My gorgeous article about the best attributes to successfully use

You see things like these all the time:

  • Best price.
  • Probably the best beer in the world.
  • Good, better, Gösser. (beer)
  • The best or nothing.
  • Life tastes good.
  • The most [freely insert attribute here] on the market.

In the above text, some of the words are adjectives, some are adverbs. I’ll call them all attributes and I’ll write this blog post only about them. 5812081550_d55a8ac5b8_z Some characteristics (attributes, if you want them like this) of attributes:

  • Generally, they don’t prove things. It’s just an affirmation out in the air. It takes a leap of faith for me to trust someone who gives me a text with attributes. If I say the apple is “tasty”, you have to trust in both my abilities to taste properly (I have good tastes), and in my willingness to tell the truth (if the apple was not tasty, you have to trust me I would have told you so).
  • An attribute is generally hard to fight with. If I tell you the apple is tasty, and it isn’t in reality, you will have a hard time proving me wrong (the same thing can be tasty for some people and not for others). OK, if I say the dress is red, this is easy to combat, it may be or it may not be. But the red itself can be wild, sexy, powerful, or dark, intense, passionate, or vivid, joyful, happy. Give me any color with some red in it and combat me when I tell you this is happy. It’s hard. It is easy to see if it is red or not, but the attributes are harder to fight with. So, if I tell you the red is happy, but you don’t consider it to be so, you’ll have a hard time proving me wrong.
  • The attribute, no matter its source, is a leap of faith. I have to trust the person providing me with it that I will get the same feeling. If you tell me the dinner was very nice and with good people, I will make a picture in my head, and in order to place the same attributes you describe, I have to make the leap of faith. I have to trust the person giving me with the example (“Hmm, if X says so, it really must have been a nice dinner). Attributes tend to be very positive (“it’s so great, and nice, and cool”).
  • People tend to have at least some bad memories with attributes. Politicians vividly describe the great things they’ll do after being elected. Advertisers present products with powerful attributes. Salespeople are trained to focus on the positive attributes, sometimes exaggerating the qualities of their products. What’s even worse than that, is that people themselves use attributes with misleading intentions (“come to the job interview, the position is great”, “come visit us, you’ll have a wonderful time”, “I’ll cook, everybody tells me I’m a great cook”). In time, things evolve right into this fable – The boy who cried wolf.
  • My personal observation is that texts which are addressed to women tend to have more attributes in them. But, of course, I may be wrong.
  • I think you might want to imagine two scales of characterizing attributes:
    • From (close to) no emotions to intense emotions. “A new car” vs. “A total novelty on the market”. “A good dog” vs. “The best dog one owner would dream of”. “An interesting meeting” vs. “A meeting ravishing with new information and unbelievable ideas”. “A decent taste” vs. “A taste so intense you could never forget it”.
    • From purely technical to emotional. “A shirt colored in blue” vs. “A shirt with charming colors”. “A new model phone” vs. “A phone as no one has ever seen before”. “A dark room” vs. “A room with such a pale light, you will get shivers”. “Warm water” vs. “Water with such an intense pleasure associated with you, you’ll just love the temperature”.

OK, to make my statements a bit more scientific:

“The Sun is also the most likely to use adjectives with sentiment, while the Wall Street Journal uses the fewest emotional adjectives.” (source – Scientists analyze millions of news articles)

So, would you rather be a tabloid or a serious source of information?

How to use attributes?

