“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” – Mark Twain
So I saw this ad on Facebook and was struck by the phrase “Morbidly inappropriate marketing video,” specifically with the “morbidly inappropriate” part.
I was struck by it because it was exactly the right phrase – one that fit Frank Kern’s public persona and created almost instant intrigue. There are two reasons for this, with both deserving of further analysis:
1) Scandal, Taboo, and Vice always trigger fascination in readers
This is something that Frank Kern refers to as the rubber necking factor. On the highway, we don’t slow down to stare at a gorgeous tree, an especially beautiful full (aka Harvest) moon, or even a stunning coastline. Sure we’ll look, but none of those things cause rubbernecking.
But put a 3-car pile up with billowing smoke and a scantily clad woman in a catfight with one of the other drivers on the side of the road, and watch traffic slow to a halt as everyone slows down to stare at the spectacle.
Hey, there’s a reason Charlie Sheen got 2,000,000 twitter followers in less than 24 hours, right? Can you tweet #RUBBERNECKING?
And Frank harnesses this fascination with taboo train wrecks by using the word Morbid. The very connotations of the word take mere inappropriate to the next level, past 10 and all the way to 11. I almost wanted to click through to see what could possibly warrant such a descriptor.
2) Words with tightly focused connotations carry greater emotional voltage.*
The words “very,” “greatly,” and even “awesomely” kind of suck, because they can be – and routinely are – thrown at all sorts of situations. Meaning they carry very little connotative weight in most situations. “Awesomely inappropriate” sounds hype-y rather than intriguing.
But words like “flaccid,” “morbid,” “constipated,” or “cryogenic” carry greater emotional voltage simply because their connotations are more fixed to certain settings and uses. Call something “weak” and you’re halfway to lulling your reader to sleep. But call it “flaccid” and a mental image and emotional tone leap to mind.
The same thing holds with “confession,” which is why the word features so prominently in advertising bios and presentations.
And of course, Morbid fits the bill, as well. The word just has a lot of emotional voltage from its associations with an abnormal fascination with death, disease, or otherwise unpleasant and taboo subjects.
Combine these two factors – the fascination trigger with the emotional voltage of the word itself — and you get a copywriting one-two punch to follow-up on the headline and headshot that would have already drawn in fans of Frank’s marketing strategies and persona.
At BoostCTR, we study and test these factors intently because they can play such a huge factor in boosting click-through-rates. In fact, scandal/vice is just one of seven fascination triggers our writers are trained to use.