top of page

Verbal Packaging of Products and Issues Sells.

How a product or issue is branded or verbal packaged (VP) may be the key to whether it will be a success. Author Kurt Mortensen in his book Maximum Influence lists Verbal Packaging as one of the psychological Laws of Persuasion. He catalogs this Verbal Packaging Law under “shaping perceptions.” This law as well as the other eleven other Persuasion Laws are neutral. They are neither good nor bad. They work psychologically both consciously and subconsciously.

The VP Law is common sense; that is, words and terms matter. How one presents an idea or product is vital.

Example: A great example of this is the “pink slime” controversy several years ago.

“The "pink slime" controversy dates back to 2011, when celebrity chef Jamie Oliver aired a show decrying its use in the U.S. The so-called slime refers to lean beef trimmings — what's left of the meat after all the choice cuts of beef are taken — that is treated with ammonium hydroxide, creating the pink hue.”

(May 13, 2014” www.BusinessInsider.com)

Pink slime is a meat by-product used as a food additive to ground beef and beef-based processed meats, as a filler, or to reduce the overall fat content of ground beef. In the production process, heat and centrifuges remove fat from the meat in beef trimmings. Wikipedia

What a difference the public would have had if the situation had been called “restructured meat” or “mechanically separated meat” or “beef trimmings” or “meat by-product.”

This verbal packaging had consequences.

Beef Products Incorporated (BPI) lost 72 contracts, closed three of its four plants and erased hundreds of jobs. They sued ABC Network for defamation of $1.9 billion. ABC settled for something around $177 million which BPI declared the largest settlement ever for this type of defamation case.

“On April 2, 2012, AFA Foods, a ground-beef processor manufacturer of finely textured beef owned by Yucaipa Companies filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy citing ‘ongoing media attention’ that has ‘dramatically reduced the demand for all ground beef products’. On April 3, 2012, U.S. cattle futures on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange were at a 3.5-month low, which was partially attributed to the ‘pink slime’ controversy.”

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pink_slime#Market_response)

Example-Fresh pet food and treats is an USA company that promotes all-natural chicken or beef as the #1 ingredient. They emphasize refrigerated dog and cat food with no preservatives. In their commercials, they contrast their food with the dog food that has sprayed-in flavor and powdered meat.

Verbal Packaging is ubiquitous:

The idea is to use powerful, positive words and terms to create a positive belief with people so that people will want to buy the product or flow along with the issue.

Once one focuses on this art of verbal packaging, one realizes that the concept is ever present, ubiquitous.

The VP idea is to paint a picture so that people will use all of their senses to image the situation. Think of all of the handyperson advertisements and commercials. Most likely they will picture a young (30 something) friendly, handsome man working on a home. It could be a safety inspection, electricity, plumbing, installing garage doors, installing carpets, installing gutter guards. The viewer can imagine that positively happening at their home.

Example: District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser created the Vision Zero Approach to street safety imagining a time when no pedestrians are killed on the DC Streets. This then became a bill called the Vision Zero Enhancement Act of 2019 which passed unanimously. It will lower speed limits, create sidewalk bump-outs to protect those who walk and bike, and strengthen driver education. Most DC citizens seem to love this verbal packaging of street safety.

Example: Real Estate Agents love to paint a picture when selling a home. They stage the home with ideal furniture, bake cookies, and arrange flowers and plants.

-They call the bedroom without a closet, The Bonus Room.

-They call the area inside the back door, The Mud Room.

Using short, concise statements is also persuasive.

Example: Waterpix “turns Water into Wellness.:

Example: Think of Allstate, Safe drivers save 40%. Many American can cite that mantra.

Example: Instead of “used cars,” the verbiage of “pre-owned” cars is used.

Example: The term Visiting Angels captures exactly what an older person would want in order for them to live independently in their homes. Visiting Angels company was founded in 1998. It has become increasingly important and busy since it is estimated that the older population of 65+ equals almost forty million which is approximately 13% of the US population.

