In the 50-plus years since David Ogilvy published the 20 most persuasive words used in advertising, his insightful vocabulary list remains amazingly appropriate and enduring today.
Admittedly what you write for healthcare requires a more conservative approach than the hyperbole and open-field running that’s allowed in the retail world. But these words can be engaging, attention getting and influential in headlines, email subject lines, social media snippets, ad copy and other medical marketing content.
Alphabetically, here’s Ogilvy’s list:
But wait, there’s more…
Both society and the media have changed significantly in the past five decades, and—although David Ogilvy’s list continues to be a useful reference—also consider the widely-circulated list of
12 Most Powerful Words in English:
As it turns out, this second list of words is commonly—but erroneously—attributed to university research. But regardless of its questionable parentage, the words are creative fodder for effective and compelling healthcare marketing.
Here’s why both lists—especially the word “you”—are useful in health care to gain attention, engage readers and inspire action.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs…
In our experience, healthcare delivery and marketing messaging are critically connected to meeting the needs of the individual. Marketing and advertising professionals have long recognized that, according to Maslow’s Hierarchy, human behavior and decision-making are motivated by one of Maslow’s “needs.” [A Theory of Human Motivation, A. H. Maslow, 1943]
All of the words on the two lists above—and many hundreds of other “power words”—are expressions of, or relate to needs of:
- SELF-ACTUALIZATION: self-fulfillment, realization of personal potential, personal growth
- ESTEEM: confidence, achievement, recognition, respect, responsibility
- LOVE: family, affection, relationships, acceptance
- SAFETY: protection, security, stability
- PHYSIOLOGICAL: air, food, drink, shelter
So, the secret to creating the most engaging and effective health care marketing content is in using words that draw their power from a direct relationship with at least one of these needs. These and many other words are part of the fabric of people-to-people healthcare delivery. Touch a basic need and your words touch the individual reader.
The enduring book, Confessions of an Advertising Man by David Ogilvy, was written in 1963, updated and released again in 1987, and released yet again as a new paperback and Kindle editions in 2012.
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