When It’s Not Super to Use Superlatives

This post originally appeared at the Content Bureau blog.

So you’re supposed to be all casual and authentic when blogging. You might feel comfortable throwing around a few superlatives, like “our product is just the best,” or it’s “best in class,” which you’d never do in more buttoned-up content like eBooks or white papers. You’ve been told that headlines containing superlatives get better results. But even when you’re blogging, what does “best” mean to your customers? When you claim you’re the best, but you don’t back it up with specifics, you’re just blowing hot air.

In a recent article at MediaPost, Bill Alberti (SVP of Strategy at C Space, a client collaboration firm) writes, “The words ‘the best’ or ‘number one’ sound like a sleazy sales pitch to many customers. . . . Customers viewed this type of superlative language as a smokescreen for lower quality.” Smart marketers understand that their customers are smart too—and that they no longer accept marketing clichés at face value. If you say you’re the best, you immediately invite skepticism. As we like to ask our clients: Would you buy a used car from a place called Honest Abe’s?

Especially when reading blogs, customers want companies to speak to them as honestly and clearly as possible. So don’t give in to the temptation of superlatives. Ask yourself: What matters to our customers the most? How are we different—really different? What will be true about our brand today, tomorrow, and five years from now? Look to your customer research to identify your top three or four differentiators, and clearly articulate them. Embrace what makes your brand truly yours.

Add specifics to your differentiators and your messaging will spring to life. Is your processor the fastest? How fast? Compared to what? Has your product outsold the competition? Give facts: how many units sold, in which countries, in which years. Is your service award-winning? Name those awards!

And just to underline how meaningless “best” is, marketing expert Brent Underwood found out how easy it is to become a “best-selling author” on Amazon. Answer? Ridiculously easy—so easy, in fact, that you don’t even need to write a book to do so. All it takes is $3, three friends, and five minutes. Read the whole amazing story at the Observer. It’s the best!

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