  • Adapt to the respective situations. If you write for a children’s book, you will write differently than if you write a year-end financial statement. There are no bullet-proof solutions, various audiences require various approaches. Sometimes, it’s great to go into technical aspects, at other times you should focus on emotions. Sometimes, it’s good to have attributes with close to no emotions attached to them, at other times, it’s best to specifically look for words with emotions and strings attached. You’ll have to learn them by practicing.
  • There are various levels of describing something, and in my opinion you should go as deep as possible for persuasive writing:
    • A simple attribute. Example:
      • “The white bird was very calm and it looked beautiful.
      • “The peaceful bird was surrounded by white feathers.”
      • “This is one of the most beautiful birds I have seen.”
      • Above, all the words here describe something on a basic level. Noun – Adjective. Or Verb – Adverb. Very simple. It’s a simple structure.
    • An attribute and its effects on others (stepping out of my shoes). Examples:
      • “The white bird was very calm and it looked beautiful. This made everybody else admire it in the open.”
      • “The peaceful bird was surrounded by white feathers. The photograph who shot this still reminds it as one of the best photos he has taken.”
      • “This is one of the most beautiful birds I have seen. I know others who would think of such a great picture as an example of beauty in nature.”
      • Above, the second sentence works on the effects. OK, what implications does the attribute has? How is it perceived in the open? Specifically, how do others react when they know of the attributes in the first sentence? What is a third party reaction of seeing the attributes in the first sentence?
    • An attribute and its effects on others (stepping out of my shoes) and, returning back to me, the effects other people’s opinion have back on me (stepping back into my shoes). Examples:
      • “The white bird was very calm and it looked beautiful. This made everybody else admire it in the open. The sensation I had was of intense peace.”
      • “The peaceful bird was surrounded by white feathers. The photograph who shot this still reminds it as one of the best photos he has taken. I felt so blessed for the privilege of seeing this photo.”
      • “This is one of the most beautiful birds I have seen. I know others who would think of such a great picture as an example of beauty in nature. This brings in me so vivid emotions of happiness.”
      • Above, the third sentence brings back the emotions to me. It’s a much deeper level. Instead of reacting, as in the first place, of just a single entity: “white bird”, I now react to a broad feeling. I bring back in me the very basic emotions I have when I look at the image. It’s not a bird anymore. It has relations with others, and then back to me. Much deeper.
    • Other examples:
      • Great new phone. Which would make everyone envy. Which makes me feel one of the luckiest people alive.
      • Great new phone, lots of features. The features help anybody be better connected, take better photos, and know every possible thing available online. Which makes me feel excited about the evolution of technology.
      • Great new phone, good price. The price makes my phone ridiculously cheap compared with what my friends spent four years ago on a similar phone. Putting things in perspective, it makes me happy for the moment and a bit envy for the future price of my phone fours years later.
      • Great new phone, very useful things. For example, I can use my phone to have a map of the places I’ve been to in the past 6 months. This makes me feel I belong in the bigger world.
    • In my opinion, even going from the first level to the second level is better. Examples of this:
      • Don’t tell me that the phone is nice. Tell me if other people consider it nice, give me examples of other people’s thoughts on this.
      • Don’t tell me that the phone is new. Tell me what does this imply, how does this help me?
  • In my opinion, the biggest problem of an attribute relates to trust – why should I trust you the photo is great? Possible ways to counter this:
    • Turn the trust away from you, put your client in front of trusting someone else but you.
      • Use the power of the masses. Tell that not only you, but 100 people voted the photo as “the greatest photo of nature in May”. Even if I don’t trust you, I can trust the voice of 100 people. They may not be the most competent, but they are 100 people. This has power. (on Facebook, if a brand has 10M likes, I tend to trust that brand more; it’s hard to fake these numbers; if a company tells me they’ve been in business for 30 years, this means something)
      • Use the power of the trust in others. Tell that two of the person’s best friends think of the photo as one of the most beautiful they have seen. I may not trust you are telling the truth, but I trust my friends’ opinion a lot. (this is used a lot in Social Networking; for example, if I visit a brand page on Facebook, I can see which of my friends Liked that page or interacted with it; I can trust it more)
      • Use the power of the expertise. Tell me what experts think of the photo. By “expert” I don’t necessarily mean the best photographer in the world, but someone the audience considers to be an expert. Perhaps Jamie Oliver is the best chef one could think of for millions of people, but not for top 100 chefs. He might be very good for a mass of people, but not for a select few. (for the popular IT gadgets, you can find online reviews from respectable web sites)
    • Go with deeper emotions than just the scratch. Don’t tell me that we have a photo with a white bird which looks nice, tell me about your inner emotions regarding this. I wrote above on how to get there.
    • Prove it. OK, you say it’s the newest phone? How can you prove me this? You tell me it’s the lightest phone? Prove it. If you can’t demonstrate it scientifically, use third parties to tell me this.
  • Should you exaggerate with attributes? Should you say “the newest phone”, even if you know that in Japan a new phone launched 3 minutes ago?
    • My thoughts on this is that this is firstly related to your ethical and moral conduct.
    • As a general rule, I wouldn’t claim anything which is not true.
    • If it is possible, I would try to be specific. OK, not the newest phone worldwide, but the newest phone in Romania for phones which cost more than 300 USD off-contract.
    • Also, try not to exaggerate with how much you use attributes, even if you use them. Don’t use “catastrophically”, use words with smaller powers.
  • Negative or positive?
    • As a general rule, focus on the positive. “Great photo”. See the above thing on ethics, though. It should be true, at first.
    • If you want to say something negative:
      • Take the most obvious complaint and present the positive part of it:
        • If you sell an iPhone, you might say “OK, it breaks easily when you drop it, but we have the largest selection of cases available on the market”.
        • If you sell a Mercedes, you might say “OK, our car is one of the most expensive on the market, but it gives you access to a select number of people who are Mercedes owners, and you will have an elite brand”.
        • If you sell a printer and you are no better than others, say “OK, we sell a generic product, no better than major manufacturers, but by buying our product you don’t pay for the brand image, so our product is more cost effective”.
        • (more on the but thing)
      • Take the most obvious complaint and fight it. Only then present an advantage of the fault:

        • If you sell an iPhone, you might say “OK, critics say that it breaks easily when you drop it, but so do the similar products of the competition. We want to make sure that the phone looks stylish first of all”.
        • If you sell a Mercedes, you might say “OK, our car is one of the most expensive on the market, but it is actually a fair price, compared to the overall added value of the car. You will feel much better with a car that you just know won’t let you down”.
        • If you sell a printer and you are no better than others, say “OK, we sell a generic product, no better than major manufacturers, but this does not imply we have poor quality guidelines. By focusing on the product, not on the brand, we actually make sure that the product suits your needs even better”.
        • (more on the but thing)
  • Other factors:
    • Read about USP & VSP, it helps you understand what attributes to use. You can either differentiate (USP – the best or nothing), or be like others in your category, but, still, an advantage (VSP – Life tastes good). You can interpret “Good, better, Gösser.” as either VSP (Gösser = better than better, but not the best) or USP (Gösser = the best, there’s nothing above).
    • Balance future (I promise, I will do, The results will show, You will feel) with the past (I have done, The results showed, Others have felt).

Other readings on attributes:

(also see this article in Romanian, partially)


Note: Also see the Yahoo! Group on which I present similar issues:IMRo. To join, email imro-subscribe@yahoogroups.com and reply to the confirmation email.

I am a Freelancer. My expertise is in SEO (Search Engine Optimization) / UX (user experience) / WordPress. Co-founder of lumeaseoppc.ro (series of events on SEO & PPC) and cetd.ro (Book on branding for MDs). On a personal level, I like self-development - events, sports, healthy living, volunteering, reading. I live in London, and lots of things live in me.

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