Nobody likes being shrieked at, particularly not by a poster, a banner or a TV ad. Or this article’s lead. But many marketers do exactly that, forgetting one of the key rules of successful marketing texts: sell with the content, not the punctuation.
1. It looks desperate
“Don’t forget! 50% off all XY! An incredible deal! Must end today!”
Of course, you shouldn’t hold back when you have important information to pass on, and such a unique offer will definitely interest your customers – but does it really need four exclamation marks? Would the information carry less weight if the (partial) sentences were separated by full stops? It looks as if the punctuation is there to compensate for the text’s lack of impact. Apart from the information “50%” and “today”, it doesn’t offer much. No excitement, no drama, no humor. You can’t just flog enthusiasm into being; it needs cleverly chosen words.
2. It’s stale
A smoke-filled meeting room, drinks at ten in the morning and the feeling that nobody here is really working. It’s understandable that many marketers want to return to the days of Don Draper and Mad Men, but they’re over now. And things have changed a lot. You’ll search in vain for crowds of consumers hungrily waiting for your next product. It’s a buyer’s market, and the burden of proof is on you. So you can’t command people to buy what you’re selling; you have to convince them that they can’t live a second longer without it. And emphasize why they want to buy it. In the age of content marketing and native advertising, the call to action is looking a little worn out.
3. It takes away your creative freedom
The more exclamation marks you use, the less effect each one has – and the more difficult it is to emphasize the real focus. The world is getting louder, and not only in marketing. The elementary school rule was very simple: you use an exclamation mark when you would shout in direct speech. And – realistically – that’s not the case with your next ad campaign. Unless you work for the Disney Channel.
4. It looks weak
One of the few insights you gain from military service: anyone who has to scream to get their point across does’t have an argument. Or maybe just has some kind of complex that they need to compensate for. Exclamation marks in an advertising text are the equivalent of the yapping sergeant. The shouting is meant to demonstrate self-assurance, but at most it displays a lack of respect for whoever is being shouted at. You have to earn that respect first – with strong arguments. You can speak quietly and still appear just as confident.
5. The places where you can use it are usually the ones where you don’t need it.
Do you have the ‘next big thing’ in the pipeline? An innovation that will totally change people’s lives? No? Then your shouting is out of place. 99% of campaigns are not as exciting for the customer as you like to think. And the remaining 1%? They manage perfectly well without the noise. If your product is truly exciting, consumers will understand that without you having to shout. Or did you hear Steve Jobs screaming at the launch of the first iPhone?
You’re probably asking yourself when you can use an exclamation mark at all. The answer: very rarely. HubSpot provides a useful flowchart on the subject.