Violent imagery in copy: Harmless, mildly offensive or morally abhorent?

11 replies
  • She annihilated that challenge. She crushed it!
  • Here's how to write killer headlines.
  • Learn how to stick a knife into the guts of your competition.
  • Make sure you know how to write a kick-ass blog post.

Sentences like those above use violent metaphors. Should we all do likewise, or is there some hidden cost to this very common practice?

PRO: Such language is edgy, intense, active, attention-getting, punchy (to use another somewhat violent adjective).

CON: With constant use, words like "killer" lose their impact, yet in a subtle way they also desensitize us to real-life bloodshed and brutality.

What do you think? And why?

Marcia Yudkin
#abhorent #copy #harmless #imagery #metaphors #mildly #morally #offensive #violent
  • Profile picture of the author angiecolee
    I'm on the fence - as a self-professed rocker (who happens to own a tiny machine that literally shoots fireballs), most of these don't seem edgy or violent.

    The only one that made me kinda cringe was "stick a knife in the guts" of your competition - because like a lot of writers, I had an immediate accompanying mental image and despite the rockitude, I'm not a fan of my mind's eye circling a stabbing.

    I do agree that they tend to lose their edge/impact/meaning when bandied about carelessly. I've seen that happening a lot lately - empty power words expected to stand on their own.

    They never were designed to stand alone though.

    Aspiring copywriters: if you need 1:1 advice from an experienced copy chief, head over to my Phone a Friend page.

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  • Profile picture of the author RickDuris
    I believe it depends upon the market.

    In some markets, if you don't evoke violence, if your language isn't graphic, your words fall flat.

    That said, you don't have to scream.
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  • Profile picture of the author Kay King
    Market dependent, of course but it's a fine line to be edgy and graphic - without appearing to try too hard. To me, the knife in the guts tried too hard.

    You want to give 'an impression' - not necessarily draw a bloody picture.

    The first statement - excitement, movement, 'here and now'....not "how to"...

    Saving one dog will not change the world - but the world will change forever for that one dog.
    It takes nothing away from a human to be kind to an animal.
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  • Profile picture of the author Alex Cohen
    When you write copy for a woman-only market, don't use violent metaphors. Macho stuff like that rubs most women the wrong way.

    (Yes, I've written copy for a woman-only market... infertility.)

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  • Profile picture of the author aleangui
    in my honest opinion i think thats what a lot of advertisements are about now a days. i feel like the words ae harmless as long as you word it correctly.
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  • Profile picture of the author Robscom
    I think it depends on your market.

    It doesn't bother me, personally.
    "Do. Or do not. There is no 'try.'" -- Yoda
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  • Profile picture of the author DABK
    When everyone is tall, dark and handsome like me, I'm average, ain't I?

    So, if you're going to stand apart, to make an impact, you need to find another adjective (tarksome?).

    And the adjective better not bug too many.

    We are programmed to compete (first girlfriend you had, you had at the expense of some other dude(s), first job you had, at the expense of 26 other people, got accepted in the school band? (that one don't matter, everybody is).

    So, the question, for me, marketer-semi-extraordinaire is: how do I stop 'em from thinking about the silly things they waste their lives thinking about and think about my dohickey, drool over it?

    Waaay back, when I got into marketing, Dan Kennedy was the only one who was kicking ass and had ultimate programs. Now, everybody's got them.

    So, do I upgrade my violence or repeat (The Ultimate Ultimate Guide To Being As Debonaire as DABK)? If that's the only choice, I must upgrade my violence.

    But must tone it down too... Or so it seemed. The result? Legally steal and its ilk. Which get on my nerves big time. If it's legal, it ain't stealing, robbery, murder, etc.

    Truth be told, it seemed to work (maybe still does): I seen too many legally this and that for it not to have worked for enough people to have one of them create a WSO (or equivalent) and foist it upon the novice.

    But the result, overall (on me and a few others, but not the most, it seems) is that the repeated used of the same violence words in copy has diminished the impact... I don't see it as violence anymore, I see it the way Google sees words like: the, and, a: Filler garbage.

    In other words, I don't use it unless I have a way to put a twist on it: Tired of all the kick-ass marketing programs that have no kick?

    But I used to kick-ass so much I began to bore me. And I don't like being bored, not even by me.
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  • Profile picture of the author marciayudkin
    Well, here's an example where someone is using language in this category in a completely meaningless and ultimately confusing way in his ebook title:

    How to Get Clients That Kick-Ass: Over 86 Tips To Get Clients That Pay You More, Treat You Better and Love Your Work (mentioned in another thread in a post today)

    "Clients That Kick Ass" should mean clients who are energetic, get-up-and-go types, who accomplish a lot. However, the subtitle connects these desirable clients with paying you more, treating you better and loving your work, which all has absolutely nothing to do with "kicking ass." He seems to be using "kick-ass" as a synonym for "wonderful."

    I wouldn't download this guy's work even though it's free because his title announces that he buys into the degradation of our language.

    As DABK put it:

    But the result, overall (on me and a few others, but not the most, it seems) is that the repeated used of the same violence words in copy has diminished the impact... I don't see it as violence anymore, I see it the way Google sees words like: the, and, a: Filler garbage.
    Marcia Yudkin

    P.S. He is also abusing punctuation in his title, another sign of a lazy, sloppy writer.
    Check out Marcia Yudkin's No-Hype Marketing Academy for courses on copywriting, publicity, infomarketing, marketing plans, naming, and branding - not to mention the popular "Marketing for Introverts" course.
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  • Profile picture of the author Robscom
    One phrase I am quite tired of is "crushing it."

    I see it so often, and it doesn't make sense to me. "Crushing" doesn't seem like it's desirable. Not to me, anyway.

    Just an observation.
    "Do. Or do not. There is no 'try.'" -- Yoda
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  • Profile picture of the author shawnlebrun
    If that language/imagery meshes with your market... and gets them to read the next line...

    and the next line...

    and the next line of copy... I don't see a problem.

    Often times, it's language that matches your market that makes all the difference between whether they trust you or not.

    In other words, I've written so much golf and fat loss stuff, I can spot a fake a mile away if they use terms or imagery that doesn't mesh well with the market.

    But if you're writing for the self defense market... I'm sure using some violent and colorful
    imagery will work in your favor, in that they don't see you as a fraud.

    It's all about harnessing your market's wants and needs that already exist... harnessing those to your product.

    So, if that language is used in their circles... and is the lingo and slang THEY use... it may just boost your credibility factor and endear you to them a bit more.
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