Using Superlatives in Copywriting in 2019

Preston Swarthout Blog Leave a Comment

Rishi had a great post on his LinkedIn the other day about how marketers use superlatives so much that they’ve lost their effect. This is something I (Preston) thought was a great observation that not enough people are talking about.

Let’s start with an image:

Do you notice anything similar about each of the results that appeared after I searched “top seo agencies”?

Each of the top 4 Google Ads contain “top”, “best”, “#1 rated” or “ranked #1” in their headings.

But they can’t all possibly be ranked #1 or be the best. Who am I supposed to believe if I’m looking for an SEO agency?

Words that used to be effective are no longer doing the same magic because everyone is using them. They’ve essentially lost their meaning or adopted a new, less effective meaning.

It’s like how “surreal” used to describe something containing dream-like and real elements but — since the decline of the surrealist movement — has devolved into a synonym for “really cool”.

Salvador Dalí would probably say that’s not… really cool.

We’ve all seen that that famous ad campaign from Avis:

Image result for avis is no . billboard
Related image

Whoever came up with the idea to not claim that they’re number 1 was ahead of their time.

Today, everyone and their mother is claiming to be #1, the best, the top dog. But no one is claiming to be #2 or #3, the second-best, or an up-and-comer.

The purpose of this post is to dare you to try something new. Don’t make a bold claim — instead, boldly make a claim. In other words, it takes more guts (and therefore feels more humble and likable) to say you have to try harder to compete with the big boys and girls.

People love an underdog story. If you’re like me, then you love March Madness. During March Madness, not many care about the blue blood or new blood teams (outside of fans of those teams). Everyone wants to see a Cinderella story — an underdog win it all (except me, go Michigan State!).

Let’s revisit that first image.

I made a couple changes to one of the Google Ads to make it stand out from the others:

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