'Unofficial Senior Partner' - The Curmudgeon at Large
A somewhat cynical observation:
Educational institutions are disgorging higher and higher percentages of graduates (or drop-outs who claim an education) whose command of the English language is more and more sparse. Their lack of critical background makes them natural competitors for response-grabbing, leaders in the pseudo-information movement whose spread is terrifyingly wide.
A model of such movement, present in stupefying numbers right now, is the “Take Command” movement. A marketer — whether food, entertainment, fund raising, investment, or travel — cavalierly replaces “Trust me” with “Trust me because you’re too stupid to trust yourself.”
Wording doesn’t require polish; the key ingredient is projected self-importance. These marketers assume the posture of Senior Partner, leading a recipient into the receptivity-cave of the marketer’s choice. It’s the old “Bait-and-switch” sales pitch, honed just enough so those who are looking for economic salvation will interpret the words not as hope but as personal and positive reality lurking just behind the curtain.
Copy is assumptive. Typical: This donor needs only “Confirmation from you” or “Your wireless internet is now ready.” Demand for action usually includes the need for timeliness, with words such as “today” or “only 15 available.”
(Off this point for one moment: Two words beginning with “a” are signals to those who either have been stung by a similar offer or just know better. Those words are “available” and “among.” Note that either can be danger-signal, because these words trim to even shorter length the imagined leash tying recipient to sender.)
The natural result of Take Command is immediate generating of built-in evidence. That evidence is either a natural “Yep” or a natural “Nope.”
Positive evidence energizes a column such as this one, in your eyeballs and at your brain right now. The purpose isn’t to re-convert those whose skepticism makes them ineligible for instant renovation. Rather, it’s aimed like a Howitzer at its logical subgroup, apparently pointing out “This is for you” to those who haven’t succumbed to the miniaturized vocabulary and substitution of “you may” for “you will.” Why look for trouble that doesn’t pay off in response and needlessly causes potential widespread alarm if stretched to universal use? Easy proof: You’re reading this, which wouldn’t exist if Take Command hadn’t surged.
Negative evidence is aimed squarely and openly at its target — sales literature including direct mail, space ads, targeted broadcast pitches, and domination (in volume, at least) of electronic media.
Want an example? This email subject line: “Confirm your gift offer.”
We, who look through the rhetorical keyhole, recognize the cleverness here. Is the gift to you or from you? The Take Command operator has taken command.
Herschell Gordon Lewis is president of Lewis Enterprises in Pompano Beach, Florida. Author of 32 books including “On the Art of Writing Copy” (now in its fourth edition), “Hot Appeals or Burnt Offerings,” and “How to Write Powerful Catalog Copy,” he is a member of the Direct Marketing Association Hall of Fame. He can be reached at 954.782.1750 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Cell is 954.600.7073.