Published on May 21st, 2013 | by Tom Wake2
Why you should never, EVER use puns in sales
Whether you write the odd eBay listing once or twice a year… or you run a global multi-million pound business listen up, because this REALLY applies to you.
As a writer I have to play with words all day. I take a special delight in making silly word connections and belting them out in the pub.
I LOVE puns.
I once stayed in my local until 3am playing a game with friends where we spoke to each other exclusively in body parts.
“Fancy a pint?”
“No thanks, I’m Van Gogh”
“I’ve got one ‘ear”
I know, I know – cringe worthy. That’s just one reason why the pub is, on the whole, where puns should stay.
The other reason is because they are bad for business.
I’m always amazed at how many super smart people with great ideas get the wrong end of the stick on this – so I want to put the record straight:
Don’t use puns in your writing, advertising, or marketing under any circumstances.
The answer’s very simple.
When people spend money they don’t want to feel like you’re taking the Mickey
As a newbie writer this took a while for this to sink in for 2 reasons:
1) When you’re trying to think of a slogan the first thing that will pop into your head will be a pun. It’s inevitable and for most people it’s a part of that creative brain churn (ask any budding writer).
2) People love laughing so why can’t you combine it with sales? It seems strange that you wouldn’t.
Puns stand out and they can make people smile. The problem is they also do something damning – they make you look like a bit of a joker.
On a low cost item like a tabloid newspaper or a gossip mag that’s fine. People buy those items to be entertained and get some light relief – and they don’t mind if you hit them with the odd pun – the odd nod and wink.
But when you’re asking someone to trust in you and believe in your product enough to hand over a more considered sum, you need to really think about the buyer’s mindset.
I was first taught this several years ago by one of the most successful copywriters in the US and when it finally ‘clicked’ I never looked back because I realised he was right.
When people are choosing how to spend their hard earned cash they’re not in the mood for joking around.
That’s because spending money involves making a sacrifice. “If I buy this then I won’t be able to buy this”.
Buyers need to know that you’re taking them and their investment seriously
Think about what a buyer’s primary concern is.
They want to know that they’re not being sold a dummy. They want to know that you as a seller are trustworthy and totally focused on the product – and that they can come to them with any problems in an emergency.
If a seller is monkey-ing around and playing with words, they are in effect making light of the product.
That’s the last thing you want…
While you want to connect with people on a human level (and certainly humour is part of that) when it comes to asking people to spend money – whether it be on a brand sports car or a second hand Tupperware box – you need them to feel like you’re taking them seriously.
Imagine if you were in a salesroom trying out cars and the salesman or woman started making crummy gags or puns about the safety of the car you’re thinking of spending several thousand pounds on.
While the salesperson might be doing their day-to-day job, larking around and having fun, for you this is a life changing decision.
You want to feel that you’ve made the right decision and often it takes just the slightest doubt or ‘iffy’ feeling to make us walk away from a purchase.
Don’t let something as simple (tempting as it is) as a pun or a misplaced gag drive away sales.
Every time I watch a series of the Apprentice there is always AT LEAST 3 or 4 contestants who fall foul on this – and guess what? They never make it. In fact they usually get chucked out pretty early on.
As tempting as it is ALWAYS leave the puns out of sales
That doesn’t mean you can’t show personality or share a bit of humour with clients or potential customers. Getting that personal connection and trust is important if you want to build a lasting relationship with potential buyers. The problem with puns is that they are really just cheap tricks – they don’t say anything about you and they don’t enhance your product or really sell its benefits.
What’s your take on this? Have you come across any puns in advertising or marketing and what did you think? Please leave a comment below.
If you’ve come to the end of this article and you’re thinking FOR GOODNESS SAKE JUST GIVE ME SOME PUNS, I ONLY READ THIS ARTICLE BECAUSE I WANTED PUNS then I’m sorry, you’re in the wrong place. Oh go on then here’s some puns for you.