-EX: Farmers’ Insurance has hooked on to “accident forgiveness.” If one is a member for 3 years without accidents, an accident is forgiven or treated as if “Nothing happened.”

-Defund the Police: This may be a great example of a catchy political slogan but inept verbal packaging as a political strategy. It turns out that 80% of those interviewed dislike the phrase but 80% support the idea. The idea captures the reality that about 50% of the cases police encounter involve social and mental health issues. Police gun management or control skills are not that helpful in these situations. How many times have police been called to a situation involving a homeless person and they don’t know what to do? A homeless expert social work or mental health counselor could provide well-tailored services.

-Humans Beating Diseases: Many people feel uncomfortable with the verbal packaging that seems to imply that if one fights the hard battle, one can win over the disease.

So, what does that mean for the thousands who succumb to diseases. Did they not fight hard enough? Did the 200,000+ Americans who died directly or indirectly of COVID, not fight hard enough? Maybe folks who use such terms as winning over the disease find it comforting? Maybe they don’t know what else to say? Maybe by talking about “winning” makes one feel as it one has control over the situation.

-COVID DOES NOT RECOGNIZE POLITICS: Many folks are also bothered by this verbal packaging that anthropomorphizes (attribute human characteristics or behavior to a god, animal, or object) the disease. Media does this daily. “COVID does not distinguish between poor and rich; COVID does not recognize political boundaries.” CNN: “The virus sets the timeline.”

In the St. Jude commercials they say Cancer does not care about how old one is. Cancer tries to take over the whole body.

Dr. David Nabarro of W.H.O.: Virus is single minded. The virus is trying to survive.

Maybe it is simply best to verbal package COVID as a disease.

On the positive side, creatively VP or branding an item often makes it more attractive for a consumer to acquire or purchase.

Clever Verbal Packaging:

Sometimes, clever or tongue in cheek or eye catching titles can be used.

Example: Rakuten employs over 10,000. Four and ½ years ago Rakuten bought eBates (sponsoring coupons like Groupon, Walgreens, Adidas, the Gap.) Rakuten, Inc. is a Japanese electronic commerce and online retailing company based in Tokyo. It was founded in 1997 by Japanese businessman Hiroshi Mikitani. Its B2M E-Commerce platform Rakuten Ichiba is the largest e-commerce site in Japan. To be internationally consistent, eBates was renamed to Rakuten. Pronouncing this does not roll off the American tongue.

In fact, the first line of commercials after the rebranding tested Americans to pronounce Rakuten correctly by reading a Billboard.

If one had been a member of ebates, one was “upgraded” to Rakuten. One enjoys being “upgraded” so excellent verbal packaging.

American consumers wonder whether this rebranding is clever or challenging?

Example: The District of Columbia Department of Transportation tries to be clever in captioning their Park(ing) Celebration Day.

“The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) will celebrate the District’s eighth annual Park(ing) Day. The annual event highlights the District’s Sustainable DC goals and kicks off World Car Free Day activities in the region.

Park(ing) Day 2020 builds on Mayor Bowser’s efforts to reimagine public space, especially during the pandemic,” said DDOT Director Jeff Marootian. “This year’s event is an opportunity for Washingtonians to practice safe social distancing and use our collective imagination for creative ways to occupy the curbside space that don’t involve storing cars.”

Many DC residents did not “get it.” They initially thought it meant free public parking. They did not focus on the “Park” part with the “ing” in quotes.

DC DDOT also has Performance Parking. What does that mean? It means parkers pay higher fees at certain times at certain locations. So this leads to the next topic:

Clever by Half Verbal Packaging:

On the negative side, some verbal packaging may seem “too clever, by half.”

One trend in advertising is to persuade the buyer that they have a role in a purchase. For example, instead of using the term “mortgage,” companies are using the term “yourgage.” Even when it comes to some prescription drugs, the advertisers talk in terms of “We” meaning the Doctor and the Patient decided jointly to take this medicine. Marriott Residence Inn uses the term “Your residence.” Colonial Penn Insurance includes the Client by allowing them to pick the day of the month to pay.

