If you ever doubted the power of a single word, much less a common phrase, consider the phenomenon known as the ear worm, or “stuck song syndrome.”
Here’s the routine: You’re going about your business, ticking off items on your daily to-do list, when a catchy jingle that you may not even like becomes intensely, and unintentionally, embedded in your brain.
From Arthur C. Clarke’s 1957 science fiction short story, “The Ultimate Melody,” about a scientist who pens a song that prompts an impassioned response from its listeners, to a more contemporary episode of “SpongeBob SquarePants” aptly called “Ear Worm,” which sets up an underwater adventure for the show’s silly cartoon sponge, the ear worm is proof that individual words have power, even when the recipient may not mean for them to.
So how can you work the power of an ear worm into your business?
Start by capitalizing on words that linguists and advertisers return to time and again for their persuasive impact.
What follows are two dozen of the most persuasive words in the English language, along with familiar quotes and sayings that help drive home just how influential each of these words can be.
The power of the ear worm is that it gets stuck in the listener’s mind without that person’s conscious consent or approval. How can the ear worm idea inform your sales strategy? (Photo: iStock)
Persuasive word no. 1: YOU
“I’m here, to remind you… Of the mess you left when you went away!” — Singer-songwriter Alanis Morissette
Persuasive word no. 2: FREE
“Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!” — The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. borrowed these iconic words for his 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech from a negro spiritual. [Some variation on the word freedom appears more than 25 times in that speech.]
Persuasive word no. 3: BECAUSE
“Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something.” — Plato
Persuasive word no. 4: INSTANTLY
“Talent instantly recognizes genius.” — Arthur Canon Doyle
Persuasive word no. 5: NEW
“Make new friends, but keep the old…” — The Girl Scout Friendship Song
The sales guru Zig Ziglar says the right quote can inspire people to change their ways. The same can be said of the right words. (Photo: iStock)
Widely known as “The Father of Advertising,” David Ogilvy compiled what he deemed the most influential words. Here is a selection from his list, along with corresponding quotes to drive home the powerful presence instilled in each word.
Persuasive word no. 6: SUDDENLY
“Like a welcome summer rain, humor may suddenly cleanse and cool the earth, the air and you.” — Langston Hughes
Persuasive word no. 7: NOW
“Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party.” — Charles Weller
Persuasive word no. 8: ANNOUNCING
“I am announcing my resignation from Congress so my colleagues can get back to work, my neighbors can choose a new representative and most importantly that my wife and I can continue to heal from the damage I have caused.” — Anthony Weiner
Persuasive word no. 9: INTRODUCING
“Adversity has a way of introducing a man to himself.” — Shia LaBeouf
Persuasive word no. 10: IMPROVEMENT
“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.” — Benjamin Franklin
Persuasive word no. 11: AMAZING
“When you have fun, you do amazing things.” — Joe Namath
Persuasive word no. 12: SENSATIONAL
“We’re a rock group… noisy, rowdy, sensational and weird.” — Angus Young
Persuasive word no. 13: REMARKABLE
“The successful business executive can handle challenges and solve problems at a remarkable clip.” — Zig Ziglar
Persuasive word no. 14: REVOLUTIONARY
“In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” — George Orwell
Persuasive word no. 15: STARTLING
“To love is so startling, it leaves little time for anything else.” — Emily Dickinson
While the right words encourage deep listening, the wrong words can quickly sour a client or prospect. (Photo: iStock)
Persuasive word no. 16: MIRACLE
“Every moment of light and dark is a miracle.” — Walt Whitman
Persuasive word no. 17: MAGIC
“A little magic can take you a long way.” — Roald Dahl
Persuasive word no. 18: OFFER
“I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion.” — Jack Kerouac
Persuasive word no. 19: EASY
“Take it easy.” — The Eagles
Persuasive word no. 20: WANTED
“You know how advice is. You only want it if it agrees with what you wanted to do anyway.” — John Steinbeck
Persuasive word no. 21: CHALLENGE
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.
Persuasive word no. 22: COMPARE
“When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everybody will respect you.” — Lao Tzu
Persuasive word no. 23: BARGAIN
“Having a public career is a bargain with the devil.” — Jessica Simpson
Persuasive word no. 24: HURRY
“Just be patient. Let the game come to you. Don’t rush. Be quick, but don’t hurry.” — Earl Monroe
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