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I’m stunned at how horribly bad the following example of copywriting is. Literally stunned…

To tell this story properly, I need to mention milkshakes, and how much I like them (which is a lot.) I like everything about milkshakes, and I really like that neat mixer with the metal cup a “real” milkshake is made in.

I’d make milkshakes at home, but we don’t have one of those metal cup things. We do have a blender that my wife insists is “just as good“, but I know better. That “just as good” crap was used on me forty-something years ago to explain why I got “El Cheapo Knockoff Action Figure” while my friends had the genuine “GI Joe”. My friend’s toys went on bold, death-defying adventures, while mine couldn’t handle much more than being taken out of its plastic shell without going to pieces (literally).

And not only did my wife use a phrase I knew was suspect, she also used a particular tone of voice when she said “just as good” as well. Another childhood memory sprung up…. where have I heard that tone before?? It was the same tone that my mom used when saying “Tastes like candy” in describing Brussel Sprouts.

Basically, I’m saying that I’m onto my wife, and know that “Just as good” is BS, plain and simple.

Enough. I’m an adult. I’m going to buy a milkshake machine with a metal cup, dammit (and now, finally, we’re getting to the point of this story.)

So I go to the store. No milkshake machines. I go to several stores. Nobody sells these things. 4 billion “just as good” blenders, no milkshake machines.

Then, at the fourth store, I come upon one. There were two in stock. The packaging was a little rough, and they were on clearance. But I don’t care – I found what I wanted. I picked up the package to read it, and there in BIG RED LETTERS was the likely reason these were on clearance. The big red letters said:

“DON’T BUY THEM IN THE STORE”

I paused for a second. Don’t buy them in the store? Don’t buy what in the store?  And why not? Should I buy whatever it is online instead?

It was a weird little moment.

Then I read it again and realized they were talking about milkshakes – if you own this machine, you don’t have to buy them in the store.

Oh…

But the damage was done. That little slice of negativity – that phrase right on the package telling me DON’T BUY – did its job. I noticed the shoddy-looking package a little more, and for whatever reason just said “nah”…

Did that phrase directly and consciously make me say no? Not at all. But did it subconsciously contribute to my non-purchase? Absolutely. Words are powerful.

The fact that guys in expensive suits actually sat in a room and came up with this is mind boggling. Putting the words “DON’T BUY” prominently on the package (even though you were talking about something else) is really dumb.

In writing, it’s not always about what you think something means. It’s about what the intended audience thinks something means. A good writer will understand this.

They didn’t have a good writer.

Oh, and I’ve since bought a proper milkshake machine online.

 

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