Ever since the first newspaper ad was published in the early 1700s, advertising has been littered with empty claims. This awful trend continues to this day with print media and collateral, radio, TV, outdoor, and online platforms.
Decades ago, you might have been able to get away with being vague. There wasn’t as much competition, and there wasn’t as much exposure to marketing. Beyond traditional ads and directories (remember the yellow pages?), consumers didn’t have a ton of choices.
Today, the market is oversaturated with both brick-and-mortar and online businesses and services. The latest data shows that most Americans are exposed to anywhere from 4,000 to 10,000 ads each day. That doesn’t even include the website content, emails, articles, search results, social media posts and other content that fall under the marketing umbrella.
Vague doesn’t cut it anymore. Empty claims are now just part of the noise and clutter that people are forced to sift through all day to find something they need. Something of value. Something that will solve a problem or make their life better, easier or more enjoyable.
What’s an Empty Claim?
In the context of marketing content, an empty claim is a statement that hasn’t been quantified, substantiated or validated. It lacks any specifics, which is why many businesses and marketers make the same claim.
And that’s how we end up with marketing and advertising clichés.
Highest quality. Best service. Knowledgeable, dedicated staff. Innovative solutions. Technical support by industry experts.
During my 12 years as a creative director in radio, advertisers insisted on shoving empty claims into their commercials, despite my efforts to talk them out of it. During my 12 years in business for myself, businesses and marketers have insisted on shoving empty claims into their marketing content, despite my objections.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that some of these empty claims have existed for almost a century. Decades of bad marketing and advertising have conditioned people to believe this is the right way to market.
As cartoonist and best-selling author Hugh MacLeod once said, “If you talked to people the way advertising talked to people, they’d punch you in the face.”
What Are Businesses and Marketers Making Empty Claims About?
Well, it’s not just the standard clichés. Based on my experience writing and reading through marketing content across dozens of industries, empty claims typically involve the following topics and company or product attributes.
- Customer Service
- Product Selection/Assortment
- Technical/Customer Support
- Attention to Detail
How to Give an Empty Claim More Fuel
In some cases, it can’t be done. If you can’t prove a generic, empty claim by offering up specifics, it’s not a selling point. Maybe you’re just saying it because your competition is saying it, or you think that’s what your customers want to hear.
But if the claim isn’t valid or can’t be substantiated, don’t make the claim. Say something else that’s more meaningful.
Funny thing is, there’s often a legitimate selling point buried somewhere in an empty claim. You just haven’t dug deep enough to identify it, substantiate it and communicate it.
Some empty claims can be quantified with easy-to-understand examples or hard data.
Instead of just saying you offer simple solutions, explain what it is about your solutions that makes them so simple. Instead of saying you have fast turnaround, tell them quantify the speed of your process is in terms of days, hours, minutes, etc. Instead of saying you employ highly trained technicians, explain what type of training they’ve received and why that’s relevant to your audience.
Other claims are more difficult to validate. A caring, dedicated and professional staff that delivers exceptional outcomes is a tremendous selling point. But it’s just noise if you say, “We have a caring, dedicated and professional staff that delivers exceptional outcomes.”
This is why I’m such a big proponent of sharing success stories. Less formal than case studies but more specific than the average testimonial, a success story allows the client to substantiate those claims with specifics from their own experience.
Remember, when you say something about your business, it’s a claim. When a client says the same thing about your business, that claim becomes a fact.
Conducting Your Empty Claim Audit
Go through your website, emails, print collateral, social media profiles and posts, and advertising. Are you making substantive claims about the topics and attributes listed above? Are you being intentionally vague because you can’t prove the claim?
Do you have claims that are empty as written but could be substantiated with more digging, more data, more input from clients, and better writing?
Don’t let empty claims keep your marketing content from generating leads. It’s time to fill ‘er up.
If you need help identifying empty claims, weeding out empty claims, or turning empty claims into quantifiable selling points that make your marketing content more compelling, let’s talk.
I’m a copywriter, marketing consultant, lifelong New Jersey resident, husband to a beautiful wife and father to two beautiful girls. I love playing with my daughters, a day at the boardwalk, sarcasm, craft beer and grilling. I despise beating around the bush, synchronized swimming, Toddlers & Tiaras and onions. Most people don’t know I used to be a radio DJ and once wrote, produced and voiced a commercial for the TV show 24. Two places I want to visit before I die are Ireland and Norway, the homes of my ancestors. One place I never want to revisit is my first apartment because my creepy landlord, Monty, freaked me out. That just about covers it.