Now before I go any further, this hardly qualifies as a big idea, as it is just a mistake so damned obvious that I hope you don’t make it.
There are only two reasons I have the nerve to put it forward.
The first is that I see it made every day by people who ought to know better – like the world’s second biggest bank, for instance, slap bang in the middle of Europe’s most successful shopping street.
The second is that, although seemingly a small thing, it damages something much larger and more important which I shall come to in a moment.
Here is an example of what I mean.
Recently, a new branch of HSBC opened in London. While the premises were being refurbished, the sign outside read: “Coming soon… Another exciting HSBC branch opening here.”
So, tell me, dear reader, do YOU find your bank exciting? Do you see it as the ideal party venue? Will you be waiting nervously outside the new branch just before it opens, wanting to be the first to rush in and use one of the free pens?
Or do you, like most normal people, regard the opening of a new bank as slightly less interesting than a wet day in the cemetery?
My point is that the idea of a new bank being exciting is downright absurd. And that this word – and a number of others, like fabulous and fantastic – is used on an astounding number of inappropriate occasions by people who can’t be bothered to think of something more appropriate.
One reason is that very few writers nowadays have a rich vocabulary, but it’s too late to do much about that. What matters is to understand what words like this do – or fail to do.
It is true that a little exaggeration is no bad thing in copy – but you can only stretch the truth so far.
If your new bank does have something special about it say so. If it hasn’t, shut up.
You may ask why this matters.
I know I have quoted Fairfax Cone elsewhere, but I make no excuse for doing so again. When he saw bad copy he would ask the culprit: “Would you say that to someone you know?”
If you wouldn’t, don’t foist it on the general public.
This is because by doing so abuses an essential element in the relationship between you and your prospect or customer.
That element is called trust. And by coincidence, it is the lack of this between banks which has had such a disastrous effect on all of us.