Words that Work – Frank Luntz

Words that Work by Frank Luntz is a book that was recommended by Matt Mullenweg (Founder of Automattic / WordPress) when I was listening to the Masters of Scale podcast on remote working. Though this book talks more about words being used in politics than business,  it is a good read for a marketer. It stresses the use of simple words and also repeating the same message over and over. It is not what you say, it’s what they hear and see (how it is interpreted by the people listening to you) that matters.

Simple Words & Branding: 

The word ‘community’ has always had an appeal to Americans. The meaning of words has changed over a period of time. (e.g crises). In the current times, the pandemic may not be termed as a crisis, – It is just a way of life. The book outlines the speeches of many of the Presidents and the Presidential candidates. It talks about the differences between the words used by candidates that won the Presidency and the ones that didn’t.

The book also offers good advice on brand communication (Relentless Pursuit of Perfection – Lexus Brand Strategy). It also talks about aspiration and usage of words like Imagine (in political campaigns)  and this can also be used in business. ‘I’m lovin it’ (easy, simple, nicely written) ad from McDonald’s. I have a dream speech by Martin Luther King or Ask not what the country has done for you, but what you have done for the country by John F Kennedy. Some of these words have a lasting impact. When you communicate a brand story, you have to use simple words (words that work) and keep repeating the same message over and over again. Honey Nut Cheerios corporate ad “Whole grain” and ‘13” essential vitamins and minerals on the box and this creates authenticity for the product. The World’s local bank (HSBC). When Steve Wynn’s Casino in Las Vegas was branded a lot of people walked up to him and took photographs. (This did not happen before). 

Service Vs. Solution

If you are selling a service, can you position it as a solution? Do you call it a Service or Solution and what difference does it make? The difference between Services and Solutions. We will be able to apply this in our day-day marketing, solutions consulting, and more.

Here is a quote from the book.

“Selling a service as a “solution”  not only makes the service seem more valuable, it also subtly raises the status of the solution provider. Butlers and maids serve. Detectives solve problems.

So the migration from “service” to “solution” is in part a matter of simply increasing the value of the product and the buyer’s self-esteem.

Another example of a company that uses a solution to sell its services is Siemens. The German company that makes everything from cell phones to ultrasound machines doesn’t simply sell medical products, it provides “medical solutions.”  By selecting the solution terminology, Siemens moves the focus away from the product or process, and toward the end result accomplishment. So Siemens doesn’t sell “MRI machines.” It sells “a faster and more accurate diagnosis of serious health problems.” Which would you rather buy?”

Practical Tips: The book also offers practical advice on how to prevent a traffic cop from providing you a ticket. (Turn off your engine, just say Sorry and accept your mistake). The use of words like ‘Thank you’ for a job well done will go a long way. When you deliver speeches the talk should be aspirational. Never assume people know things (e.g number of US Senators is one hundred (which I did not know either). While math majors and highly educated may appreciate the discussion about percentages, no one else does. Media always picks up a few clips and shows it over and over again and it creates a perception. Keep your friends close, your enemies closer. Listen more than you speak.

Powerful Communication: Frank recommends the use of twenty-one words for the 21st century. He talks extensively on the power of using words like Imagine, lifestyle, hassle-free, accountability, innovation, re:Words (reinvent, renew, redefine), efficient, efficiency, Investing Vs Sped (You would invest on a website and not spend -, because investments will have a return on investment), Independent, Peace of Mind, Certifications, Prosperity, Spirituality, Culture and more. Reading some of the words, I could relate to different conferences that use the word Imagine. Magento calls its conference Magento Imagine and Microsoft calls its students competition, Imagine Cup. One of the amazon conferences I attended was called re:MARS and they also have conferences like re:Invent and more. 

Ten Rules of Effective Communication: The book begins with ten rules of effective communication and I will end my blog with the ten rules. 

  1. Use simple words
  2. Brevity (use short sentences)
  3. Credibility
  4. Consistency
  5. Novelty (offer something new)
  6. Sound and Texture matter
  7. Speak Aspirationally
  8. Visualize
  9. Ask a Question
  10. Provide context and explain

As the author says, ‘It is not what you say it’s what they hear’ that matters.

Thank you, Frank Luntz.

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