I saw this sign at a local gas station:
As I’m reading this sign I’m thinking, “I don’t have cat litter, a shovel, a pail and a garbage bag – how would I clean up a gas spill?”
Have you ever noticed that some companies gravitate toward using lots of “hammer language”. I think of hammer language as requests that you see on signs and in other text that are actually orders.
Hammer language the polices behind these sentences are developed because one customer or a few customers did something the organization didn’t like. They broke a rule, took advantage or misunderstood. But, avoid copy like this.
This is what customers think when they read a company’s hammer language:
- They’re not nice
- They’re bureaucratic
- They don’t respect me
This is what your customers will do when they read your hammer language:
- Ignore it
- Stop doing business with you
- Do business with you but, with reservations
Forget hammer language
Avoid it. If there is a problem try to figure out how to remove the problem; don’t add the language. Take the gas station sign example, they could remove the clasp that allows you to prop the pump handle open and walk away. It is better to take a few lumps along the way than to have all your customers read hammer language on your site, in your store, in proposals or in brochures.