Weasel Words

Steve was looking at an old Zippo the other day and commented on their Lifetime Guarantee, he thought it was a pretty impressive testament to the belief in their product that Zippo were prepared to offer such a guarantee. Now it could be that I’m a picky old soul but to me their offer was good but it was only a lifetime guarantee for the life of their business not of the purchaser’s.  Were they seriously suggesting that if Zippo went bust that they had insurance policies in place so that 50 years later a customer could get their money back if the lighter failed. Even if the company had gone bust 30 years previously?  It’s just not realistic is it? So a lifetime guarantee sounds good but it’s not your lifetime, it’s theirs.  

That’s the whole thing about adverts and advertisers, they are wonderful wordsmiths, the English language is their bread and butter and every single word they use has been thought about.  I remember ASDA used to put on the back of their shampoo bottle “ASDA is against animal testing” Now again I’m being picky but that does not say “This product was not tested on animals” So my thoughts were that the majority of their products were not tested on animals as a preference but that some were. That meant they they could state a positive message but not be held accountable for it.  Am I being too cynical?  I just think a corporate giant like Wal-Mart knows exactly what it means when it says something and so do its lawyers.
I don’t think advertising and product promotion is a bunch of outright lies but I do think it is all about smoke and mirrors and sleight of hand. 
There’s an advert on at the moment for a roll on waxing product that claims 8 out of 10 women who used it would use it again. Sounds good but when would they use it again? Next month? If they were desperate? If they were paid? What’s the pain threshold of these women? The selling points of this product are that it doesn’t burn you and it doesn’t leave a mess. To be fair when looking at a hair removal product these aren’t high on my selling points. I’d be looking for pain free and for length of grow back time.  The fact that it won’t burn me sounds like a plus point but it also won’t electrocute me, or run me over. So they are selling me a concept that isn’t even an issue and making it sound like a positive.
What these adverts are doing are using “weasel words” a phrase coined to mean an empty statement. For example children who eat Nutella have more energy during the day. (Compared to children that had nothing at all for breakfast) 8 out of 10 people agree with reduced jail sentences (those questioned were currently in jail)  “It has been shown that…” Really? Where? “The majority of people think” Prove it! Using “the majority” suggests that if you aren’t part of the club you are out of step and therefore wrong. And even if a majority does think something it doesn’t mean that they are right.
Next time you watch the ads listen out for the weasel words. Oh and I believe the politicians use them from time to time as well.

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