Promised Land State Park Over-Promising?

Although I haven’t written any blog posts lately, I’ve been keeping an exhaustive list of ideas for when I have time to write. And since my son got up at an even more ungodly hour than usual this morning — so early he was ready for a nap at 7:30 — well, this morning I had time.

So I opened up my list of blog ideas and scrolled through:

1. Billboard that says “Get Your B.S. Degree”

Yeah, it clearly proves that shorter is not always better. (Come on, third-tier-college-I-will-not-name: Think about what you’ve just written!) But what more can you say?

2. The Can-Do Conference Center

Need to figure out my angle on this one. I think there’s something here, but right now all I can think of is “Really? That’s really what you want to call your conference center?”

3. Sports Puns

Good idea that will never happen. Lateral to Dan.

Then I came to this one:

4. Billboard for Promised Land State Park in Pike County, Penn.

Who knew the Promised Land could be found a mere 10 miles north of Canadensis along PA 390?

This idea makes me laugh every time. In fact, I was laughing about it when my husband woke up and walked out into the living room. I shared my idea with him. He did not think it was so funny.

“You’re being one of those East Coast people who just assumes that anything in the middle of the country couldn’t actually be the Promised Land. You haven’t even been there,” he said. (He gets really defensive about stuff like this because he’s from a fly-over state.)

But he is right. I haven’t been there. I mean, maybe it’s this totally amazing state park. Like the best state park in the world. But it still doesn’t matter. Unless the ranger is going to greet visitors with milk, honey and the promise of eternal happiness, Promised Land State Park is over-promising and visitors will be disappointed. And that’s even before they read the firewood advisory about the invasive beetles.

Now it’s easy to mock a little state park that probably has a marketing budget of $300, so I’ll get off their back. (Sorry, Promised Land State Park, I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. I’m sure you’re great, invasive beetles or not.)

But here’s what really gets to us at The Hired Pens: Companies who should know better — and have a lot more to spend than $300 on their marketing efforts — do exactly the same thing. That is, oversell.

Come on, Company X, is your product really “groundbreaking”?

Come on, Company Y, can you honestly call your methodology “revolutionary”?

And Company Z, I’ve been on the phone with your team. Sure, your customer service is good, but “second to none”? Come on!

At The Hired Pens, we often find ourselves across the table from clients asking them to justify these statements. Yes, we might even say, “Come on!” and roll our eyes at them. This makes them sheepish and unless they fire us, they usually agree to let us take it down a little.

Because here’s the thing: Unless your customers are idiots, they’ll see right through your overselling and their trust in you will evaporate. Now I’m not suggesting you’re so brutally honest that your copy reads, “We’re only minimally better than the other guys, and some days that’s not even true.” So how do you avoid over- or underselling?

Well, without giving away all our revolutionary, groundbreaking and second-to-none trade secrets, a good rule of thumb is to think of it like dating: You want to highlight the positives without over-inflating them and minimize the negatives, at least until your customers fall in love with you.

Curious to learn how to strike the right balance? Let me know and I’ll add it to my list of future blog topics. Right under “What’s up with all the ‘I am [fill in the blank: e.g. Quincy College]’ ads?”

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