Example-Back to Good: WMATA (Washington Metro Area Transit Authority) paid thousands of dollars to create the slogan: Back2Good. This program focused on quarterly communiques to inform the citizens of train and bus progress.

Many residents viewed this slogan negatively. First, they did not want to go back and second they want to progress to “excellence” not simply “good.’

Example-Build Back Better: So former US Vice President and now Presidential Candidate Joe Biden created this slogan. Biden believes this is no time to just build back to the way things were before, with the old economy’s structural weaknesses and inequalities still in place.”

https://joebiden.com/joes-vision/#

Much like the WMATA example, many voters wonder whether they want to go “Back.” At the same time, President Donald Trump’s slogan of Making American Great Again seemed to have worked.

The Kurt Mortensen book Maximum Persuasion points out examples of the airlines using the term “flotation device” rather than “life preserver” or “Motion Sickness bag” instead of “barf bag.”

Colors, Branding and Verbal Packaging

Colors have long played a major role in branding, selling and verbal packaging.

-Purple mattresses and sheets: Some wonder about the packaging of a certain brand of mattress as “purple.”

Purple is a color between red and blue. It may have been discovered by the Ancient Romans derived from shellfish dye. It was quite costly and was said to be worth its weight in silver. Purple was reserved for the Royal, kings and wealthy throughout the Middle Ages.

It is said that purple both calms and stimulates, that it awakens senses resulting in a harmonious balance of awareness and peace.

Think of the Red Hat and Purple Attire Groups created by older women who celebrate age and use age as an excuse to royally flout convention.

Think of the Purple Heart which is awarded to members of the armed services who are injured in the line of duty.

Professionals and marketers use Purple to convey high value and lofty goals.

So, it becomes clearer why the mattress marketers brand their product as Purple.

-BlueSteps is the career management service of the Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants (AESC). As a BlueSteps member, there is the sharing strategies via webinars, their resource centre, interaction with a team of Executive Resume Writers and Executive Career Coaches.

-Blue Apron Company: The name Blue Apron is a homage to chefs around the world who wear blue aprons while learning to cook. Today, the blue apron is a symbol of lifelong learning within the culinary field. The name might inspire people to discover new elements of preparing and cooking food. Blue Apron is a public company created in 2012. It provides more than 8 million meal kits per year with generally great reviews.

So, why Blue? According to Author Edward de Bono, Six Thinking Hats, blue symbolizes control, organization, management and order. Blue Hat Thinking is thinking about thinking.

Colors and Home Values:

The accepted belief is that off-white walls sell houses. Real estate website Zillow analyzed 32,000 photos of homes sold around the US and determined which room colors correlated to higher-than-average (or lower than average) sale prices with surprising results.

-Kitchen: If soft blue, the value increased by $1800. If yellow, decreased by $820.

-Bathroom: If powder blue, increased, $5400; If off-white, decrease, $4,000.

-Dining room: If slate/pale blue-gray, increase, $2000; If red, decreased, $820.

-Living room: If beige, increased, $1800; If blue, decreased, by $820.

The right color can increase your home's value by thousands of dollars. In fact, a paint color analysis from Zillow found that homes with front doors that are a shade of black can increase a home's value by more than $6,000.Dec 7, 2018

Getting Your Way Every Day-Mastering the Lost Art of Persuasion.

Author Alan Axelrod focuses on certain words that,

-Motivate Your Colleagues: Use words such as, Contribute, cooperate, modify, suggest, and we.

Avoid the following words: Absurd, bad, crazy, misguided, unworkable.

-Inspire Your Staff: Use words like advise, assist, consider, future, manage, plan and teach.

Avoid words such as blame, crisis, disaster, hopeless, mess, disaster.

-Satisfy Your Customers: Use words such as able, advance, develop, opportunity, pledge, response, secure, special or standard.

Words to avoid: Bargain, cheapest, sacrifice, unload, wait, sidetrack.

