Remove the Negative Words in Your Advertising and Marketing

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  • October 23, 2007

We often don’t realize it, but negative words have a strong impact on the way we process communications and store information. Some of this information may be elementary, but it is so often overlooked in marketing I feel I have to write on it.

The most abused negative word in marketing and advertising is “Don’t”. I’m sure you’ve seen it so much you hardly realize it is there any more, but think about how many campaigns you have seen with “Don’t Wait!”, “Don’t Forget!” or “Don’t Delay!” plugged into them somewhere. By using those negative word forms you are inviting people to do exactly what you “don’t” want them to!

If your spouse says to you, “Don’t forget the milk”, guess what you will do? If a golfer thinks, “Don’t hit it in the water”, guess where they’ll end up.

Instead marketers should be focusing on positive phrases to encourage conversion, click-through, or whatever call-to-action is the focus of your campaign. Instead of “Don’t Forget!”, try “Remember”. Instead of “Don’t Delay!”, try “Act Now!”

It’s a small change that can have a dynamic impact on conversion rates. Try it!


  • Good advice Chris. The word “don’t” is often used as a call to action, but it really doesn’t create action… it creates inaction.

  • Chris says:

    You’re absolutely right Stoney. It happened to me this weekend. My wife and I were going to go to the Starving Artist Show downtown. All the ads we saw for it said “Don’t Forget! This Sunday from 10-4 only!”

    Well, guess what, we forgot…

    If they had made that one small change from “Don’t Forget!” to “Remember!”, my mind would have synced with that action word instead.

  • markus941 says:

    Good tip. I haven’t even thought of that. Sphunn.