
8. the ability to move forward when everyone around them is retrenching or slipping backward (huh?)
9. the ability to connect with others spontaneously
10. a curiosity about the unknown
11. a passion for life’s adventures
12. a chemistry with the people the work with and the people they want to influence
13. the willingness to fail and the fortitude to get back up and try again
14. a belief in luck and good fortune
15. a love of life itself

WIN: By Frank Luntz

The principles outlined in the book, known as the Nine P ‘s of Winning, are as follows: People-centeredness (Bill Clinton sited); Paradigm Breaking; Prioritization (being good at it); Perfection; Partnership; Passion; Persuasion; Persistence; and Principled-Action. What’s interesting here, to me, are the phrases and words used to evoke a sense of each of the principles listed. Not that I agree fully, or am very moved by the phrases, but the practice and the involvement of thinking through phrases intrigues me. Here are Luntz’s phrases for the 9 principles of winners.

  • People-centered phrases: I’m listening; I hear you; I get it, I’m listining, I hear you, I get it, I respect you, My commitment, You’re in control, You decide.
  • Paradigm Breaking phrases: You deserve/you have the right to…, Life-changing impact, Breakthrough, A forsensic approach, Re-engineered, American ingenuity, Consumer-driven technology, Patent protected, The new normal, Wow.
  • Prioritization phrases: First principles, First things first, Prevention/ protection, Getting our house in order, If you remember one thing, A straightforward approach, Optimize, Scalable, The bottom line.
  • Perfection phrases: No excuses, Extraordinary/exceptional, Continuous improvement, No surprises, Hassle-free; No worries; Unparalleled flexibility, Real-time, Lasting solutions, Total satisfaction.
  • Partnership phrases: Fully aligned, Inclusion; United; A fresh approach; Independent thinking, Independent certification, Peace of mind, Measurable results, Employee-focused, Personal responsibility.
  • Passion phrases: Imagine, Let me fight for you, Believe in better, Celebrate, Freedom, Life is adventure, .. Will you join me?, Nothing is more important than ___.
  • Persuasion phrases: Stability, Predictability, Insight, Specialist, Performance-driven, Common sense, Reliable/reliability.
  • Persistence phrases: Relentless, Determined, Single-minded-focus, A hands-on approach, Let’s get it done, Let’s get to work.
  • Principled-Cation phrases: Accountability, Strict standards, Corporate culture, Moral compass, Social responsibility, Objective and unbiased, Uncompromising integrity, The simple truth, Chief ethics/ethical officer, Say what you mean and mean what you say.

No doubt these phrases make more sense when accompanied by the arguments and the examples given in each chapter of WIN. All the same, it’s interesting to see what Luntz sees as the language of winners. What about you? Do you believe in a winner’s lexicon? What’s in it in your opinion?

Thanks for reading. Take care.


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