-Win Your Customers: Use words like assure, create, extra, offer, partners, service, special, successful, understand and unique.

Words to Avoid: Costly, expensive, final, no, sacrifice, rock-bottom, cheap.

Other Examples:

-“Second Responders:” Cincinnati, Ohio, along with other communities are looking to call mental health assisters who work with the police as second responders as part of police reform. Some, wonder about this term.

In Wikipedia, second responder “ is a worker who supports ‘first responders such as police, fire, and emergency medical personnel. They are involved in preparing, managing, returning services, and cleaning up sites during and after an event requiring first responders.”

So does the term “second responder” really capture this police reform?

Other Examples:

-Small SUV Verbal Packaging names exude excitement, exploring the world, escaping: Jeep Compass, Honda HR-V Cross Over, Nissan Rogue, Jeep Wrangler, Chevy Trail Blazer, Land Rover Discover, Ford Escape, Mitsubishi Outlander

-The George Washington University School of Law decided to get rid of their media department, BUT, they now have an instructional tech department.

-Travis did not buy a home in West Virginia, nor did he buy a log cabin, BUT he did buy a Lodge.

-Washington Post declared that with Brexit, the United Kingdom endured a divorce.

-At Atlanta, Georgia, TV station calls their weather truck: The thunder truck.

-DC based radio station WTOP calls their office: glass enclosed nerve center.

-Some jurisdictions want to charge what many people would call “a paper or plastic bag tax” but to sell it, in DC they called it Save the Anacostia River. They based this on research that showed the number one litter item in the river was plastic bags.

-A gym advertises swimming lessons for children as Waterproofing Your Kids.

-Most banks have deleted all of their investment counselors. They do have Wealth Managers.

-Many political jurisdictions go beyond the minimum wage and have The Living Wage.

-Many areas have done away with “petting zoos” BUT they do have “interactive farm experiences.”

-IHOP advertises their BreakFEAST.

-Fidelity Wealth Management advertises “stocks by the slice.” That sounds easy, right?

-Salvation Army promotes the Red Kettle while singing the song, I will send an army; I will rescue you. That feels safe, right?

-Smart TV/Comcast when it reconnects states, welcome to your entertainment enjoyment. How sophisticated!

-Actors Gwyneth Paltro and Chris Martin did not separate, but they had a conscious uncoupling.

-One PTA President does not like the term “adopt a school” but prefers sistering or brothering a school.

-Lynchburg, Virginia: Some wonder why a city would verbally package itself as Lynchburg but founder John Lynch probably did not wonder.

Conclusion:

We often refuse to accept an idea merely because the tone of voice in which it has been expressed is unsympathetic to us, Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzche.

People are not persuaded by what we say but rather by what they understand. Unknown

-Persuasion is a necessary art. Verbal Packaging is on the Laws of Persuasion.

-Persuasion is a learning process starting with discovery, preparation and then dialogue.

-Persuasion starts with credibility by using the skill of verbal packaging to highlight issues.

-Verbal packaging is used to focus on goals. Focus on shared benefits and commonalities.

-Verbal packaging reinforces issues by providing compelling evidence and the use of vivid language.

-Verbal packaging helps the parties to connect emotionally, to paint the picture, and to envision the “what if’s.

Verbal Packaging leads to Persuasion Success!

(https://hbr.org/1998/05/the-necessary-art-of-persuasion)

Resources:

Maximum Influence, The 12 Universal Laws of Power Persuasion, Kurt W. Mortensen.

Say What You Mean. Get What You Want, A Businessperson’s Guide to Direct Communication, Judith C. Tingley, Ph.D.

How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie. “The first-and still the best book of its kind-to lead you to success.”

How to Negotiate Like a Child-Unleash the Little Monster Within to Get Everything You Want, Bill Adler, Jr., ISBN 0-8144-7294-X

Making Your Case-The Art of Persuading Judges, Antonin Scalia and Bryan A. Garner, www.west.thomson.com, ISBN 978-0-314-18471-9

Kommentare


bottom of page